Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was famed for her attractive and wittily designed evening ensembles. Her clothes were smart, sophisticated and often wildly eccentric, and she had a huge following. Her ideas, coupled with those she commissioned from famous artists, were carried out with considerable skill. She had close connections to the art world, and to the Cubist and Surrealist movements in particular. Salvador Dalí and Christian Bérard are among the artists who collaborated with her. This connection with the wider art world and its ideas set Schiaparelli apart from most other fashion designers.
This superb evening coat is one of the best examples of her close artistic collaboration with the French artist, poet and film maker Jean Cocteau (1889-1963). Cocteau produced two drawings for Schiaparelli which were translated into designs for a jacket and this evening coat for the Autumn 1937 collection.
The design for the evening coat reveals Cocteau's preoccupation with the double image, a motif he consistently returned to in his work. The double image held particular fascination for several other artists associated with the Surrealist movement, including Dalí. The strong linear design on this coat can be read as two profiles facing each other, and in the negative space, a vase of roses standing on a fluted column.