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Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography

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One of the most extraordinary fashion designers of the twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli was an integral figure in the artistic movement of the times. Her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Her story is one of pluck, determination and talent One of the most extraordinary fashion designers of the twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli was an integral figure in the artistic movement of the times. Her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Her story is one of pluck, determination and talent with scandal as spice. As the daughter of minor Italian nobility whose disastrous first marriage to a Theosophist caused near penury, she transformed herself into a designer of great imagination and, along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she was one of the few female figures in the field at that time


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One of the most extraordinary fashion designers of the twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli was an integral figure in the artistic movement of the times. Her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Her story is one of pluck, determination and talent One of the most extraordinary fashion designers of the twentieth century, Elsa Schiaparelli was an integral figure in the artistic movement of the times. Her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Her story is one of pluck, determination and talent with scandal as spice. As the daughter of minor Italian nobility whose disastrous first marriage to a Theosophist caused near penury, she transformed herself into a designer of great imagination and, along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she was one of the few female figures in the field at that time

30 review for Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra-X

    As they say on Project Runway, one day you're in and the next you're out. .And that includes the Paris haute couture house of Schiaparelli. Elsa Schiaparelli left no diaries and didn't write letters. Surviving friends and family offered very little information. However, Schiaparelli was an inventor - and didn't stop at the colour shocking pink or shoulder pads but also the autobiography she wrote, Shocking Life, which is considered to be greatly embellished if not actual fanfiction, Schiaparelli As they say on Project Runway, one day you're in and the next you're out. .And that includes the Paris haute couture house of Schiaparelli. Elsa Schiaparelli left no diaries and didn't write letters. Surviving friends and family offered very little information. However, Schiaparelli was an inventor - and didn't stop at the colour shocking pink or shoulder pads but also the autobiography she wrote, Shocking Life, which is considered to be greatly embellished if not actual fanfiction, Schiaparelli being her own greatest fan. As Whitney Houston sang, the greatest love of all is loving yourself and Schiaparelli certainly did that. (view spoiler)[It is a great pity that WH could sing the song so well but not love herself at all. (hide spoiler)] According to the author, Meryle Secrest, who did her best with the paucity of information, Schiaparelli was a collaborator, a Nazi spy, friends with high-level Nazis in Paris. This ensured her free passage between the US and France during the war. So she joins Chanel who was a documented spy, anti-semite and drug addict (morphine), Louis Vuitton who was the only person allowed to operate a store on the ground floor of the Hotel du Parc, from where Marshal Philippe Pétain headed the French collaborator government. Louis Vuitton also manufactured busts glorifying Petain. Vuitton's son Henry was decorated by Petain's Nazi government for his loyalty to the regime. And Hugo Boss who was not only a member of the Nazi party and designed the uniforms for Hitler Youth, he also used Jewish slave labour to manufacture them. Life has a way of getting it's own back though. Schiaparelli's daughter Gogo, married a Jewish businessman. ( Gogo had two daughters, the beautiful film star Marissa Berenson and Berry, who married Anthony Perkins.) Gogo never knew her con artist father, (view spoiler)[Count Wilhelm de Wendt de Kerlor, ,born Wilhem Wendt, he bequeathed a title upon himself (hide spoiler)] , a psychic medium, fortune teller and 'doctor', as he left just days after she was born, not having wanted a child. It didn't seem that Schiaparelli did really either as she left Gogo, who had polio, in the care of others a great deal of the time. Schiaparelli was in constant competition with Chanel and they mutually hated each other. I always found Chanel's tweedy little suits to be the utmost in boring clothes, the sort you'd wear to an upscale Women's Institute meeting but Schiaparelli's were exciting works of art. She was a part of the Dada/Surrealist movement and worked closely with Dali and Jean Cocteau. However fashion is by it's nature ephemeral and just like on the aforementioned Project Runway, you are judged only on your latest creations. After the war when surrealism was out of style, Schiaparelli could not adapt, and it was Dior and his New Look that everyone wanted to wear. After she closed her fashion house in 1954, Schiaparelli pleaded poverty but owned a Paris apartment and house in Tunisia and by all accounts had a very comfortable retirement. The book makes the most of what there is, but the author chose a difficult subject with a paucity of information. It's quite a good book, but there's probably a better one yet to be researched and written about Schiaparelli. 3.5 stars rounded down because it was quite boring in parts.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: During the glittering 1920s and 30s, Elsa Schiaparelli was the undisputed Queen of Fashion. Everyone who was anyone, from Vivien Leigh to the Duchess of Windsor, entered her doors on the Place Vendôme and obediently wore whatever she instructed. Her clothes were beautifully made, but they were also designed in a manner no one had seen before - buttons that looked like butterflies, mermaids or carrots, trompe l'oeil pockets that looked like lips, gloves with red From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week: During the glittering 1920s and 30s, Elsa Schiaparelli was the undisputed Queen of Fashion. Everyone who was anyone, from Vivien Leigh to the Duchess of Windsor, entered her doors on the Place Vendôme and obediently wore whatever she instructed. Her clothes were beautifully made, but they were also designed in a manner no one had seen before - buttons that looked like butterflies, mermaids or carrots, trompe l'oeil pockets that looked like lips, gloves with red nails appliquéd on them. She was unique. Born into a prominent Italian family, she moved to London and married a supposed Polish count who, it transpired, was really a French con-man. His deportation during the First World War saw them move to New York, where he abandoned Schiaparelli and their baby daughter. Undaunted, she picked herself up, moved to Paris and launched her meteoric career, surviving the Second World War despite being under suspicion of spying from both sides. Her story is one of pluck and determination, talent and great imagination. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she was one of the few female figures in the field at the time. And her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti, elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Reader: Abigail Thaw Written by Meryle Secrest Abridged by Libby Spurrier

