From her signature color Shocking Pink to her collaborations with Surrealist artists, the boldly original Elsa Schiaparelli transformed fashion from the late 1920s to the early ’50s. Experimenting with elements like trompe l’oeil images and colorful visible zippers, the Italian designer instilled a provocative avant-garde artistry in her clothing and accessories, including those created with Salvador Dalí, such as the lobster dress and a hat shaped like a shoe.
Born in Rome, Schiaparelli was a rebellious child who grew up among the city’s intellectual elite. She had a voracious appetite for reading and became interested in ancient cultures, astronomy and world religions. Schiaparelli studied philosophy at the University of Rome, and after publishing a collection of poems on love and sensuality that so mortified her conservative parents that they tried, unsuccessfully, to confine her to a Swiss convent, she left for London. A quick marriage to Count Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor brought her to New York, but it would be in Paris following her divorce that Schiaparelli embraced her artistic passions. She moved to the French capital city in 1922 with her young daughter and happened to meet master couturier Paul Poiret, who loaned the stylish Schiaparelli his clothes, sparking her own fashion interests.
Schiaparelli debuted her first collection of knitwear in 1927, and later that year, she designed a black-and-white pullover hand-knit wool sweater featuring a trompe l’oeil bowknot that captured the attention of the fashion world. Vogue called it “an artistic masterpiece.” The success led to her moving her house to 21 Place Vendôme in 1935 where thousands of garments were produced each year. Schiaparelli’s knitwear collections were later accompanied by revolutionary swimsuits and other clothing and accessories. Her inventive designs would include culottes — a radical statement in the 1930s when women still could cause a scandal by wearing pants — as well as printed fabric, such as the 1938 Tears dress with a print designed by Dalí making it appear as if the evening gown had been savagely ripped.
Schiaparelli was among the first designers to use materials like rayon and Lurex as well as explore wrap dresses and transparent raincoats. She also introduced unisex fragrances and brought her artistic partnerships into jewelry, such as bronze brooches made with Alberto Giacometti and fur-lined bracelets with Méret Oppenheim. As she wrote in her 1954 autobiography Shocking Life, women should “dare to be different.”
Despite her acclaim, her shop closed in 1954 after a tumultuous time during World War II. By then, fashion had moved on with Christian Dior's New Look, and the closure of Schiaparelli's business coincided with a comeback mounted by Coco Chanel, her archrival in the early days.
In 2006, Italian businessman Diego Della Valle acquired the brand and its archives, and the Maison Schiaparelli was reopened in 2012, back at 21 Place Vendôme where Schiaparelli's fearless and enduring work began.
Find vintage Elsa Schiaparelli hats, evening dresses and other clothing and accessories on 1stDibs.
|Average Sold Price|
Early 20th Century French Art Deco Elsa Schiaparelli
Crystal, Pearl, Rhodium, Silver, Base Metal, Gilt Metal, Mixed Metal
1940s French Modern Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli
1930s French Artisan Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli
Gold Plate, Brass, Enamel, Gilt Metal
1950s French Retro Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli
1950s Italian Modern Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli
Crystal, Gold Plate, Base Metal
1950s Italian Artisan Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli
Crystal, Gold Plate
Early 20th Century French Art Deco Elsa Schiaparelli
Mid-20th Century French Modern Elsa Schiaparelli
Crystal, Pearl, Mixed Metal
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Elsa Schiaparelli jewelry & watches for sale on 1stDibs
- 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022Italian Elsa Schiaparelli moved to Paris, France and opened a fashion house that would become known the world over for her bold designs. Her haute couture often borrowed from Surrealism, she used overt sexuality and didn’t shy away from bold colors that most designers were not using at the time. Find vintage and contemporary Schiaparelli bags, clothing and accessories from some of the world’s top boutiques on 1stDibs.
- Who did Elsa Schiaparelli dress?1 Answer1stDibs ExpertMarch 22, 2022Elsa Schiaparelli dressed many notable people over the course of her career. In 1931, she created a divided skirt for tennis player Lili de Alvarez to wear for the Wimbledon tournament. She also produced the costumes worn by Zsa Zsa Gabor in the 1952 film Moulin Rouge and by Mae West in the 1937 film Every Day's a Holiday. On 1stDibs, find a range of Elsa Schiaparelli apparel and accessories.
- 1stDibs ExpertApril 5, 2022Elsa Schiaparelli is an Italian-born fashion designer who was famous for her surrealist designs, which included outlandish accessories such as a purse shaped like a telephone. You can shop a selection of Elsa Schiapatelli pieces from some of the world’s top boutiques on 1stDibs.