The Lobster Dress by Schiaparelli

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A capricious designer with Italian origins, Elsa Schiaparelli found success with her knit sweaters with trompe-l’oeil motifs that seduced active women of the 20s. She opened her first store,Pour le sport in Paris in 1927. Her creations are exuberant and light-hearted, often provocative. She likes visual games and sometimes brings them to the level of absurd, joining the ranks of surrealist artists. Far from simply adapting a few ideas from the surrealists into her work, she maintains a veritable dialogue with them and builds bridges between art and fashion.

In the spring of 1937, Elsa asked her friend Dali to draw a lobster for an evening dress made of white organdy. The lobster was a recurrent theme with Dali ever since 1934, as evidenced by the famous Lobster telephone of 1938. These works of art often have to do with sexuality: “Like lobsters, young girls have a delightful exterior. Like lobsters, they turn red when you get them ready to eat”. With this dress, Elsa Schiaparelli also enters into the surrealist movement, establishing a link between image and psychoanalysis. The motif that he designed for “Schiap” was bound to attract attention and make waves: a gigantic blood-red lobster is inscribed on the front of a white dress, right between the thighs. With this shifting of the white dress, traditionally linked to the theme of marriage and the bride’s purported virginity, with an overtly sexual perspective, Schiaparelli rawly interrogates the notion of good taste.

Elsa may not have mentioned this dress in her autobiography “Shocking life”, but it still became famous after its publication in photographs in Vogue, worn by Wallis Simpson. Back then she had just been married to Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne of England in 1936 to marry the one he called “the woman I love”.

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