Dinner dress

Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

Date: summer 1940

Culture: French

Medium: silk, ceramic, plastic

Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1955

Accession Number: 2009.300.1210


A lobster-red bodice with crustacean-like shirring combined with marine blue and fish-head motif buttons define the aquatic theme of this evening dress from Schiaparelli's summer 1940 collection. Her new slinky silhouette, called "the mermaid," featured a skirt constricted at the knees before flaring into fullness, as rendered in the a drawing by the Surrealist artist Eleanor Fini published in the March 1940 issue of Harper's Bazaar. Although this version does not have a form-fitting skirt, the allusion to the mythological siren of the sea is clear. It also recalls the white organza dress printed with a large lobster on the skirt front, which she created with Salvador Dalí in 1937 and which was promoted to legendary status by its association with Wallace Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.