Schiaparelli and Dalí; An Artistic Collaboration

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Wednesday, 2017, August 2

One of history’s most influential couturiers, Elsa Schiaparelli, collaborated with Dalí during the 1930s and 40’s. Linked with the Surrealists in Paris during the 1930s, they shared a sense of artistic creativity.  Schiaparelli   claimed that her friendship with Dalí, Man Ray and Cocteau amongst others from the surrealist group provided her with a sources of escape and released her ‘from the boring reality of merely making a dress to sell’.

Somewhat of a Surrealist herself, Schiaparelli enjoyed using everyday objects in her fashion designs. Perhaps her most iconic ensemble for which she is best remembered is the Lobster dress (1937).  The lobster was an ‘object du jour’ for Dalí, soft interior, hard exterior, it appeared in many forms in his art. Dalí positioned the lobster on a long white silk evening gown, the red crustacean delicately positioned over the wearers crotch. The gown was debuted by Wallis Simpson in a Cecil Beaton photoshoot, shortly before Simpson’s marriage to the Duke of Windsor in May 1937. It gained Schiaparelli fame and notoriety, something Dalí was already used to, and reveled in.  

The dress was most recently exhibited in Across Art and Fashion (May 19, 2016 – July 4, 2017) at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum in Florence. It will next be on view at The Dalí Museum in Saint Petersburg, Florida for an exhibition titled Dalí  & Schiaparelli, which will be open Oct. 18, 2017 – Jan. 14, 2018.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s shoe hat of 1937-38 is another iconic design made in collaboration with Dalì. The hat derived from a drawing by Dalí, which in turn evolved from a 1933 photograph Gala took of her husband wearing a woman's shoe on his head and another on his shoulder. Merely the idea of an upside down shoe, fashioned into a hat which could be worn, was absurd, yet highly successful, definitive of Schiaparelli’s and Dalí ’s unique incongruous style.

A hat which is actually a shoe, a couture dress, worn by an American divorcee whose affair with a Royal caused him to abdicate the throne, what could be more scandalous?