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

    This is my first Meryle Secrest biography. She has written eleven books, usually about artists living in the 1920s-1960s. She received the National Humanities Medal for this work, and also spent many years as a journalist for the Washington Post. But she doesn't write like a journalist, she writes with sympathy and tact and ferrets out the most amazing details. Schiaparelli was an intensely creative person in her prime (1920s-1930s), becoming a top clothing designer with no training (She draped, This is my first Meryle Secrest biography. She has written eleven books, usually about artists living in the 1920s-1960s. She received the National Humanities Medal for this work, and also spent many years as a journalist for the Washington Post. But she doesn't write like a journalist, she writes with sympathy and tact and ferrets out the most amazing details. Schiaparelli was an intensely creative person in her prime (1920s-1930s), becoming a top clothing designer with no training (She draped, cut, and pinned). She learned PR and marketing from her first husband, a crazy Flemish psychic. They lost track of each other after a few years and her daughter grew up in boarding schools. Schiaparelli was brilliant, running away from her Italian family at sixteen landing in London and then Paris. She invented so many things 1927- 1940 that we take for granted today--wrap dresses, culottes, swimsuits with bras, sweaters(!), wedge heels and fantastical gowns and hats. She came to Paris around the same time as Chanel; they were rivals. "Schiap" would invent things and then find the best knitters or embroiderers in Europe, and use society women as models. She made things to go with Dali's paintings (insects on necklaces and buttons, or "Shocking" perfume). At her height she employed 2000(?) people, and her designs were copied everywhere, She lost most everything in WWII-- so this is also a wonderful look inside society during WWII, much like the book "Suite Francaise." In the 60s St. Laurent/Dior counted her as his mentor. Schiaparelli died of a stroke, at 83 years of age.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I prefer biographies written by experts or those who know the subject intimately irl. Schiap’s eye and avant-garde creativity (“rapid, seemingly bewildering range of ideas”) has always interested me and interwar Paris continues to blow me away. I did learn that Schiap was self-created and worked her ass off achieving great success. Secrest doesn’t bring enough to the table and it’s probably because she didn’t have access and Schiaparelli didn’t leave much of a personal trail. The author I prefer biographies written by experts or those who know the subject intimately irl. Schiap’s eye and avant-garde creativity (“rapid, seemingly bewildering range of ideas”) has always interested me and interwar Paris continues to blow me away. I did learn that Schiap was self-created and worked her ass off achieving great success. Secrest doesn’t bring enough to the table and it’s probably because she didn’t have access and Schiaparelli didn’t leave much of a personal trail. The author presumes, guesses, imagines, points out what is likely far too often for me. My next book is a staggeringly massive, seemingly overly detailed, book on Cocteau. If I survive it, it’ll be interesting to compare the two bios. “She [Schiaparelli] had intuitively hit on an idea that women wanted even if they did not know it, a way of dressing that bridged the gulf between the casual and the dressy….” She was at the forefront of the move away from corsets and heavy skirts, freeing up women to look and mover better. “Her bleated discovery of her artistic gifts, which made use of a sculptural sense, her rebellious instincts, and her intuitive understanding of the way women of her generation felt about themselves. There was her sense of whimsy and the unexpected, even impudence, that enlivened her work and gave it immediacy and verve.” Schiap had a “a sureness of line,” “had a gift for discovering possibilities in the most unlikely places” (by possibilities, the author seems to mean inspiration), she was organized and adaptable. Her amazing, chic wrap dress long designed long before DVF showed hers, is still gorgeous and clever. Richard Martin: “Schiaparelli gave clothing the romantic and inventive emancipation to become art even more than apparel.” Collaboration with various surrealists “Schiaparelli never seemed to mind who thought of what first. It was a communal burst of invention, the aim of which was to bring unconscious impulse into conscious awareness, along with an artist’s desire to surprise and shock. She was in her element…. She wanted absolute freedom of expression and it had arrived; was even being celebrated.” My preferred type of feminist, a real self-starter. She got in with the big boys and made her own rules. Collaboration with the Nazi occupation and Vichy authorities France Schiaparelli was close friends with a founder of the Vichy government, Edward and Wallis and Hitler’s ambassador to occupied France. She managed to keep all her properties in occupied France. She travelled across borders and back with all the impossible-to-procure visas that entails. I would say she did what she thought she had to do, which is not described in the book. I would also venture a guess that she actually collaborated rather than simply kept her head down. She paid no visible price for it (likely personal anxiety, maybe guilt?). Luckily for her, Free France wanted her back after the War so her dealings seem to have gone unexamined, in unclassified form anyway.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Urso

