Elsa Schiaparelli & Fashion as the Main Guide and Reference Point in Her Life

elsa schiaparelli hat
schiaparelli elsa

Today, the surname of a woman does not sound too often. Only a limited number of people involved in the fashion know who Elsa Schiaparelli is. In 20-30 years of the last century, the name of the famous high-fashion does not get away with European women. Elsa Schiaparelli’s biography is sure to surprise, and each collection of the designer evoked universal delight and admiration.

Elsa’s Youth

elsa schiaparelli

In the family palace of the Corsini, not far from the Italian capital of Rome, the future star of world fashion was born. On the tenth of September 1890, a baby girl was born to the family of the director of the Royal Library of Italy. Her parents decided to name her Elsa. From an early age, the girl was surrounded by the love and care of her parents.

When Elsa Schiaparelli grew up, the young fashionista’s favorite pastime was looking at book illustrations in her father’s library. In general, books played a big role in the Schiaparelli family. Her father spent all his free time on numismatic publications, being a passionate collector of ancient coins. According to unconfirmed reports, he had the honor of exchanging coins with the King of Italy himself.

Elsa Schiaparelli Biography and Roots

Elsa’s mother was born in Malta, where her great-grandfather was sent by the British Consul. There are quite a few interesting personalities in the family, who formed the elite of the time. The maternal grandfather of the future fashion celebrity left behind five children and went to Egypt to establish trade links with local industrialists.

Soon, with his talent as a charmer of women’s hearts, he married a rich local merchant’s daughter and rose to become an adviser to the Egyptian king. The famous Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli is the brother-in-law of Elsa’s father. Legend has it that when he saw the birthmarks on his niece’s cheek in the form of the Big Dipper, he thought it was a good sign and predicted the girl’s great future. However, Elsa Schiaparelli did not stand out for her beauty and regretted it all her life.

The Beginning of Adulthood

Elsa Schiaparelli photo

Remaining a model daughter, the girl was brought up in strictness. Her father did not allow young Elsa any excesses. Cavaliers who began to show attention to the young Italian girl were instantly rejected by her father.

All her zeal, the girl had to concentrate on her studies. Only in 1914, Elsa managed to break free from the shackles of her parents. Invited by an old friend, Elsa Schiaparelli leaves her paternal home for the first time and goes to London, where she was offered a job as a governess. On her way to her new job, she stopped in the capital of France, where she met her college classmate, who invited the young Italian to a ball.

Due to lack of money, the girl hastily built herself an evening gown. To the dark blue “Crêpe de Chine” dress, bought at the Galeries Lafayette, she attached a piece of orange silk, and the head was built an elaborate boulder. There was no time to sew the details of the garment together, so all the details of the garment were pinned together.

The Italian girl’s extravagant outfit caused sincere interest in the local audience. Soon after another round of the waltz, the whole chic garniture fell apart on the spot. The girl left the party in tears under the bewildered looks of the party guests.

Life in London

Having reached the capital of Great Britain, future fashion designer Schiaparelli took up her duties as a governess. The girl had no particular difficulties in raising the master’s children, so she had a lot of time left for her private life.

Katharine Hepburn in Schiaparelli
elsa schiaparelli hats
cocoon plisséd dress

The popular hobby of Europe at that time was the study of Theosophy, the occult movement of the mystical knowledge of God. Elsa decided to keep up with fashion and enrolled in the lectures of Count William de Wendt de Caerlor. After another visit to the lecture hall, a thematic argument ensued between the lecturer and the girl.

The conversation dragged on into the morning, after which they found themselves engaged. It was only after the marriage that the daughter informed her parents of her marriage.

Family Life

The young couple arranged their life together in a rented apartment in the suburbs of London. From the first days, family life did not work out. The husband had no stable source of livelihood, and so the couple moved to Nice, where his parents lived. Trying to somehow improve her financial situation, Elsa Schia travels alone to Monte Carlo to try her luck on the green cloth of the local casino. After returning penniless, the girl gives herself a promise not to do this business again. Hoping to change something in their lives, the couple decides to go overseas.

