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Woman's Dinner Dress

Designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, French (born Italy), 1890 - 1973. Designed in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, Spanish, 1904 - 1989.

Made in Paris, France, Europe

February 1937

Printed silk organza, synthetic horsehair

Center Front Length: 52 inches (132.1 cm) Waist: 22 inches (55.9 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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Wallis Simpson included this model in the trousseau she purchased from Schiaparelli prior to her marriage to the Duke of Windsor.

Additional information:
  • PublicationShocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli

    Wallis Simpson was a frequent subject of Cecil Beaton’s photographs during the 1930s. Shortly before Simpson’s marriage to the Duke of Windsor in May 1937, Beaton was asked to take some official photographs of the bride-to-be at the Château de Candé, where she was staying as a guest of Charles Bedeaux. Since many of the past photographs of Simpson were unflattering, Beaton suggested more romantic-looking pictures, including an image of her standing in the château’s garden wearing a Schiaparelli dress printed with a large lobster. The infamous lobster dress was a design collaboration with Salvador Dalí that grew out of the lobsters that started appearing in the artist’s work in 1934, including New York Dream-Man Finds Lobster in Place of Phone, which appeared in the magazine American Weekly in 1935, and the mixed-media Lobster Telephone created in 1936. Dalí placed the lobster amid parsley sprigs on the front of the skirt (and apparently was disappointed when Schiaparelli would not allow him to spread real mayonnaise on the finished gown), and master silk designer Sache translated the sketch to the fabric. Beaton took almost a hundred photographs during the session with Simpson, and Vogue devoted an eight-page spread to the results. For Dalí both the telephone and the lobster had sexual connotations. His placement of the lobster thus charged the design with erotic tension, effectively defeating the public-relations purpose of Beaton's photographs. Dilys E. Blum, from Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli (2003), p. 135.