Note From dimanche: Elsa Schiaparelli’s playful and creative designs earn her a spot in dimanche’s fantasy closet; we would wear her Circus collection to an impromptu tea party or one of her many quirky ball gowns on  a special night out.




             Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli introduced a playful sensibility and experimental artistic collaboration to high fashion. Working with surrealist artists like Salvador Dali and Jean Cocteau, film icons like Greta Garbo and Katherine Hepburn, or royalty like the Duchess of Windsor, Schiaparelli highlighted intersections between fashion and other creative fields. Her designs are diverse, artistic, and innovative. 

        The designer was born in Italy, but moved to Paris for work. Her most iconic collections were based around visual themes; with highlights including her “Circus,” “Music,” and “Pagan” collections. These themes played a major visual role in her work. In her music collection, notes danced up evening dresses, and in circus, tiny performer statuettes were used  as buttons on a waistcoat.

        Highly influenced by and integrated into the Surrealist movement, Schiaparelli focused on making surrealism wearable. In a

collaboration with Salvador Dali, she created a dress with a lobster painted across the skirt. Dali had included the lobster in many earlier paintings, and grown to see it as a symbol of sexuality. Always one for a  statement, the Duchess of Windsor posed in the dress for a magazine editorial after her honeymoon.

        Schiaparelli was a talented hat designer in addition to her work in clothing, often creating elaborate designs that added to her central collection’s themes. A later surrealist project was a hat in the shape of a high heel, pushing the boundaries of clothing conventions.

        Famous for adding unexpected elements to simple shapes, Elsa Schiaparelli’s clothing highlights a sense of whimsy and irreverence. A master of mixing art and dressmaking, Schiaparelli served as an inspiration for many avant garde designers, with Yves Saint Laurent and Charles James considering her work a major influence.



Fashion Designers |b.1890 - d.1973 | Italian

Words by Elena Scott