10.30.2014

Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography Book Giveaway



What a truly wonderful book we are featuring on the blog today: Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography by Meryle Secrest.

Here's the description from Knopf:

Her name was 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, feted in Rome (where she was born), Paris, New York, London, Moscow, Hollywood . . .

Her style was a social revolution through clothing—luxurious, eccentric, ironic, sexy. Her fashions, inspired, from the whimsical to the most practical—from a Venetian cape of the commedia dell’arte to the Soviet parachute. She collaborated with some of the greatest artists of the twentieth century: on jewelry designs with Jean Schlumberger; on clothes with Salvador Dalí (his lobster dress for her, a lobster garnished with parsley painted on the skirt of an organdy dress, was instantly bought by Wallis Simpson for her honeymoon with the Duke of Windsor); with Jean Cocteau, Alberto Giacometti, Christian Bérard, photographers Baron Adolph de Meyer, Horst, Cecil Beaton, and the young Richard Avedon.

She was the first designer to use rayon and latex, thick velvets, transparent and waterproof, and cellophane. Her perfume—Shocking!—was a bottle in the shape of a bust sculpted by Léonor Fini, inspired by the body of Mae West. Her boutique at an eighteenth-century palace at 21 Place Vendôme opened into a cage designed by Jean-Michel Frank. American Vogue, in 1927, presented her entire collection as Works of Art. A decade later, she was the first European to win the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award.
Here is the never-before-told story of this most extraordinary fashion designer, perhaps the most extraordinary fashion designer of the twentieth century, in her day more famous than Chanel. Meryle Secrest, acclaimed biographer, who has captured the lives of many of the twentieth century’s most iconic cultural figures, among them: Frank Lloyd Wright, Bernard Berenson, and Modigliani, gives us the first full life of the grand couturier—surrealist and embattled figure–-whose medium was apparel.

“Dare to be different,” Schiaparelli advised women, and she lived it to the height; a rebel against convention—social as well as fashion. She designed an otter-fur bathing suit and a hat inspired by a lamb chop. (“I like to amuse myself,” she said. “If I didn’t, I would die.”) Chanel, her arch rival, called her, “that Italian woman who makes dresses.”

Here is the story of Schiaparelli’s rise to fame (as brazen and unique as any of the artistic creations that emerged from her Paris workrooms before World War II); her emotionally starved upbringing in Rome (her mother was part Scottish, part Neapolitan; her father, a prominent medieval scholar specializing in Islamic manuscripts, dean of the faculty of Rome; her uncle, an astronomer famous for his description in 1877 of “canals” on Mars); her years overshadowed by a prettier sister; her elopement with a Swiss-born man who claimed to be a count, disciple of mysticism and the occult—who managed to get himself and his young bride deported from Britain . . . her struggle to care for her polio-stricken daughter, Gogo, as a single and financially destitute mother living in Greenwich Village.

Secrest writes of Schiaparelli’s keen instincts—an astute businesswoman, she launched herself into hats, hose, soaps, shoes, handbags, in the space of a few years. By 1930, her company was grossing millions of francs a year.

Secrest chronicles her exploits during World War II (she managed to escape from Europe to the United States) and, using FBI files, shows that during Schiaparelli’s stay in New York, her whereabouts were documented almost week by week; she was never explicitly charged, but the cloud of collaboration lingered long after her return to Paris.

As Secrest traces the unfolding of this dazzling career, she reveals the spirit that gave shape to this large and extravagant life, a woman—a force—whose artistic vision forever changed the face of fashion and redefined the boundaries of art.


Knopf are kindly offering to give away one copy of Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography. Please enter the giveaway via the rafflecopter widget below. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (terms set by the publisher). The winner will be announced on the widget and contacted by email one week from today. Best of luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


For more on Meryle Secrest, visit her website here.


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26 comments:

Shannon Dunn said...

This book sounds wonderful . . . exquisite, even.

And my style icon is and always will be the incomparable Audrey Hepburn. She was an angel on earth. I love her.

Leslie Richman said...

I love Orla Kiely. Her designs are the perfect mix of retro and terrifically modern.

Cathie Maud Cabot said...

It may be cliché but my style icon will always be Audrey Hepburn. ♥

My current favourite designer is Nina Ricci, although for high street, it is probably Kate Spade, Club Monaco, and Anthropologie.

Cathie Maud Cabot said...

It may be cliché but my style icon will always be Audrey Hepburn. ♥

My current favourite designer is Nina Ricci, although for high street, it is probably Kate Spade, Club Monaco, and Anthropologie.

