Last year O’Half bought this book for me at an auction.
It was published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Philadelphia
Museum of Art that ran from September 28, 2003 to January 4, 2004.
It is out of print now. He bought it at a good price and I’ve enjoyed
looking through its 320 pages! and will share a bit with you if you like.
Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was a fashion designer and trend setter in
Paris in close competition with her rival Coco Chanel. There has been much
material written about her and you can have fun reading about her on
the internet. There is even a clip of her on YouTube when she appeared
on What’s My Line.
But–I am interested in Schiap (skap) (as her friends called her,) because
she liked to use buttons in her designs and gave them importance as part
of the overall ensemble. She was known for her fashions, buttons, jewelry
She was friends with a lot of artists who influenced her work: Salvador Dali,
Man Ray, Giacometti and she hired designers especially for her buttons–
including Jean Clemént and Roger Jean-Pierre and Jean Schlumberger who
later had a line of his own jewelry in New York. I have a card of buttons
by Roger Jean-Pierre which you can see if you’ll type his name in the
little search box up on the right.
Well, because you can peruse many fashions online, today I’m selecting just
some of my favorites–as if you were here thumbing through this big book, too.
You probably already know about the “lobster” dress and the “shoe” hat–
I’ll show some you might not have seen before.
I’ll add a date and what I might know about them. Remember to click on the
photos to enlarge to increase your enjoyment.
I think I’ll work backward from the 1950s–the end of her heyday. WW II
pretty much signaled the end of her studio designs. In 1950 she introduced
The Front Line which demanded a sleek silhouette. In order to promote this
–you’ll like this part–she used a “flat oval piece of wood six inches by three
inches that the mannequin (model) slipped down the front of their girdles
to achieve a flat stomach.” Some fun, eh? Let’s go further back in time.
1940 brought a linen jacket trimmed with new color of the year “Sleeping
Blue” velvet. Two gilt buttons were “emblazoned with swans”. (I can’t see
them.) Oh, I think I do—and I like the shade of “sleeping blue.”
Or maybe you like better this black wool jacket with black velvet patches
and harlequin mask buttons . . .I have a mask button, too, but doubt if
Well, that fails—continuing backwards (towards that swimsuit!), we find
a pretty print dress—of flying swallows carrying letters closed with sealing
wax. This is shown in 1939-40 season. Note to self: swallows aren’t that
Hey! Did someone say “Booties?” Can’t beat these:
1938-39 season brought the zodiac. (The personal emblem of E.S.
was the Big Dipper the book says. So, I guess that one’s taken.
What’s yours?) A rather outstanding jacket in this collection is
this blue moon and stars piece–wow.
This circus print is great fun—and believe it or not, it’s done in pink
And since I’m supposed talking about buttons here as well, will include
this strange blue suit, with velvet “lip” pocket trims and two huge brown
leather buttons (yes, they are brown–photo lies). So, if you see a button
like one of these, snap it up–it’s Schiaparelli.
I love this next fabric of RUFFLED WHITE CREPE, black organdy
trim–came with a red jacket. Yikes! where’s that oval board when
you need it?
Next to last, or penultimately, I want to show you
a pin by Schiaparelli, designed by Jean Schlumberger—and frankly
“borrowed”from an article about hands by –well, you’ll see in the photo–
And now, the swimsuit. Elsa Schiaparelli started her design business
with knitted garments. This was among her first—and featured in
1928. It was imported by Saks Fifth Avenue. I honestly can’t think
of what figure whatsoever might look all right in this swimsuit. Not
“good,” not even “all right”. It’s a riot.
Next post, a few real Schiaparelli buttons.