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Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli Hardcover – September 10, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

If you're a fashionista who's not a babe, you look for clothes that create attention all by themselves. That was the secret of Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian designer who gave women unusual textures, eccentric patterns and surprising shapes influenced by the Surrealist artists in her circle. In Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli--a winking reference to her most famous perfume as well as to her designing audacity--Dilys E. Blum celebrates the couturiere whose achievements have long been eclipsed by her rival, Coco Chanel. A frustrated sculptor, Schiaparelli invested many of her garments of the 1930s and '40s with an architectural quality, from aerodynamic, back-swept bustles and overskirts dramatically curved back over themselves to stiff, fan-shaped peplums. She created a hat in the shape of an upside-down shoe, made comfy leopard-skin booties, and incorporated such novelties as monkey fur and Rhodophane, a transparent man-made fabric. Her clothes were worn by Mae West and heiress Millicent Rogers, by Helena Rubenstein and French film star Arletty. At her most eccentric, inspired by the artist Man Ray, Schiaparelli produced suede gloves with red snakeskin fingernails. At her most practical, she designed a daring (in 1931) silk tennis costume with a divided skirt. More than 300 stunning photographs, both vintage and contemporary, and a detailed yet lively text made this book a must for anyone interested in the history of fashion. A coordinated exhibition of the same title is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, through Jan. 4, 2004, before traveling to Paris. --Cathy Curtis

From Publishers Weekly

Surrealist fashion designer Schiaparelli (1890-1973) gifted 71 of her own designs to an installation that Marcel Duchamp put together in 1942. In this exhaustive overview of Schiaparelli's design career, Blum presents that Duchamp collection (which now resides at the Philadelphia Museum of Art), along with 88 models and 5,800 original sketches donated by the designer to the Musee de la Mode et du Textile in Paris. Representing pre- and post-war designs, the book mixes new color photos of garments with documentary and fashion photos from Schiaparelli's lifetime. Blum, the Philadelphia Museum's curator of costume and textiles, organizes her work chronologically and thematically. She opens with the Roman-born Schiaparelli's first big success, a 1927 bowknot sweater that became one of her most copied designs, and ends with Schiaparelli's designs from the '50s, which includes a pair of sunglasses with the lenses trimmed with long blue eyelashes. This beautifully designed, large-format book with 306 illustrations would make a wonderful gift for anyone interested in the glamour of early 20th-century fashion.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First edition (September 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300100663
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300100662
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 10.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,428 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Manon Kavesky on April 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A theatrical studio photo by George Hoyningen-Huene graces the cover of Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli. Elsa Schiaparelli, the subject of the black and white photo, wears a white gown, feather boa, and an armload of pearls. Shocking pink type announces to the reader that Shocking! Is not an ordinary book about an ordinary fashion designer.
Shocking! documents the recent exhibition of Schiaparelli's designs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Seen as historical artifacts, her work is as inspirational as it is quirky. Written by Dilys E. Blum Curator of Costume and Textiles at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Shocking! is thoughtful and scholarly. Schiaparelli was an innovative and a visionary fashion designer prolific from the late 1920's to the mid 50's. Known for her associations with artists such as Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, she produced practical clothing as well as surreal masterpieces such as a shoe hat, lobster dress, and gloves with appliquéd fingernails. Some of her innovations which we take for granted include: externally placed zippers, synthetic fabrics, bright colors especially shocking pink, odd mixes of materials together, and architectural silhouettes.
Packed with more than 300 modern and archival of photos of her clothes there is a never-ending source of vibrant visual stimulation within the pages of Shocking! As a side bar for interior design purists, her showrooms were designed by Jean-Michel Frank and there are interesting archival photos of his work. For those interested in fashion history this book is a must have.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Selina Kyle on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is filled with beautiful photographs from the Philadelphia Museum of Art's exhibit. If you can't get to the museum, don't worry. The exhibit can come to you. Well worth the reasonable price for so many photos and sketches. Inspiring for anyone who considers sewing an art form. Schiaperelli was truly an artist and a master of her craft. She created innovative and eccentric designs, while celebrating the female figure and without compromising form and function. I couldn't be happier with this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nevada Snow on April 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the best books about a prominent fashion designer.

Elsa Schiaparelli's work is intelligently analyzed and the book is beautifully illustrated with color and black and white photographs of her designs as well as her domestic and retail interiors. Her collaborative work with artists including Dali and Cocteau is also covered, with photographs of the fruits of their work (eg Surrealistic designs for prints and embroidery).

Six of Schiaparelli's most important collections are covered in detail, including the Circus, Lucky Stars and Music in the Air collections.

Schiaparelli's influence on other designers is fascinating to observe. Most notably on the work of Yves Saint-Laurent in the eighties (strong colors, opulent embroidery) and on John Galliano in more recent years (newspaper prints, trompe l'oeil draping)

This book is a must for all students of fashion design and fashion history.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "purple1764" on January 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is a fabulous book, beautifully illustrated and written with much care and research. Schiaparelli is a neglected figure compared with her contemporary and great rival, Coco Chanel, but this book should go a long way towards redressing that balSance.
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