Leigh Anne Killian said...

Oscar de la Renta, Audrey Hepburn, Elie Saab

Maggie Lodge said...

Coco Chanel, for her perfect tailoring. Audrey Hepburn, for her effortless style. Carolina Herrera for her beautifully, feminine designs. Oh, and no one wears a white shirt better:-)

snappyjaye said...

I know it's not very original, but I agree with Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn. I also have to add Jacqueline Kennedy Onnasis.

Deborah Rines said...

I would love to win this one! I saw some of her dresses at the MFA in Boston.

Xandra Burns said...

My style icons are Carrie Bradshaw [from the Carrie Diaries!], Elle Fanning, Blair Waldorf, Emma Woodhouse from Emma Approved, and Audrey!

Suzi Queue said...

As I am not greedy (merci encore une fois) I shan't enter another giveaway. But for those who adore all things hot pink I wish to give a "heads up" that NARS' Schiap, named after the legendary designer, is an absolutely stunning nail varnish. I've not yet tried the lipstick as it closely resembles another lipstick in my collection.

Good luck to all of the entrants.

rhonda said...

I just Finished DVF s new biography strong fascinating woman&a style icon.

Joyce F. said...

I adore Schiaparelli's work! While the silhouettes of her gowns were usually quite elegant, I love how she would pop in some piece of whimsy, like a lobster, faces, or an interestingly placed bird.

JJT said...

Chanel is my favorite

Anne said...

135As a child I loved just saying the musical name, Schiaparelli! I bought At Home with Madame Chic, went home and began to read. Three hours later I ordered Lessons from Madame Chic. I like your style...of writing, and of living. Your blog is now part of my daily reading. Thanks, I'm loving it. My style icon is Jackie Kennedy Onassis. My mother was a devotee, and I have fond childhood memories of those old sixties photos of her, white gloves, hats, and all!

Jacquelyn. said...

I NEED TO WIN THIS. I love Elsa.

I just love how she did whatever she wanted. Designers like that always amaze and inspire me. And hello, she basically had her own colour.

My favourite designer is Elie Saab. So elegant. He does no wrong in my book.

Katherine Ivan said...

My favorite designers from the past are Madame Grès and Alexander McQueen. Currently fave is Tom Ford.

Sally Bainbridge said...

I'm with all the rest...Coco Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Audrey Helburn and Jackie Kennedy...all so elegant and fabulous. This would be not only a fun read but so, so interesting. A perfect book for a rainy day, by the fire...starting with tea on the afternoon then a little switch to a whisper of wine. Thank you for the fun chance to participate in tbis giveaway. Happily to all of you. Sally

Sally Bainbridge said...

Sorry for the misspelling on my post...having a little problem with my vision. Can't always rely on spellcheck!
Sally

Diana said...

Who is your favorite current designer? I am so in love with the classic yet modern lines of Celine these days.

Who is your favorite designer from the past? I love vintage YSL ;)

evaevaeva923 said...

Too many favorite designers, but can never go wrong with Chanel, De La Renta, Valentino, McQueen, Von Furstenburg. I read Fashion ALL the time. Just finished a new biography of Diana Vreeland and watched the documentary. Such an inspiration!

The Semi Sweet said...

I have two style icons. One is fantasy since I'll never be able to recreate her glamour, Grace Kelly. Especially her style in Rear Window. And for everyday style inspiration I turn to the plethora of style posts on pintrest. No one in particular, just everyday folks.

Susan said...

I didn't know much about Elsa Schiaparelli until I saw a cool exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. They had video clips of Schiaparelli and Prada mixed as if they were having conversations with each other discussing fashion, and their clothing was on display. I remember Schiaparelli saying she designed clothing to look good from the waist up (so the wearer looked beautiful while seated), and Prada designed for women to look good from the waist down (to look beautiful while walking). I can't wait to read this book and learn more about her.

TheGirlCan'tHelpIt! said...

I have no style icons at present. Having retired from high-level accounting in Canada and immigrating to the southern USA to work with dogs every aspect of my wardrobe is still in negotion. Entering my 50s in the next year or so tosses in another curve: My style still wants moto and cargo but my age might not agree while I try to find ways to make olive and grey staples that still suit me and the weather.

TheGirlCan'tHelpIt! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgen said...

I love Alexander McQueen Queen and Chanel is the ultimate classic.

Summer Smith said...

I don't think I have a favorite designer, or a style icon. I like to pick & choose from various ones. I don't know much about Schiaparelli but would love to learn more, even if I do not win this book. However, thank you very much for doing this giveaway. As always.

 
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