The first biography of the grand couturier, surrealist, and embattled figure (her medium was apparel), whose extraordinary work has stood the test of time.
Her style was a social revolution through clothing-luxurious, eccentric, ironic, sexy; synonymous with fashion innovation and chicesse. She was audacious; her fashions were inspired from the whimsical to the most practical-from a Venetian cape of the commedia dell’arte to a Soviet parachute. She collaborated on her designs with some of the greatest artists of the twentieth-century: on jewelry with Jean Schlumberger; on clothes with Salvador Dalí; with Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti; with photographers Man Ray, Horst, Cecil Beaton, and the young Richard Avedon. Her name: Elsa Schiaparelli. She was known as the Queen of Fashion; a headline attraction in the international glitter-glamour show of the late twenties and thirties; she gave fabulous parties-and went to those given by others; she lived and worked seriously and hard in much-photographed residences and was a guest at others; she knew the “everybodies” who were always “there” and inevitably became one of them herself, feted in Rome (where she was born), Paris, New York, London, Moscow, Dallas, Hollywood, Dublin. Now, Meryle Secrest, acclaimed biographer-whose work has been called “enthralling” (WSJ); “captivating” (WP Book World); “Rich in detail, scrupulously researched, sympathetically written” (NYRB), and who has captured the lives of many of the twentieth-century’s most iconic, cultural figures, among them: Frank Lloyd Wright, Bernard Berenson, Leonard Bernstein, Duveen; Richard Rodgers; Modigliani; Stephen Sondheim-gives us the never-before-told story of this most extraordinary fashion designer, perhaps the most extraordinary fashion designer of the twentieth-century, who in her time was more famous than Chanel.
“Majestic . . . clever . . . Secrest effortlessly explains what made Schiaparelli’s fashion work so groundbreaking and unique . . . Accompanied by color photographs of many of the designs, Secrest’s book pays homage to Schiaparelli’s unique oeuvre by highlighting their efficiency of form and style in her designs, while framing them as miracles in their own right.”
-Jose Solis, Pop Matters
“Her story fairly rips along.” –The Observer
“A colorful portrait.” –Kirkus
“Ever curious and wonderfully adept . . . dynamic . . . Richly illustrated and endlessly intriguing, Secrest’s biography illuminates the ‘daredevil swagger’ of Schiaparelli’s clothes and the oft-besieged couturier’s inexhaustible tenacity and dazzling creativity.” -Donna Seaman, Booklist (Starred Review)
“An illuminating biography . . . Ms Secrest breaks new ground . . . Ms Secrest’s incisive, sympathetic life demonstrates great skill in unpicking the web of myths that Schiaparelli wove to reveal the shape of the woman beneath.” –The Economist
“A breathless, madcap ride across the 20th century . . . An alternately exhilarating, sympathetic, slyly humorous, and poignant portrait, not only of the surrealism-influenced, innovative fashion designer, but also of the creative cauldron of Paris in its golden age between the two world wars.” –Publishers Weekly