Thursday, April 11, 2013

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: The Schiaparelli Evening Coat, 1939

Silk Evening Coat
Elsa Schiaparelli, 1939
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This delicious, crimson long evening coat is made of red grosgrain. Floor-length with a straight front and wide self-faced edges, it has a narrow band collar and wide straight sleeves and is slightly pleated at the head into padded shoulders.

The back of the garment has been designed to fit as far as the waist where it blossoms into two wide cross-cut panels which extend into a dramatic train. A button, covered with matching silk, is bound with white metal is adorned with a small mother of pearl flower in the center. This is stitched at the top of the pleat. Half way down the train is a fleur de lys shaped loop which, when attached to the button, pulls the train up into a bustle. The coat is lined with a slightly darker scarlet silk.

The coat was designed by Elsa Schiaparelli for her 1939 Summer collection and is an example of the historicism which defined the fashion at the end of the 1930s, as designers reinterpreted the shapes of the leg-of-mutton shoulders and bustles that dominated the 1880s.

Schiaparelli always put the cut of a garment first. Her silhouettes were frequently described as having a “strict neatness with angles replacing feminine curves.” With its theatricality and almost cardinal-like overtones, this evening coat demonstrates modern and forceful lines and the streamlined simplicity which dominated late 1930s fashion.

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