Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973)

Elsa Schiaparelli was born in Rome on 10th September 1890 to Giuseppa Maria de Dominicis, a Neapolitan aristocrat, and Celestino Schiaparelli, a professor of Arabic literature and language at Rome’s La Sapienza University and the first librarian at the Accademia dei Lincei.

To the paternal branch of his family – of Piedmontese origin – belonged several well-known names, firmly established in the academic field: among them, his uncles Ernesto and Giovanni Schiaparelli, respectively Egyptologist and astronomer, and the latter’s son, Luigi, famous palaeographer and diplomatist.

After her initial studies in Philosophy, her family opposed Elsa’s early poetic aspirations, sending her to a convent in Switzerland.

However, determined to follow her ambitions, she went to London: from there, after a failed marriage and a daughter, she emigrated to the United States, where she met the fashion designer Paul Poiret, whose pupil she became, and then embarked on a personal career, establishing her own name.

The 1930s were his golden age: her Maison came to count 8 atelier in Paris with a total of over 800 employees and it was at this flourishing time that he produced his most iconic fashion collections: remember, for example, the with double knot or the invention of the suit in shocking pink, as well as accessories that concealed real works of art, thanks also to valuable collaborations with the protagonists of Surrealism and Dadaism (Dalì, Picasso, Giacomelli, Fini and many others). This marriage of art and fashion will result in avant-garde creations characterised by extraordinary originality, the fruit of research and experimentation with colours, materials, textures and techniques.

World War II, however, hit her fashion house hard, which was forced to significantly reduce its production capacity and Elsa had to take refuge in New York.

Later, once the war was over, she returned to Paris, but the fashion world was no longer the same: in fact, despite some awards she was given, she was no longer able to achieve the pre-war success and recover from the economic crisis. Thus, Maison Schiaparelli was closed.

The well-known fashion designer died 19 years later, in the French capital, by then her adopted city, on 13th November 1973.

You can consult the birth certificate on the Ancestors Portal: Archivio di Stato di Roma > Stato civile italiano > Roma > 1890

The original is kept at the State Archives of Rome

For more on the figure of Elsa Schiaparelli, see the entry in the Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani edited by Giovanna Uzzani.

Archivio di Stato di Roma > Stato civile italiano > Roma > 1890
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