The life story of the trailblazing designer.
Having tackled Leonard Bernstein, Diego Rivera, and more, Rubin now turns to one of modernism’s most colorful fashion designers, Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), inventor of hot pink and a slew of fashion firsts. Known to intimates simply as “Schiap” (pronounced “skap” from “Skap-a-rell-ee,” helpfully elucidated early on), the younger daughter of traditional Italian parents was born in Rome, drawing early inspiration from her librarian father’s rare books. Rubin’s account highlights formative moments in Schiap’s rebellious youth but focuses mainly on the extraordinary accomplishments of her career. Schiap not only used fashion to compensate for internalized physical shortcomings, but extended her talents to help clothe women of all walks of life. Schiap believed that helping women “find their type” was “the secret of being well dressed.” Though some of her more outlandish designs included zany hats, buttons in the shapes of vegetables, and accessories sporting insects, Schiap was also revered for path-breaking casual knitwear alongside wild couture collaborations with Man Ray and Salvador Dalí. Unfortunately, while Rubin’s well-researched and eye-catchingly illustrated portrayal hooks readers with the history behind “shocking” or “hot” pink and includes copious quotations from Schiaparelli herself, its overall effect is surprisingly dry.
A studied account of the innovative and impulsive fashion legend that’s likely to inspire budding designers of any age. (author’s note, Schiaparelli facts, bibliography, notes, index) (Biography. 10-14)