Elsa Schiaparelli was a prominent Italian fashion designer, influenced by contemporary designers Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel – and known for best for her associations with surrealist artists and surrealist ideas. Salvador Dali and Jean Costeau were two of her biggest influences and closest friends between the two World Wars, and the designs she’s best known for: the Lobster Dress, the Tears Dress, the shoe hat – even a lamb cutlet hat – had everything to do with her artistic partnership with Dali.
Schiaparelli’s famed Lobster Dress was a white evening dress with a crimson waistband featuring a large lobster- painted by Dali. The Tears Dress was a pale blue evening gown worn with a veil with “real” tears carefully cut out and lined in pink and magenta. Her Skeleton Dress was a stark black crepe dress which used quilting to create padded ribs, spine and leg bones. These ideas and designs were revolutionary at the time – and began a movement of fashion and fine art becoming intertwined. At the time, Schiaparelli’s looks were quite radical, and have been the subject of many art exhibitions.
Schiaparelli had no training in the technical skills of pattern making and clothing construction – she draped fabric directly on the body, sometimes using herself as the model. She wound up invented the wrap dress, something comfortable, functional – and that women still wear today.