Get inspired to add some topsy-turvy to your look.
It’s bizarre to think that the tale of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is actually more popular now than years ago, when Walt Disney created the first animated adaptation. When the film came out in 1951, it opened to underwhelming box office numbers. Fans of the book felt it strayed too far from the source material and regular movie-goers where confused about what was going on the screen. It wouldn’t be until the sixties and seventies, amidst the height of psychedelic esthetic, that the film would find its cult following that it continues to have to this day.
It’s possible that in the post World War II landscape, the world was a very scary place, and people wanted comfort without questioning or defying ideas. Perhaps that's why the public was not ready for Alice. In the same way, the fashion scene saw a drastic change in the style and looks people wanted to wear. Gone were the bold ensembles of the twenties and thirties, even the coquette yet tomboyish esthetic of the forties. Humanity took a step back towards a more conservative mindset, in more than one way. The party girls from the previous decades were forgotten in favor for a more traditional kind of femininity. The sexual revolution was put on pause until the next decade, when people began to feel safe again.
One of the victims of this switch in ideologies was Elsa Schiaparelli, the designer every starlet and celebrity wanted to design for them in the twenties and thirties. She collaborated with surrealist artists such as Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dalí, who painted or worked hand in hand with her dresses and accessories. However, the Second World War took a toll on her atelier, and by the fifties, Schiaparelli was bankrupt and out of business. Yet it was in the early two thousands that her name appeared on a runway again. The brand’s creative director, Marco Zanini, seems to have resumed where Schiap, as she called herself, left off.
To have a style that seems like you’re hanging out with the surrealist artist crowd, you don’t have to resort to couture. Art has influenced fashion to the point that you can find shoes with eyes and necklaces with feathers even at your local fast fashion retailer. However, if you long for the dresses of the thirties, you can find great options at thrift stores and vintage shops. It might feel like a treasure hunt, but you could find some real old-school threads.
Regardless of which route you choose, here are some ideas to how you can add a touch of surreal into your outfits:
Schiaparelli had a knack for topsy-turvy accessories such as shoe hats and giant insect brooches. One of her collaborations with Dali resulted in a jewelry collection of random body parts such as eyes and mouths.
Aside from the obvious inspiration she shared with the surrealists, there was her obsession with the occult and mystical. She added Zodiac signs to jackets or necklaces. You’ve probably seen a t-shirt with a pair of hands strategically placed to look like they’re copping a feel. Well, Schiap was the first to bring this idea to life with her famous bra.
Glamour Glamour Glamour
The twenties and thirties were party times. Prohibition was lifted in 1933 and Hollywood made everyone feel like they were a star. Women didn’t just want a cocktail dress, they wanted a ball gown that wowed the entire room. The thirties were a time of simpler lines and backless dresses, but these designs were anything but basic.
Trains, turbans, beaded jackets, and gloves resembling manicured hands with red nail polish took over. It’s about adding as much as possible to your outfit while still looking like yourself. Remember, there is a delicate line between femme fatale glamour and appearing like you robbed a costume store.
There are stories about Schiap growing up wanting to grow flowers on her face. As she became the fashionista everyone knew, she added flowers and nature motifs into her pieces.
You don’t have to sew flowers on your jeans or crop top to continue this style. You might find hair flowers or insect-inspired accessories that will make you feel like you were dressed by the fairies.
Elsa Schiaparelli was influenced by her love of art, literature, and glamour. She allowed her personality to meld into her pieces. Like her, each of us can take elements from our own passions to transform our personal style. We can use it as a way to express our life stories through the clothes we wear. The legacy she left is a call to action, to not become carbon copies of what others wear or like, but to be our own unique stylists that showcase our strength and beauty.