Elsa, Miuccia, Elsa

Young Elsa Schiaparelli George Hoyningen-Huene 1930s Miuccia Prada Guido Harari
Elsa Schiaparelli by George Hoyningen-Huene (1932); Miuccia Prada by Guido Harari.

This month the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, announced that the Spring 2012 Costume Institute exhibition will focus on Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada. The show, entitled Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada: On Fashion, will run from May 10 to August 19, 2012. (Read the press release here.) The twin focus on these two intellectual designers should make for a very stimulating exhibit.

If you can’t wait for your Schiaparelli fix, the designer’s work will soon be on view in Madonna’s film “W.E.”, whose parallel narratives tell the stories of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and a wealthy New Yorker (Abbie Cornish) who becomes fascinated with the late Duchess of Windsor after seeing her luxurious couture wardrobe and jewels at Sotheby’s.

Wallis Simpson was a couture client even before her marriage to the Duke of Windsor. She ordered eighteen pieces from Schiaparelli’s Summer 1937 collection for her marriage trousseau and was even photographed by Cecil Beaton in the famous lobster dress designed by Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dalí. Costume designer Arianne Phillips (The Crow, Tank Girl, A Single Man) was able to study the Vionnet and Schiaparelli archives in order to recreate Wallis Simpson’s wardrobe for the film. Vanity Fair ran a “W.E.” photo shoot in their September issue; one photo shows ‘Wallis’ in a 1930s ensemble by Schiaparelli:

Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D’Arcy as King Edward VIII, Vanity Fair, September 2011. Photo: Tom Munro
Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D’Arcy as King Edward VIII, Vanity Fair, September 2011. Photo: Tom Munro via vanityfair.com.

(See the full Vanity Fair gallery here.) Riseborough’s ensemble is based on a 1937 jacket and gown of jersey with leather scrolls; you may be familiar with the Cecil Beaton photograph. (See the original and the Beaton photograph here.)

The current issue of W magazine has a short feature on “W.E.” with Arianne Phillips’ photos and notes on her costume work for the film. It opens with this shot of Riseborough in a beautiful grey flannel, New Look suit by Schiaparelli, accessorized with Cartier medals:

Andrea Riseborough Wallis Simpson Madonna on set "W.E." 1950s Schiaparelli suit W magazine November 2011 Arianne Phillips
Andrea Riseborough and Madonna on the set of “W.E.” W magazine, November 2011. Photo: Arianne Phillips.

Wallis’ Schiaparelli suit with double-breasted, arched-hip jacket reminds me of this early Schiaparelli Vogue pattern, Vogue 1162:

Vogue 1162 Elsa Schiaparelli pattern 1950s jacket skirt suit blouse Vogue Paris Original
Vogue 1162 by Schiaparelli (1951) Suit and blouse. Image via Etsy.

(An incomplete copy is available on Etsy.) Too bad Vogue Patterns can’t re-release their designer patterns!

“W.E.” opens in North American theatres on December 9th.

Update: W has added this story to their website; see it here.

3 thoughts on “Elsa, Miuccia, Elsa

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