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Woman's Evening Coat

Designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, French (born Italy), 1890 - 1973. Embroidered by Lesage, Paris, founded 1922.

Made in France, Europe

Spring 1939

Wool felt, fulled wool, silk thread embroidery

Center Back Length: 55 inches (139.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Costume and Textiles

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mme Elsa Schiaparelli, 1969

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This harlequin coat by Elsa Schiaparelli was described by Harper's Bazaar in January 1939 as an "utterly plain, severe coat, one straight line from neck to hem," yet characteristically for the designer the hard masculine silhouette is juxtaposed with a traditionally feminine use of ornament and brilliant color, and leavened by her eccentric wit. Schiaparelli, who collaborated with Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, and other avant-garde artists, treated garments as an experimental art form, utilizing the subversive goals of Surrealism to imbue sophisticated high fashion with surprising playfulness and irreverence. This evening coat, a colorful mosaic of usually prosaic felt cleverly shaped for the torso by gradually increasing the size of the squares from neck to hem, is part of Schiaparelli's "Commedia dell'arte" collection for spring 1939. It proved to be her last great collection presented as a mad carnival to counteract the anxious political situation in Europe and fittingly epitomized Schiaparelli's belief that all clothing is but a masquerade. H. Kristina Haugland, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 98.
  • PublicationShocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli

    Man Ray’s Le Beaux Temps, painted in 1939, resonates with Schiaparelli’s Commedia dell’arte collection for spring 1939, with the designer’s patchwork harlequin coat, made up of graduated lozenges of blue, black, red, yellow, and white wool felt, coming to life in the artist’s geometric-patterned figure. Schiaparelli’s name for her spring collection, A Modern Comedy, presented six months earlier, is matched by Man Ray’s ironic title, “The Good Times.” Dilys E. Blum, from Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli (2003), p. 197.

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