    A very dry, dense book about Chanel's forgotten rival. Schiaparelli was known for her daring, surrealist dresses, popularizing the color shocking pink, and a very daring bottle of perfume. The book failed to capture the excitement and avant garde spirit of the House of Schiaparelli; it read like a dowdy grey dress. Was very disappointed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nostalgia Reader

    http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O15...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol Gleason-rechner

    Here's my take: The author wanted to be a writer but she wasn't terribly good at the actual craft of writing, so she became a biographer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Well-written, thoroughly researched, respectful, and compassionate. The author suggests that ES was a better designer and artist than she is given credit for. She collaborated with noted artists of her time and created clothes that should be considered artworks themselves, not just gimmicky. According to the author, ES invented the embellished evening jacket, which is a notable accomplishment. And you have to be impressed with her fortitude and persistence when she found herself with a newborn Well-written, thoroughly researched, respectful, and compassionate. The author suggests that ES was a better designer and artist than she is given credit for. She collaborated with noted artists of her time and created clothes that should be considered artworks themselves, not just gimmicky. According to the author, ES invented the embellished evening jacket, which is a notable accomplishment. And you have to be impressed with her fortitude and persistence when she found herself with a newborn baby and a useless first husband and no money in a foreign country. This is a woman who did not stop working and trying, no matter how bleak her circumstances. I should add that Secrest believes that ES was a Nazi collaborator and spy, which is why she was able to travel with unusual freedom during the war. That was very upsetting to read, and also puzzling. She was a fashion designer—what could she have known that would be useful to the Germans? And why would she do that? This aspect of ES's life should not be overlooked, just as Chanel's collaboration should not be forgotten. Being an innovative designer doesn't excuse you from being an immoral and selfish human being. Finally, a book about a fashion designer should have lots and lots of photographs, but this one doesn't. You'll have to look elsewhere for a photographic record of ES's career output.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marie Z. Johansen

    I had to learn more about Elsa Schiaparelli more after I finished reading Jeanne Mackins excellent historical fiction book “The Last Collection..” I realized that although I have read several biographies of Coco Chanel I knew little about the inimitable Elsa Schiaparelli. This book provided just about everything I wanted to know about her in a fairly straight forward way and it was an easy to read biography. It just felt a bit flat to me for some reason....not be, not too pithy, not slogging, I had to learn more about Elsa Schiaparelli more after I finished reading Jeanne Mackins excellent historical fiction book “The Last Collection..” I realized that although I have read several biographies of Coco Chanel I knew little about the inimitable Elsa Schiaparelli. This book provided just about everything I wanted to know about her in a fairly straight forward way and it was an easy to read biography. It just felt a bit flat to me for some reason....not be, not too pithy, not slogging, just a but flat. What an interesting woman and what a life she led. The thirties seems paradoxical to me in many respects...some people struggled in bread lines whilst others lived a life of luxury...until WWII sent the world spiraling. Such confounding times they were...

