In a picture made around the year 1920, not too long after the influenza epidemic that occurred in 1918, the artist Man Ray captured a lady with her chin tilted up and her eyes softly closed as she wore a long thermometer on a hook that was dangling from her ear.
One hundred years later, a different lady may be seen wearing a negative Covid-19 fast test that is adorned with rhinestones and a gold heart that dangles from one of her ears. The photograph was shot in the latter part of 2021.
These are the images that came to mind while I was walking through a new exhibition that was dedicated to the Italian-born couturière Elsa Schiaparelli, who established her label in 1927. These images have nothing to do with the designer Elsa Schiaparelli, but everything to do with Elsa Schiaparelli.
Following the dissolution of her couture firm in 1954, Mr. Gabet said that “everyone helped themselves” to her work in the fashion industry. Before John Galliano, Elsa Schiaparelli transformed newspaper clippings into fabric. Before Jean Paul Gaultier, Schiaparelli transformed the body of a woman into a perfume bottle. Her name is not as widely known as those of the men whose careers she impacted, like as Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy, even though her label has been resurrected and is now reaching a new audience under the direction of creative director Daniel Roseberry.
This exhibition is yet another attempt to rectify that situation. Its purpose is not simply to awe viewers with her unique creations and artistic connections (in addition to a significant amount of Mr. Roseberry’s more recent work), but rather to instil in them the knowledge of how far her inquisitive mind and angular arms have reached into the realm of contemporary fashion. When you look around, you will see that people are talking about Schiap. Even in a pair of bedazzled antigen test earrings that were fashioned almost half a century after her passing by a college student in Spain who had a habit of making her own jewellery.
The picture brings to recall Thom Browne’s spring 2022 presentation, namely the transformational bush makeup and floor-length capes that were worn by the models. Or, more recently, the Loewe collection that was designed by Paula Ulargui Escalona and Jonathan Anderson, the company’s creative director and designer respectively, and included jackets, pants, and shoes covered with genuine sprouting grass.
The circus act that took place in 1938, in particular, which included paid dancers and clowns, has been mentioned for a long time as an illustration of the growth of Surrealism during a time when there was a possibility of war. Schiaparelli revealed extravagant embroidery that was inspired by ringmasters and acrobats, as well as accessories such as balloon purses and ice cream cone caps. She referred to it as “riotous and swaggering,” and she described the collection as having a “swaggering” attitude. It was joyful and escapist, but it was also noteworthy for its taste of death; with Dal, she introduced a long black dress with padded ridges that mimicked jutting bones in the form of skeletons.
The invasion of Austria by Hitler took place one month after the circus performance. Even if carnival collections and skeleton gowns have been seen in the fashion industry on several occasions, few few designers have found themselves at the same strong confluence of strange themes and foreboding timing.
Moschino’s mansion collection included three dresses with drawer handles and ornate gold trim. Mr. Scott said that he was most inspired by the Dal collaborations of Schiaparelli’s work, including her bureau suit, which was complete with five drawer pockets with plastic knobs. This was in contrast to Moschino’s mansion collection, which included three dresses with drawer handles and ornate gold trim.
However, Mr. Scott admitted that beyond the urge to escape reality, surreal fashion also fulfils a demand for attention that is greater now than it was in the 20th century. This is one reason why surreal fashion has become so popular. He noted that in this day and age, when “we ingest so much information from a little screen in the palm of our hands,” there is “a need to stand out.”
Ms. Mark believes that the purpose of surreal fashion is not to seek attention or escape; rather, it is to find a method to convey one’s unique personality and sense of humour. Finding networks of people who share your worldview is essential, much as Schiaparelli and the Surrealists did in the 1930s.