Schiaparelli's hand


Elsa Schiaparelli was one of the world's leading fashion designers in the 1920s and ‘30s.

Born in Rome in 1890, she lived in London & NY and moved to Paris after her divorce, where she continued her work in the fashion industry. She soon began designing clothes of her own, and in 1927, opened her own business.

She befriended artists from the Surrealist movement and launched in 1934 a collection inspired by their ideals. She presented an embroidered design on a jacket taken from one of Jean Cocteau’s drawings. With her accessories the hand pattern was used in belts, bags, jackets & capes. She collaborated with Dali on fabric design and her interest in trompe l'oeil and the subjects of surrealism continued throughout her work until she closed her eponymous house in 1954. 

The hand was seen in many Surrealist artworks, such as those by Man Ray, and Schiaparelli used it in remarkable ways to accent her clothing designs. The wearer is literally embraced around the waist by the belt, an image echoed in the well-known jacket from the fall 1937 collection, featuring a woman with her golden sequined hair draped down one arm and her arm and hand wrapped across the body and waist, again embracing the wearer. The design was inspired by a drawing by Jean Cocteau for Schiaparelli. Millicent Rogers, the previous owner of this belt, was an avid supporter of Schiaparelli's work, especially her more unorthodox creations.

Schiaparelli died on November 13, 1973, in Paris, France. She has continued to be regarded as a giant in the fashion world. In 2012, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art featured her work, along with that of Italian designer Miuccia Prada, in a major exhibition.