  11. 4 out of 5

    Susan Tan

    The most comprehensive well-researched book on the legendary Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli who built a fashion empire that fell apart after WW2. She had an amazing jetsetting life and set herself up really well financially with branded licenses with American clothing companies.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    I enjoy fashion design, particularly that of the 1930's and 1940's so when I saw noted biographer Meryle Secrest had written a book on the life of Elsa Schiaparelli I was very excited and requested it for review from the Blogging for Books program. Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography was an educational and insightful book packed with photos detailing Schiaparelli's work and also offered candid shots of her family life. (I actually give this a three and a half star rating.) I came for the clothes, but I enjoy fashion design, particularly that of the 1930's and 1940's so when I saw noted biographer Meryle Secrest had written a book on the life of Elsa Schiaparelli I was very excited and requested it for review from the Blogging for Books program. Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography was an educational and insightful book packed with photos detailing Schiaparelli's work and also offered candid shots of her family life. (I actually give this a three and a half star rating.) I came for the clothes, but I was intrigued by the designer herself. The author mentions on several occasions that there isn't a lot of personal ephemera in the way of letters or diaries left behind by Schiaparelli. She also adds that many of the stories the designer related of her early life and her personal life may have been embellished and were likely fabrications. Although Schiaparelli left behind an autobiography, most of the stories were taken with a grain of salt and the author often states when the stories she related veer into conjecture. I loved the dramatic flair Schiaparelli possessed and her use of "stunts" to gain attention as a child. A story in which a young Elsa tried to emulate the beauty of her older sister by planting flower seeds in her nose and ears is both humorous and yet describes her difficult childhood. Ms. Secrest works hard to separate fact from "possible fact" and from outright fiction, but doesn't shy away from relating events in Elsa's own oft embellished voice. While the author researched her biography of Salvador Dali her interest in Elsa Schiaparelli was sparked. The two artists' friendship, collaboration and shared love of surrealism were evidenced in their creation of a gown purchased by Wallis Simpson which featured a lobster and parsley sprigs painted on its diaphanous white fabric by Dali. This dress is featured in one of the three color photo sections which are printed on glossy paper. It is one of the things I knew the designer for. When I thought of Elsa Schiaparelli I pictured whimsical hats, feathers as adornment, her signature shocking pink and this dress. What I had no idea about, and what were to me the most intriguing aspects of this book, were the many unsung contributions to fashion that she made throughout her career. These include the built in bra for swimsuits which she patented, her version of a one piece dress which wrapped around the body, her early embrace of zippers as a design element and her invention of the matching coat or dinner jacket to go with her evening gowns. At every turn Secrest weaves the stories of Schiaparelli's innovative work in the field of fashion with stories from her personal life gathered from her daughter, her friends and her admirers. At times the stories were shocking - for example her admission of leaving her infant daughter on the balcony of the hotel to "sleep in the sun" all afternoon as she tried to manage her career in fashion with her duties as a single mother. She is often unlikable, but is rarely uninteresting. As much as I am a fan of fashion, I also am a fan of fragrance, and Schiaparelli's achievements in this field are also described in detail. I was intrigued by the fact that Mae West was the inspiration behind the curvaceous perfume bottle Schiaparelli's signature fragrance "Shocking" was packaged in. The cover of the book is an illustration for an advertisement for the perfume, its bottle the female figure with a head of flowers, a tape measure and a button at the waist which had a signature S on it. All of these iconic images of the design icon. I think this book would appeal to fans of fashion and the photographs would appeal to anyone. The sumptuous descriptions of the fabric modifications, pleating, color and texture of the garments Schiaparelli created can't compare to the beauty of these photographs and the vibrancy of color which jumps off the page. The book will be published on October 7th and would be a lovely addition to your bookshelf or your local public library. You might consider requesting it for the collection of a library near you, to make it available for others to enjoy as well. Thank you Blogging For Books for providing this copy of Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography for the purpose of review. This was originally posted on my blog Dandelions and Other Fine Things. I'd love for you to check it and other book reviews out if you have the time! http://thefinestdandelion.blogspot.com

