No one would ever accuse me of being a slave to fashion trends. And haute couture -- forget about it. But when fashion becomes art, it's a whole different story. And so I made a beeline to the Dali Museum in St. Pete when the Dali & Schiaparelli exhibit opened. It's a blast of a show.
The exhibit starts off tamely enough, with an elegant evening dress. The work ties in nicely with the detail from Dali's "Architectural Figures." Both Dali and Schiaparelli (known as "Schiap") believed in the importance of mastering traditional forms before letting their imaginations run wild. Like the old masters, Dali often used mythological figures in his paintings. In these adjacent works, Dali and Schiap pay homage to the way fabric is draped in Classical Greek sculpture. The primary innovation in Schiap's gown (circa 1931) was the use of rayon as the material.
Both Dali and Schiap were fascinated by the creature whose structure inverts that of humans with its hard skeletal exterior and soft interior. The sexuality lobsters evoke--with their lush meat often eaten with your fingers--wasn't lost on the pair either. In fact, Dali's Lobster Phone is sometimes known as the "Aphrodisiac Phone."
Perhaps the craziest thing about Schiap's Lobster Dress, though, is that it was made for Wallis Simpson. Yes, the Wallis Simpson whose husband abdicated the English throne to marry the twice-divorced American socialite.
Dali proposed that the dress (and its wearer?) be served with a dollop of mayonnaise. Schiap thought the placement of the lobster between Simpson's legs was suggestive enough. "Fashion both exposes and hides one's identity," Schiap said. This dress seems like the perfect case in point.
Mae West sofa and "shocking" perfume and
Wallis Simpson in Lobster Dress
|Designs from the House of Schiaparelli today|
I'll leave you with a Schiap quote to ponder: "Fashion has little to do with the length of a hem. It has much to do with the politics and social spirit of the time."
And now it's time to get dressed.