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Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli
Elsa Schiaparelli was the leading Parisian fashion designer of the 1920s and 30s after Coco Chanel. Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome on September 10, 1890, of Italian and Egyptian heritage.

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Birthday
2010-09-06
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Birthname
Elsa Schiaparelli
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Hometown
Paris France
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France
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White
Height
4'0"
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Job
Fashion Designer
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Elsa Schiaparelli was the leading Parisian fashion designer of the 1920s and 30s after Coco Chanel. Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome on September 10, 1890, of Italian and Egyptian heritage. She was great-niece of Giovanni Schiaparelli, who discovered the canals of Mars. She had a colourful childhood, although she did many things to shock her parents. She caused a sensation when she attended a ball in Paris with material just wound around her body, when it started to unravel. When only 18, she married William de Wendt de Kerlor, a theosophist. She remained with him as he drifted around Europe, eventually reaching America, but he abandoned her when her daughter was born. She then returned to Paris, a young woman with a child to support. She tried to get a job with POIRET and Maggy ROUFF, unsuccessfully. However in 1928, she had some luck. She had drawn a design of a black sweater with a white trompe l'oeil bow at the neck. MAINBOCHER admired it and had it shown in the French VOGUE. Anita Loos purchased on, and a buyer for a New York store ordered 40 with skirts to go along with them. Elsa was surprised at the success of her sweater and recruited a group of Armenian women to knit them. She bought some good cheap material for the skirts, and rounded up another group of women to make these. "Schiap" was in business. She rented a studio at 4 rue de la Paix and put up her notice board "pour le sport". She started making clothes for Golf, tennis, skiing and swimming. Her designs started appearing in VOGUE.

By 1929, she was selling all sorts of reversible, practical and convenient clothes. In 1930, she took over the downstairs studio and added "day wear and evening wear" to her notice board. The first of the Schiaparelli prints appeared. She experimented with costume jewellery. The early 30's saw Schiaparelli consolidated techniques, bringing together expert craftsmen for couture. A skilled atelier meant a finished garment and excellent construction following her genius as a designer. She sniffed out unusual materials like glass-like cellophane giving an illusion of transparency. Schiaparelli became famous for her black knit sweaters with a white bowtie pattern. She had a flair for the unusual and even hired Salvador Dalí to design fabric, producing a white dress with a lobster print. Schiaparelli was the first to use shoulder pads, hot pink, calling it shocking pink, in 1947, animal print fabrics, and zippers dyed the same colors as the fabrics. She is also well known for her surrealist designs of the 1930's, especially her hats, including one resembling a giant shoe and one a giant lamb chop, both which were famously worn by the Franco-American Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli's best clients and who owned a pink gemstone that inspired the color shocking pink. She collaborated with many surrealist artists, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, and Alberto Giacometti, between 1936 and 1939. In 1934 Elsa Schiaparelli opened a shop in London and also moved her Paris salon to 21 place Vendome. In the window of her boutique she put Dali's handiwork along with other surrealist works, and it was a great attraction to people on their way to the Ritz Hotel nearby.

In 1936 she introduced her Egyptian look with pagoda sleeves. In the same year the zipper was invented. Schiaparelli used it imaginatively in contrasting colours to her gowns. She used zippers in exposed places as decorations rather than hiding them away as fastenings. Furthermore in 1936 she also produced her 'DESK SUIT" inspired by Dali, with some false pockets, some real, being a subdued variations on a theme. Her shocking clothes seldom offended any of her clients. Mrs Reginald Fellowes, Wallis Simpson later Duchess of Windsor, Millicent Rogers and Lady Elsie Mendl were among her elegant clients. It was even said that Daisy Fellowes managed to carry the lamp chop hat off. She dressed many movie stars both on and off the screen, including Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson and Tallulah Bankhead. Her frenzy with Mae West, led to the actress's hour-glass figure being used for Schiap's perfume bottle for "Shocking". Another remarkable gown that year was the remarkable Dali lobster dress on an organdie field with parsley sprigs. Yet another was the musical notation dress. Dali also designed the textiles for the tear illusion dress of 1937 looking as if it had been torn repeatedly.

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