A Schiaparelli Swimsuit

Last year O’Half bought this book for me at an auction.

"Shocking Schiaparelli" by Dilys E. Blum 2003

“Shocking Schiaparelli” by Dilys E. Blum 2003

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
and scents.

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.”

Schiaparelli linen jacket circa 1940

Schiaparelli linen jacket circa 1940

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
it’s E.S.

Schiaparelli jacket 1939, harlequin buttons

Schiaparelli jacket 1939, harlequin buttons

my mask button atop Schiaparelli's jacket . . .©booksandbuttons

my mask button atop Schiaparelli’s jacket . . .©booksandbuttons

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
slimming.

Schiaparelli dress 1939-40

Schiaparelli dress 1939-40

Hey! Did someone say “Booties?”  Can’t beat these:

Satin striped booties by Elsa Schiaparelli 1939-40 season.  Scalloped edging, tiny mother-of-pearl buttons to close.

Satin striped booties by
Elsa Schiaparelli 1939-40 season. Scalloped edging, tiny mother-of-pearl buttons to close.

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.

Zodiac line by Schiaparelli 1938-39

Zodiac line by Schiaparelli 1938-39

This circus print is great fun—and believe it or not, it’s done in pink
chiffon!

Circus print by Schiaparelli 1938, CLICK TO ENLARGE

Circus print by Schiaparelli 1938, CLICK
TO ENLARGE

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.

by Schiaparelli 1936-36 season. Two brown leather buttons . . .

by Schiaparelli 1936-36 season. Two brown leather buttons . . .

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?

by Schiaparelli 1934 ruffled white crepe

by Schiaparelli 1934 ruffled white crepe

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–

Hands were in the news for designers in the 1930s . . . article by Georges Hugnet inspired a pin by Schiaparelli

Hands were in the news for designers in the 1930s . . . article by Georges Hugnet inspired a pin by Schiaparelli

Red pin by Schiaparelli, my button by Lolita Lempicka 2 inches long.©booksandbuttons

Red pin by Schiaparelli, my lookalike button by Lolita Lempicka, 2″ long.©booksandbuttons

the back of the Lolita Lempicka "hand" button©booksandbuttons

the back of the Lolita Lempicka “hand” button©booksandbuttons

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.

Knitted Swimsuit by Elsa Schiaparelli 1928.

Knitted Swimsuit by Elsa Schiaparelli 1928.

Good grief.

Next post, a few real Schiaparelli buttons.

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6 Responses to A Schiaparelli Swimsuit

  1. FictionFan says:

    Great fun! I started out with the first couple of jackets thinking I really liked her designs, but it went downhill fairly rapidly thereafter, I fear! And good grief indeed, re the swimsuit!

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Yes, initially, one thinks–lovely! But then, if “One” isn’t careful,
      the designs become strange to say the least. I’ll stick to the button
      collecting, although one of those wood panels would come in handy!

  2. Mary Jo says:

    UGH! 1928. Poor them. It would look good on a little toddler maybe, over their swim-pampers. Otherwise, no way. I do like the booties, though; not that I could walk in them. My niece, 20’s, would love them. Nice show! Very interesting. Coco wins, hands down.

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Ooh! a vote for Coco over Skap! Now we’ve got something
      going! Fun for all–thanks, Mary Jo.

  3. Buttondeb says:

    I think that your slim mother, with her shiny bob, would have made that swimsuit come alive!

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