How painting influenced fashion Read more

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Fashion historian Milana Abieva spoke about the influence of art on fashion trends especially for the online magazine «Shipyards».

Today it is absolutely obvious to us that fashion and art are so close that the very idea that it used to be different seems simply ridiculous. However, art was not always so «free» and fashion was not always so eccentric. Art is an integral part of modern fashion — collaborations with artists, applying prints with famous works on clothes and accessories — all this will no longer surprise us.

Not to mention the fact that many fashion houses open their own design offices and create interior items that can be safely attributed to contemporary art. However, this was not always the case. Of course, artists were often involved in the creation of ornaments on fabric, or they created illustrations of fashionable images. However, one of the first real collaborations between fashion and art was the creative tandem of Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali.

How did painting influence fashion?
Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali. Source: sipa pres/REX

Elsa Schiaparelli opened the doors of her fashion house in Paris back in 1927. Starting her path to success with the creation of original sweaters, Schiaparelli quickly became famous, and by the 1930s, all of Paris was talking about her. The style of the newly minted couturier from the very first days was very expressive and recognizable. In many ways, it was Elsa who defined Parisian fashion in the 1930s.

Exquisite suits with an underlined shoulder line, expressive decor of ensembles, extravagant accessories — all this appealed to the most trendy representatives of the era. But what inspired Schiaparelli for such non-standard creations?

The answer is obvious — art. Elsa was inspired by current artistic trends — cubism, African art and, of course, surrealism. The latter played a colossal role in the work of the couturier and led to the creation of one of the most famous dresses in the history of fashion.

How did painting influence fashion?
Salvador Dali with a lady’s slipper on his head

A luxurious evening dress made of ecru silk and decorated with a giant lobster made a lot of noise. In fact, the style of the dress itself was unremarkable: a laconic A-line with an emphasis on the waist. No matter what, a huge lobster created by the genius of surrealism, Salvador Dali and adorned the outfit.

How did painting influence fashion?
Wallis Simpson in a lobster dress. Source: Vogue

Dali saw the lobster as a symbol of sensuality, and since 1934 he has been introducing this image into his work. Elsa, being a real outrageous queen, without thinking twice decided to perpetuate this idea on one of her dresses, which became part of her spring-summer collection of 1937.

The style icon and the most discussed woman of the time, Wallis Simpson, fueled interest in everything that happened. Photos of Simpson in a lobster dress, taken by legendary photographer Cecil Beaton, graced more than one spread of Vogue magazine. It was an absolute success of the collaboration of fashion and art, which went down in history.

Of course, Schiaparelli did not stop there. Later that year, in the same creative tandem with Salvador Dali, another masterpiece was born — a hat in the shape of a woman’s shoe.

The source of inspiration for creating such an accessory was a photo of the artist, taken by his wife and muse Gala, in which he poses with a woman’s shoe on his head. As a matter of fact, one of the copies went, of course, to Gala herself — now this very hat is stored in the Palais Galliera fashion museum in Paris.

How did painting influence fashion?
Skeleton dress. Source: V&A

Moreover, Schiaparelli, inspired by the ideology of surrealism, presented to the public another shocking dress — the “skeleton dress”. And again, it was not without the participation of the extravagant Dali. A black dress with an expressive shoulder line created the effect of a second skin and was decorated with some kind of imitation of a human skeleton.

Schiaparelli, being an image of courage and innovation, became one of the pioneers in introducing art into fashion. Later, many eminent designers of both the last century and the twenty-first century will follow her example.


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