Elsa Schiaparelli: the "shocking" designs at the Paris exhibition

The Museum of Decorative Arts explores the career of Elsa Schiaparelli.
The Museum of Decorative Arts explores the career of Elsa Schiaparelli. Copyright Duboust, Oceane
Copyright Duboust, Oceane
By Oceane Duboust
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From Beyoncé to Bella Hadid, the Italian designer's name has made its way back into the headlines. An exhibition in Paris celebrates her craft...


The Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris displays until January 2023 an exhibition dedicated to the career of Elsa Schiaparelli, the Italian fashion designer behind bold designs worn by royalty, socialites and top models.

Recently, Schiaparelli's name was back in the headlines when Bella Hadid appeared on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in a black dress, her breast covered by a golden necklace shaped in lungs. A Schiaparelli dress.

And when Lady Gaga sung the national anthem at Joe Biden’s inauguration last year with a black and crimson dress and an oversized dove brooch, she was also wearing Schiaparelli.

These creations are on display at the exhibition “Shocking! The Surreal Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli” that opened last month.

The museum offers an extensive retrospective of Schiaparelli’s craft.

“The exhibition focuses on the masterpieces of Schiaparelli’s career like the cape Phoebus exhibited in the first place of the exhibition illustrating the expertise of this unique designer,” Guillaume del Rio, Curatorial Assistant of the museum, told Euronews Culture.

As visitors enter the exhibition, they are overwhelmed with a space covered floor to ceiling by fashion sketches, as well as that famous cape in “shocking” pink with an embroidered sun.

Throughout her career, Schiaparelli worked on elegant and inventive details that the visitor can spend hours observing. The first floor of the exhibition is a reminder of the time the designer spent with the Parisian Avant-Garde.

There’s also one of Salvador Dalí’s recurrent motifs on show: the lobster. Schiaparelli painted the drawing on a long white evening dress worn by the very scandalous Wallis Simson for a Vogue photoshoot before her wedding to Edward VIII.

It’s a veritable treasure trove for fashion lovers: from the vintage evening gowns full of ornaments to the surrealist jewellery.

“Elsa Schiaparelli signed each of her couture collections with a theme like the circus, like the metamorphosis of the butterflies, like commedia dell’arte or like the signs of the Zodiac and the palace of Versailles. The couture themes collections are the hallmark of the house” says Guillaume del Rio.

Each space of the exhibition boasts different motifs, from butterflies as patterns on dresses or brooches to esoteric constellations.

The extensive exhibition that runs on two floors mixes Elsa Schiaparelli creations with more recent designs from the fashion house whose creative director is Daniel Roseberry since 2019. Fans of the red carpet moments will immediately recognize some of the gowns.

In addition to the Hadid and Gaga dresses, visitors can admire a black and golden dress seen on Carey Mulligan at the Met Gala 2022 that required 4000 hours of embroidery, according to the fashion house. And even fans of Queen Bey are treated to the black and gold gown she wore to the 2020 Golden Globes.

Like any good fashion runway, the exhibition ends with a wedding dress: the frock worn by Daniel Roseberry’s sister, which he designed for the occasion and that went viral on social media.

For Natalia, a visitor from Miami was stunned. “It is really inspiring and it is so cool to see how today’s fashion is so inspired by her (Schiaparelli),” she told Euronews Culture. “I would wear anything that is in there. It’s amazing. It’s a must see, you have to come, it’s beautiful!”

“Shocking! The Surreal Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli” runs until 22 January 2023.

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