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Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was the leading designer of the 1920s and 30s after Coco Chanel. She had a flair for the unusual and even hired Salvador DalÝ to design fabric, producing a white dress with a lobster print. She was born in Italy of Italian and Egyptian heritage. She was a great-niece of Giovanni Schiaparelli, who discovered the canals of Mars.

She made her name with black knit sweaters with a white bowtie pattern knitted in. She 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, DalÝ, Jean Cocteau, and Alberto Giacometti, between 1936 and 1939.

She designed a number of perfumes in addition to clothing; the first and most famous of which, named Shocking, was created in 1936. Shocking is famous less for the fragrance itself than for its packaging: besides a box in (as the name suggests) shocking pink, the bottle itself was in the shape of a woman's torso, based on the curvacious body of one of Schiaparelli's clients, film star Mae West. For West, she designed costumes for the Hollywood film "Every Day's a Holiday ." She also designed Zsa Zsa Gabor's costumes for the film "Moulin Rouge."

Schiaparelli opened her first salon, Pour le Sport, in 1927, and as the name indicates specialized in sportswear . In 1935 Schiaparelli she moved to a salon overlooking the Place Vend˘me. Her output slowed by World War II and the title of trendsetters going to younger designers such as Christian Dior, her couture house declared bankruptcy in 1954 and she moved to the USA.

She was briefly married to Count William de Wendt de Kerlor , once described as "a persuasive but inconstant Theosophist," and moved with him to Greenwich Village in New York City. They had one daughter, Marisa, known as Gogo, who was born in New York City in 1919. Schiaparelli's grandchildren are the actress Marisa Berenson and the late photographer Berry Berenson (Mrs. Anthony Perkins).

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Last updated: 08-29-2005 13:29:53
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