Life in New York was different from the usual European way of life. William plunged into an ocean of entertainment. Romances with wealthy American women, among whom was Isadora Duncan, made his spouse forget the purpose of their trip to America. Hotel debts grew each month, but he didn’t care. He continued to party in the local upscale restaurants, lavishing generous tips on the waiters. Her husband came to the house less and less often, and he was indifferent to the news that Elsa was expecting a child.

Challenging Years

Yvonne is the name a young mother gave her daughter. After leaving the maternity hospital, Elsa was forced to look for a new shelter for herself and her newborn child. By then, the landlord of the hotel where she and William were staying had deprived them of their room because of debts. The husband had no interest in the life of his child, six years later the man would die under the wheels of a car while intoxicated.

Elsa Schiaparelli’s iconic blouse
insect buttons
Claw gloves

Yvonne took her first steps in a basket tied to a fire escape. A small room in a cheap hotel was at the very top, in the turret of an architectural structure. Mother and her little daughter lived in such conditions for two years. Elsa had to pick up odd jobs to feed her child and pay the rent. When the girl was a year and a half old, her mother discovered her daughter’s unnatural gait.

Choker by Elsa Schiparelli-of-gilt and velvet ribbon 1939

After a visit to the doctor, she was diagnosed with infantile paralysis. In desperation, the future designer Elsa Schiaparelli rushes from one doctor to another in hopes of helping her daughter. In one of the clinics, the woman met Gabrielle Picabia, the wife of the French abstractionist artist F. Picabia. The woman suggested that Elsa Schia sell a batch of collectible clothing from Paris.

Returning to France

Man Ray Mad cap milinery 1931
Evening coat designed by Elsa Schiaparelli

On the advice of doctors, the future fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli returns to France, where she takes her daughter to a boarding school for children with locomotor disabilities in Lausanne. Elsa’s chance helped her to join the world of fashion with Elsa Schiaparelli’s clothing. At a party, she met an Armenian woman wearing an elegant handmade sweater. By ordering the same outfit for herself and going out, Elsa impressed the French Women.

Soon, the Armenian diaspora began supplying Elsa with knitted garments to sell to the local fashionistas.

elsa schiaparelli cape

Enthralled by her success, Elsa began to think about designing her own fashionable clothes and Schiaparelli jewelry. Having good ability in drawing, the future designer rented an attic, where soon appeared a sign “Elsa Schiaparelli”.

Collections of clothes from the new Parisian Schiaparelli fashion designer became very popular among the capital’s women.

Chronology of Further Events

  • Elsa Schiaparelli 1930s. The idea of creating antique silhouettes with elements of drapery and an elevated waist.
  • 1935. The French designer opens a fashion house in Moscow as the guest of honor.
  • 1935. Opening of a boutique in Paris.
  • 1936. Fuchsia pink color became popular in the fashion world, Schiaparelli’s idea.
  • 1938. In Paris, he presented a collection with a circus theme, where all the decorations were embroidered with glass beads.

The same year, an amazing tandem of Salvador Dalí and Elsa Schiaparelli was born. The Schiaparelli tears dress and dress with the lobster spiced with parsley from Elsa Schiaparelli famous designs, caused a furor in the fashion world. After the show, it was purchased by Bessie Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.

elsa and dali
Lobster Telephone
lobster hat schiaparelli
shoe hat gala dali 1937
  • 1940. The Schiaparelli designer left occupied Paris and emigrated to the USA.
  • 1946. On his return to Europe, Schiaparelli launched a new line of perfumes, the “Sun King”. The design of the bottle is based on the sketches of his longtime friend Salvador Dalí.
  • 1947. A new name appears on the Olympus of world fashion — Christian Dior. Hard times come for Elsa Schia, gradually her interest in the surrealistic trend in fashion loses its relevance.
  • 1954. Elsa Schiaparelli designs present her last collection and announce the closure of her fashion house.
shocking life elsa schiaparelli

Elsa retired from the catwalk and for almost twenty years she spent her time raising her granddaughters, Yvonne’s daughters Marisa and Beri. After moving to Tunisia, Elsa Schia reminisced and wrote the book “My Shocking Life”.

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