Essay Sample: The Life and Times of Elsa Schiaparelli

Published: 2022-12-01
Essay Sample: The Life and Times of Elsa Schiaparelli
Type of paper:  Research paper
Categories:  Fashion Biography Design
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1952 words
17 min read

All around the world, fashion is a significant item with which the masses can find solace. Major cities like New York, Paris, London among a host of other considerable hubs hold fashion weeks. During these fashion weeks' notable names in the fashion industry showcase their best styles of clothing fashion, makeup, shoes, and perfume designed to appeal to the would-be high-end market. These high-end fashion houses are inclusive of Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, and Christian Dior to name a few. Despite a few hiccups in the fashion industry that may have caused notable names to miss out on annual fashion weeks, there is a particular iconic fashion brand whose has never missed a single fashion week let alone make low quality products. The name is Elsa Schiaparelli. In this research paper, the paper aims to deduce the historical background of the designer, what she is known best for, her style and image. The research paper will also find out what social, cultural and economic factors inspired Elsa Schiaparelli and how have they influenced current or contemporary, or even future fashion styles.

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Historic Background

Elsa Schiaparelli was born on September 10, 1890. She was born in Rome, Italy. Elsa was from upper-class stock, and she developed a knack for designing clothes and accessories for high-end clients. Elsa went on to work for a boutique from where she was able to study the market trends and be able to come up with her line making clothes and accessories, resplendent to that particular time. While in Rome, her parents enrolled her at the University of Rome where she undertook the study of philosophy. Elsa got into poetry writing that happened to be incredibly sensual that her parents sent her to a convent. To be released from the convent, Elsa went on a hunger strike and upon her release went to London to work as a nanny. While in London, she met and got married to her previous teacher, Count William de Wendt de Kerlor. Soon after, the couple had a child, and they relocated to New York where she worked at a boutique.

New York was a challenging and awakening step for Elsa. While she worked at the boutique, she concentrated on French clothing and accessories, creating a new style for New Yorkers. Elsa had accessed a new niche of the market that was ready and willing to buy high-end clothes and accessories that were well designed and made by her. After the failure of her marriage to the count, Elsa returned to Paris where she cultivated her taste and clothing design and eventually opened up her very own business in 1927. Her first collection included a series of sweaters with a "trompe l'oeil" logo which later came to be her trademark. Her debut collection took the fashion world by storm thereby catapulting her into fame. Some of her pieces featured on the French Vogue magazine. Her next collection highlighted her initial success in that it was also well received by the target market. It included ski wear, bathing suits and a divided skirt which was an early version of women's shorts. Tennis champion Lily D Alvarez wore this split skirt. Throughout the year, Elsa expanded into more clothing attires such as evening wear.

Fashion was more than just clothing or a mere statement for Elsa. It was art, a form of expression for her. It was thus a lot easier for her to connect with pioneer artists of her generation. She consistently worked with Salvador Dali who was her friend and a painter. She hired him to create fabric for her fashion house. Owing to her success, growth, and fame, Elsa travelled in high circles, dressing the most famous and influential women of her time, like Daisy Flowers and Lady Mendl. She also worked in conjunction with film and theatre to cover the stars in those shows then. Her work appeared in over 25 movies. In 1951, Elsa terminated her couture business and eventually her fashion house three years later. She continued to work in the fashion industry, designing and making clothes accessories and wigs.

Fame, Style, and Image

Elsa Schiaparelli was a French Italian fashion designer. During the 1920s, this was a rare concept since the world was at war. Efforts were keyed into making machines and food rather than clothing. This was a bold embodiment of her personality that got her fame and recognition throughout Europe and eventually worldwide. After establishing her haute couture line in Paris, France, she was able to ride on the popularity that came with dressing movie stars and starting her own fashion house to rival brands such as Christian Dior. Elsa Schiaparelli came up with a surrealist design that was unique in the fashion industry. These surrealist fashions of the 1930s got her incredulous fame, along with her witty designs and accessories to match her fashion attires. One of her most iconic accessories is a purse shaped like a telephone that took the 1930s fashion world by storm.

As is illustrated by Vogue, Elsa was an autodidact in the fashion design industry. Her style was impeccable. Her collaborations with surrealist artist Salvador Dali enabled her style to achieve a rare status of perfection that the target market wanted to adorn. Their inventions were both original and creative. They included designs such as the Shoe Hat and the Lobster Dress. Both models were famous and had a never before seen poise about them. Through their collaboration, they also came up with new colours for fabric which they used in their clothing designs. In 1947, Schiaparelli came up with a new shade called shocking pink which became the icon of the fashion world. Her designs were famous for being able to merge eccentricity and simplicity within a neat package accompanied by vibrant and flashy colours.