  13. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    When I saw this book I was intrigued because I love biographies, fashion, history, etc. especially when it is all somewhat tied together. I was further intrigued because I had not heard of this artist before. When I received the book in the mail....swoon...the cover was gorgeous, the pages unique and the look well lets just say automatically I knew I would be putting this book into my coffeetable book collection rotation! The author has a gift. The material is very colorful, enriched with details When I saw this book I was intrigued because I love biographies, fashion, history, etc. especially when it is all somewhat tied together. I was further intrigued because I had not heard of this artist before. When I received the book in the mail....swoon...the cover was gorgeous, the pages unique and the look well lets just say automatically I knew I would be putting this book into my coffeetable book collection rotation! The author has a gift. The material is very colorful, enriched with details and full of images. However, if you are not immersed in the world of fashion and specifically in that time period at times the material can get very dense and hard to follow. That is not that it is not fascinating, but that so many names and scenarios are used of the whose who in fashion, the elite, etc. that I was at times thrown by who the people were that were being discussed on these pages. This is an enjoyable and educational read that will introduce you to a new realm of historical information and whattt moments, but it is not a quick read. I also must say that the information presented about Elsa makes me a fan. Not just of her designs (some of them are quite gorgeous), but of her approach to life and the obstacles she overcame. I think I was surprised the most by the history, importance and attention that the invention and her creativity of the smaller details such as zippers, buttons and hats created and are still known for today. I enjoyed learning about this fashion maven and how history and her designs and international approach to life were at times interwoven. The little stories about how many of her designs were seen, respected and at times copied were quite entertaining and shocking at times. Quite a few times while reading and seeing her pictures my mind went to Lady Gaga and how she is today. I am not sure if it is because both women are small in stature, but wear large and attention getting wardrobes with distinctive facial features, or if it is the approach to life that both portrayed to the public; however, I would read chapters or sections and think that these two women were similar, or would be inspired by each other. Overall this is a fantastic book and truly great introduction to a woman that does not receive all of the attention and awareness of what she accomplished and created for today's wardrobes, fashion creation and more. full review at www.meghanvarner.blogspot.com

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    The World of the Queen of Fashion: Elsa Schiaparelli Elsa Schiaparelli was born into a wealthy Roman family. She was a difficult child to manage, always wanting to be noticed, which often involved dangerous antics. Although young girls from well-to-do families were expected to find husbands to take care of them, Elsa again went her own way choosing to marry a charming conman, Dr. Kerlov, although he used several other names. The marriage didn't survive, but learning to live by her wits gave Elsa The World of the Queen of Fashion: Elsa Schiaparelli Elsa Schiaparelli was born into a wealthy Roman family. She was a difficult child to manage, always wanting to be noticed, which often involved dangerous antics. Although young girls from well-to-do families were expected to find husbands to take care of them, Elsa again went her own way choosing to marry a charming conman, Dr. Kerlov, although he used several other names. The marriage didn't survive, but learning to live by her wits gave Elsa skills she needed to succeed in the competitive world of couture fashion. This is a wonderfully comprehensive biography of Elsa from her early years through her success in the couture business and into her old age. My favorite parts were her early years getting insight into how her youthful development led to her ability to succeed in a difficult world. I also enjoyed the descriptions of her fashion experiments. There is no question that she was extremely creative, using feathers and man-made fabrics that other designers eschewed and making them a sensation. The pictures in the book are abundant and do a good job of showing her creations. It's much easier to understand the scope of her work when you can look at the dresses. Several parts of the book become rather gossipy, particularly the end. I enjoyed learning about her friends and lovers and how she teamed up with artists of the era, but it's a long book and the gossip became a bit tedious. If you're interested in fashion, or in how the 30's were affected by the coutures, this is an excellent resource. I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    BBC Book of the Week During the glittering 1920s and 30s, Elsa Schiaparelli was the undisputed Queen of Fashion. Everyone who was anyone, from Vivien Leigh to the Duchess of Windsor, entered her doors on the Place Vendôme and obediently wore whatever she instructed. Her clothes were beautifully made, but they were also designed in a manner no one had seen before - buttons that looked like butterflies, mermaids or carrots, trompe l'oeil pockets that looked like lips, gloves with red nails appliquéd BBC Book of the Week During the glittering 1920s and 30s, Elsa Schiaparelli was the undisputed Queen of Fashion. Everyone who was anyone, from Vivien Leigh to the Duchess of Windsor, entered her doors on the Place Vendôme and obediently wore whatever she instructed. Her clothes were beautifully made, but they were also designed in a manner no one had seen before - buttons that looked like butterflies, mermaids or carrots, trompe l'oeil pockets that looked like lips, gloves with red nails appliquéd on them. She was unique. Born into a prominent Italian family, she moved to London and married a supposed Polish count who, it transpired, was really a French con-man. His deportation during the First World War saw them move to New York, where he abandoned Schiaparelli and their baby daughter. Undaunted, she picked herself up, moved to Paris and launched her meteoric career, surviving the Second World War despite being under suspicion of spying from both sides. Her story is one of pluck and determination, talent and great imagination. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she was one of the few female figures in the field at the time. And her collaborations with artists such as Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau and Alberto Giacometti, elevated the field of women's clothing design into the realm of art. Reader: Abigail Thaw Written by Meryle Secrest Abridged by Libby Spurrier Produced by Joanna Green A Pier production for BBC Radio 4.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Coleen (The Book Ramblings)

