Discover the artistic genius of Elsa Schiaparelli and how she transformed fashion
This dark blue silk jersey coat was a collaborative design between Schiaparelli and artist Jean Cocteau. In her autobiography Schiaparelli recalled: "Jean Cocteau made some drawings of heads for me. I reproduced some of these on the back of an evening coat and one, with long yellow hair reaching to the waist, on a grey linen suit".
The coat was worn by Doris Castlerosse, a great client of Schiaparelli. She bought many of her pieces from Schiaparelli’s London store which opened in Mayfair in 1934.
The back of this evening coat features profiles of two faces which form a rose filled vase standing atop a central column. The coat was embroidered by the house of Lesage, one of the top Parisian embroidery houses of the haute couture industry. Gold metal threads demarcate the thin outlines of Cocteau’s drawing. Red lips are worked in flat metallic ribbon and blue eyes of satin stitch silk thread topped with blue paste jewels complete the simple features of the faces.
This evening ensemble of 1937 consists of a long evening coat and a stole made entirely of plaited gilt braid. It is a prime example of Schiaparelli's experimentation with unusual fabrics and substances. Evoking the Surrealist interest in alchemy, this coat is transformed into a golden garment, "the weight of which must have provided the sensation of being literally encased in gold" (Ghislaine Wood).
Dali’s prancing horse motif appears again on another cocktail jacket from the same collection, this time as decorative cast metal buttons on the front of a deep red wool crêpe jacket. The garment is decorated with coloured metal and glass bead appliqués down the centre front and along the top of the pockets.
The design was sketched out by Dali, the leg ‘bones’ linked to the ‘pelvis’ with elegant hooks in the style of jewellery links. It was presented with a black veil topped with a swirling golden shell headpiece. The dress belonged to actress Ruth Ford, sister of the Surrealist poet Charles-Henri Ford. The garment was a gift to her from Dali’s patron, Edward James, a great supporter of the Surrealist movement.