Paris Between the Wars – “S” is for Elsa Schiaparelli

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Between 1919 and 1939, Paris experienced a cultural and intellectual boom. This blog will feature artists, writers, composers, musicians, and designers. Paris was at its cultural peak.

Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937
Elsa Schiaparelli, 1937

Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, Schiaparelli is regarded as one of the most prominent fashion designers of the period between the two wars.

Born in Rome to an aristocratic family, Elsa was sent to a strict convent boarding school in Switzerland, but was rebellious and staged a hunger strike until her parents brought her home. Her life was comfortable, but unfulfilling, and to avoid an arranged marriage to a wealthy Russian, she impulsively married a charismatic con man in 1914. Elsa gave birth to a daughter, and her husband fled.

In Paris, Schiaparelli lived well, and she continued to receive financial support from her family, but she wanted to earn an independent income. She had no technical training in pattern making and sewing, and she relied on impulse and inspiration, sometimes using herself as the model. Her “pour le Sport” clothing line took off in 1927, and included bathing suits, ski-wear, and linen dresses. A darker tone was set when France declared war on Germany in 1939. Schiaparelli’s Spring 1940 collection featured “trench” brown and camouflage print taffetas.

 1937 | Elsa Schiaparelli shoe-hat Drawing by Marcel Vertès Source: Archivio Alinari
1937 | Elsa Schiaparelli shoe-hat
Drawing by Marcel Vertès
Source: Archivio Alinari

Blogging from A to Z – Theme Reveal

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As you may know, the Blogging from A to Z Challenge begins on April 1, and runs each day (except Sundays) through the month. This will be my 5th year participating! If you’re wondering about my previous themes, I wrote about Poets, Novelists, Essayists, and Lyricists in 2012; Oh! The Places I’ve Been in 2013, Smile and Say…(yes, cheese!) in 2014, and last year I posted an A to Z of musical instruments.






This year’s theme is entitled PARIS BETWEEN THE WARS, and was inspired by a book I found at the Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith, New Hampshire. I love Paris, and I love this time period, from 1919 at the end of World War I, to 1939, just before the start of World War II. According to the book, during this time, ‘Paris underwent a creative fever that brought artists and intellectuals from around the world to the City of Light. The bohemian charms of Montparnasse attracted artists such as Picasso, Chagall, and Giacometti, while a vibrant café culture provided a forum for disputes between Dadaists and Surrealists and gave rise to a group of expa­triate writers. The creative energy was all-encompassing, establishing Paris as the epicenter of new trends in the arts, a position it would occupy until World War II.’

I will showcase some of the people who contributed to the richness of culture in Paris at this time, and I hope you’ll follow along!