    I adore fashion, especially between the 20’s through 40’s, and Schiaparelli isn’t a designer that I have much knowledge on besides a few of her designs, so I was pleased to see this available for a read-to review. Not much is known about Shiap’s private life, because she was quite modest, shy, and rather secretive, but when it came to fashion design, she never failed to impress and were outstanding. In fact, she was the first designer to use latex, exposed zippers, and even some bizarre outfits. I adore fashion, especially between the 20’s through 40’s, and Schiaparelli isn’t a designer that I have much knowledge on besides a few of her designs, so I was pleased to see this available for a read-to review. Not much is known about Shiap’s private life, because she was quite modest, shy, and rather secretive, but when it came to fashion design, she never failed to impress and were outstanding. In fact, she was the first designer to use latex, exposed zippers, and even some bizarre outfits. This biography was rich and creative, just like Elsa Schiaparelli herself. I think anyone who loves fashion and design would appreciate this book. While at times the book was rather gossipy, I enjoyed the detail in Shiap’s designs, and discovering more about her creations. I was more interested in her life in the fashion world rather than personal life, so the illustrations were delightful. Along with detailed passages about the designs, and even Shiap’s influences. Meryle’s writing is excellent, and smooth with an easy-to-read pace. She brings light to Shiap’s world in fashion, and historical information on the very intriguing designer. This biography is one of the only English-language biographies of the designer, and it is a great one. Even the book design is beautiful, with a powder pink book jacket, illustration on the cover, and deckle edges. I received this copy through Blogging for Books for reviewing purposes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    There have been a couple of very good books written about Coco Chanel and nothing about Elsa Schiaparelli. Now I know why. Apparently there is not much information on her. Shiaparelli wrote a memoir, but according to author Meryle Secrest, what's there is fiction and what may be fact is embellished. That is what we have in this biography of Schiaparelli. Most of the time I felt as if I was reading a tabloid. It's full of gossipy information about people that I could care less about. There's There have been a couple of very good books written about Coco Chanel and nothing about Elsa Schiaparelli. Now I know why. Apparently there is not much information on her. Shiaparelli wrote a memoir, but according to author Meryle Secrest, what's there is fiction and what may be fact is embellished. That is what we have in this biography of Schiaparelli. Most of the time I felt as if I was reading a tabloid. It's full of gossipy information about people that I could care less about. There's pages galore about her husband William de Kerlor (he had many aliases) who was quite a shady character. If you're a person that likes fashion, you might be interested. Schiaparelli created some gorgeous clothing and you can see photos of them displayed in the book. After reading 160 pages, I closed up the book and called it quits.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marathon County Public Library

    This well-written biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The fiery Italian was a rival of Coco Chanel, good friend of Salvador Dali, and a mentor to Hubert De Givenchy. Schiaparelli created the famous lobster print dress that Wallis Simpson wore after she married the Duke of Windsor, and designed wrap dresses long before Diane von Furstenberg. Although I enjoyed looking at the beautiful color photographs of her designs, I found the This well-written biography provides a fascinating glimpse into the life and times of fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli. The fiery Italian was a rival of Coco Chanel, good friend of Salvador Dali, and a mentor to Hubert De Givenchy. Schiaparelli created the famous lobster print dress that Wallis Simpson wore after she married the Duke of Windsor, and designed wrap dresses long before Diane von Furstenberg. Although I enjoyed looking at the beautiful color photographs of her designs, I found the sections about Schiaparelli's personal life and her rise to fame especially interesting. Kathleen K. / Marathon County Public Library Find this book in our library catalog.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Noble

