Elsa Schiaparelli: “Shocking Pink” Innovations That Altered Fashion with Wendy Fossen

Elsa Schiaparelli: “Shocking Pink” Innovations That Altered Fashion with Wendy Fossen


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“In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.” – Designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s.

These words stood the test of time. Fast forward to 2021, and Lady Gaga wore custom Schiaparelli Haute Couture to perform at the US President’s Inauguration Ceremony. 

Italian designer Madame Schiaparelli (1890 - 1973) was a maverick of her time, and continues to inspire daring couturiers of today.  Her name is not as well-remembered as that of her great rival Coco Chanel, yet her innovations were just as pivotal. The House of Schiaparelli struggled in the austerity of the Post WWII period, closed down in 1954, and reopened in 2013 to dress stars such as Beyonce.

Elsa Schiaparelli was a leader in haute couture and expanded her artistic vision into jewelry, perfume, cosmetics, lingerie, and swimsuits. Her designs were noted for combining eccentricity with simplicity and a trim neatness with flamboyant colour. She dressed movie stars such as Katharine Hepburn, but also appealed to ordinary women, who sought affordable yet daring fashions. 

She introduced plastic zippers and synthetic fabrics to create garments that made women feel chic yet comfortable. Growing from her humble beginnings (with high-quality knit sweaters) she eventually collaborated with artists like Salvador Dalì and Marcel Duchamp. Together we will unravel her remarkable legacy and enjoy an up-close look at her most acclaimed designs – such as the Lobster, Skeleton, and Tear dresses. 

Led by art historian Wendy Fossen, who has a passion for fashion history, this conversation will take a deep dive to Elsa Schiaparelli’s most iconic designs and innovations. 

Image courtesy of Maison Schiaparelli Archives

Wendy Fossen is a freelance art historian with a number of degrees, one of them being in Art History. She loves a wide variety of art and shares this passion in her work as a museum guide in the Kunstmuseum and Mauritshuis (both in The Hague, The Netherlands), as a tourmanager in Europe (mainly Italy), and as an art history docent.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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