Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)
Linen, metallic foil, beads, paillettes
Purchase, Friends of The Costume Institute Gifts, 2009 (2009.421)
Elsa Schiaparelli was a well-born Italian designer who made her mark in Paris from the late 1920s to the 1950s. Her initial success was based on a trompe-l'oeil sweater with the illusion of a knotted cravat, but she quickly moved from designing knitwear to the establishment of a couture house, where she continued to play with whimsical Dada- and Surrealist-inflected conceits. Schiaparelli's collaborations with artists resulted in some of the most renowned works of twentieth-century haute couture. A jacket with dresser drawers for pockets, her notorious "Shoe Hat," and a provocative "Bug Necklace" came from her partnership with Salvador Dalí. An evening coat embroidered in a pattern that reads simultaneously as a vase and two confronting faces and this jacket, with its trompe-l'oeil profile, were products of her collaboration with Jean Cocteau. Although she is best remembered for these playful works, they appear to have been ordered by a limited number of clients, and most of the surviving examples are from Schiaparelli's own collection. This jacket is therefore a particularly serendipitous discovery, having been only recently sold by the family of a client who was clearly enamored of the designer's more assertive and signature work.