    If you want to know anything about the history of twentieth-century fashion, this is a must read. Everybody knows and remembers Chanel, who understood that classicism never goes out of fashion, but you could argue that Schiaparelli better understood how fashion also needs infusions of imaginative genius; and Elsa possessed it in spades. You don't believe me? Compare the recent exhibitions of Alexander McQueen, with its aggressive beauty – where fashion meets art – and the Chanel, which was slick If you want to know anything about the history of twentieth-century fashion, this is a must read. Everybody knows and remembers Chanel, who understood that classicism never goes out of fashion, but you could argue that Schiaparelli better understood how fashion also needs infusions of imaginative genius; and Elsa possessed it in spades. You don't believe me? Compare the recent exhibitions of Alexander McQueen, with its aggressive beauty – where fashion meets art – and the Chanel, which was slick and, for me, soulless. Then look at the Schiaparelli designs in this book, and you will see what I mean. This was another book that I read when researching my novel "Villa Eilenroc" where Schiaparelli is worn by one of the characters.

  20. 4 out of 5

    ChromaticRat

    I don't read biographies often and perhaps I just don't like the form. I found this bio excessively detailed about characters surrounding Schiaparelli, and the times she lived in--like a textbook. Reading felt more like attempting research from compiled notes than enjoying a story. I gave up around page 30 and flipped through the rest of the book, enjoying the pictures and wishing there were more of those. I came across this line in chapter 9 which perhaps ought to have been in the book's I don't read biographies often and perhaps I just don't like the form. I found this bio excessively detailed about characters surrounding Schiaparelli, and the times she lived in--like a textbook. Reading felt more like attempting research from compiled notes than enjoying a story. I gave up around page 30 and flipped through the rest of the book, enjoying the pictures and wishing there were more of those. I came across this line in chapter 9 which perhaps ought to have been in the book's preface: "A great many aspects of Elsa Schiaparelli's life will probably never be known." Why, then, is this biography more than 350 pages long?

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is another biography of yet another fashion designer and so far it has been really fascinating. I must admit that I did not know very much about her other than her collaborative work with Dali, Jean Cocteau and other artists. It gives yet another historical point of view on the loyalties of the couture houses during WWII. Ms. Secrest is an excellent writer and so far, it is most impressive with the amount of research that was/is provided with this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Breeze

    I'm plodding through the last chapter. The world of couture is quite fascinating but for all the efforts at researching Elsa Schiaparelli herself, I still didn't know who she was in the end. That may not be the author's fault as Elsa didn't reveal much about herself. This was still worth reading however, I found a BBC documentary about haute couture on Youtube that was quite informative: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wqkgo...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    I love fashion design and enjoy Schiaparelli's wit and innovation, so I fully expected to like this book a lot more than I did. For me, it was just meh. Didn't pull me in, and on numerous occasions, I had the impression that the author didn't particularly care for her the subject. I think Secrest was trying to find a non-journalistic voice, but I would have preferred a bit more objectivity.

  24. 5 out of 5

    False

    I knew some of Schiaparelli's history: French designer of mixed heritage, "shocking pink" which is really magenta, Shocking perfume, grandmother to the Berensons, friend to the Surrealists. What I didn't realize is what a slippery eel is was in her own history. Smokes and mirrors. Many of the things she designed I would wear today.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Meg Marie

    Did not finish. The narrative is a lot of details, not fleshed out stories, and would benefit from more photos perhaps, instead of a page long description of one dress, and then a photo of a totally different one. I just felt bogged down.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Hasty

    "She talked about an era of elegance in fashion that was gone forever. She said most women had too many clothes anyway. They should think hard, buy only what they needed, and then the very best." -Meryle Secrest describing Elsa Schiaparelli

  27. 5 out of 5

    LDuchess

    Autographed copy by author (Tom B's wife) Bought at Rosemarie's party, where Meryle told stories about it. Gorgeous color plates of the designs. I finished with it in Nov. 2015, sent it to Kathy Fish for Christmas. She was then going to turn it over to the head of their arts council.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Meticulously researched (perhaps too much at some points), but missing a lot of "big picture" fashion history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    * 9 Inspiring Biographies Every Fashion Girl Should Read

  30. 5 out of 5

    JDAZDesigns

    Unlike the clothes she made, Elsa is rather dull. I could have something to do with droll manner of the book, but then again... Perhaps not. The story is boring. The writing is flat.

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