Elsa Schiaparelli carried herself in a particularly respectable manner. She was born of the upper-class in Rome, and despite that fact, she ran away to London to avoid being in a convent. She was one of the most respected designers of her time. She carried herself with decency and respect. This was transferred onto her designs as they were both elegant and appropriate not too bullish and unreasonable. As a woman, she always fought for her plans to become a reality in the face of so much adversity in the 1930s. By starting her own fashion house, she was able to get her voice heard through the stunning and remarkable creations she had, be it jewellery, clothing and or accessories. Her creations also captured the humour and her witty personality, further enabled by her collaboration with Salvador Dali, a surrealist artist. In her most important designs, Schiaparelli included intellectual sub-notes that could transform the clothes into something else. This was a borrowed technique used by surrealist Salvador Dali.


Various social, cultural and economic factors sufficiently inspired Elsa Schiaparelli. Through collaboration with surrealists such as Max Ernst and Salvador Dali, Elsa became a member of a surrealist movement. She gained inspiration and motivation from being in this group. The group was an embodiment of all the cultural, social and economic factors that inspired her to fully capture her designs and turn them into reality. The surrealist movement championed for idealism and freedom of the mind to the never-ending landscape from all ideas can be made real, no matter how silly or nonfunctional they seemed. It is with this ideology from the group that else was able to incorporate her designs, especially the most important ones. For example, she was very experimental in her models. This denoted her eccentric personality which she transmitted onto her clothing fashions. She would take inspiration from a social aspect, turning things immediately around her as clothing items such as buttons. She made a coat that was very popular at the time that had a butterfly design as the buttons.

Social inspiration was derived from the role played by women then. Women in the 20s and 30s were mainly viewed as helpers, maids, milk-women and such as menial jobs. She took inspiration from the current uniforms worn by the maids and made a contemporary sweater design that had a bowtie at the neck. This was unique at the time, and it was intensely loved. Elsa received a multitude of orders for the design that she had to employ a small number of women to make the design and suit the demand for the clothes. Her accessories were also eccentric owing to the surrealist way of thinking. This was illustrated by the splendid way in which her accessories complemented her designs. Elsa incorporated highly eye-catching embroidery, courtesy of her imagination running wild and free to do whatever she wanted.Elsa Schiaparelli's work was the embodiment of social inspiration. This was owing to her surrealist way of thinking the surrealist movement inspired that.

Economic inspiration was derived mainly from the psychologist and economist Sigmund Freud. He advocated for the use of imagination, fantasy and dreams in art and design. He also said." The unconscious motivates human behavior" Elsa took up this ideology and let her subconscious roam free to seemingly outrageous designs that upon becoming reality were stunning and impeccable. Schiaparelli also derived economic inspiration from her financial status. She had just been abandoned by her husband, who left her with a child. She, therefore, had to make ends meet, fend for herself and the child while still pursuing her dreams. She was lucky to stumble upon the surrealist movement that made it reasonable to use whatever one wanted to turn her designs into reality. Schiaparelli's designs were famous for being eccentric and for example, using zips openly when zips were deemed unsightly at the time or using various items as buttons instead of an actual button as a button.


Elsa Schiaparelli's design has been quite influential in today's fashion industry. Schiaparelli was able to study the fashion trend of her time and was able to adapt with the times and be ready to step up over her competitors. Over time, just a few of her competitors were left as most others were making losses or had shut down owing to the world war or the great financial depression. Elsa was able to study the trends, look at what customers wanted, and be bold enough to step ahead and venture into the unknown world of colours and embroidery while her competitors stayed in a world of solid colours and plain clothes. Schiaparelli was bold enough to experiment with various designs and items that would later on trickle downtime and be fashionable again. Case in point, her iconic lobster dress, which was a lobster print on a white flowing dress and her tear-stained dress, were revolutionary pieces in the fashion industry. This innovative design is still being used up until today, to create vibrant and colorful prints on flowing dresses that exude an energetic and outdoorsy personality for whoever wears such designed clothes. Through her designs, Elsa advocated for the freedom of the mind and one's ideas. She wanted the people wearing her designs, accessories and perfume to exude a brilliance about themselves.

This technique has been carried down through time to today's fashion style. During recent fashion weeks, when various rival fashion houses come together to showcase their design portfolios, one theme is stark naked in the face of time. The fact that fashion designers today are incredibly reliant on what Schiaparelli championed. An eccentric and remarkable way of designing clothes and accessories that exudes a certain wit, charisma and humour in the method of design. Be it the button placement, the button design, the process of stitching, or color of stitching or composition of the embroidery, they all owe it to Elsa Schiaparelli.

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