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Evening dress
  • Evening dress
    Elsa Schiaparelli, born 1890 - died 1973
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Evening dress

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    late 1935 (designed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Elsa Schiaparelli, born 1890 - died 1973 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wool crêpe, gold braid, celluloid, impressed gilt metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs P. Otway-Smithers

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Couturier clothing was custom-made for each individual client. The designs often included interior padding or subtle structuring to camouflage and correct defects. Shoulder pads could be adjusted to allow for natural unevenness, and busts could be gently enhanced with concealed padding and ruching. The process of fitting couture was conducted in strictest confidence.

This 1936 evening dress is by Elsa Schiaparelli, who was known for her shock tactics and love of surrealism. Even her simpler dresses often featured unexpected details. Here, Schiaparelli has taken the intimate padding over the breasts which would normally be concealed, and used it to decorate the outside of a severe brown crepe dress. The contrast between the modest high-necked gown and the overt reference to the wearer's bust is typical of Schiaparelli.

Physical description

Evening dress of brown woollen crêpe. Floor length, high necked with a gathered bodice, and a circular trapunto quilting over each breast. Six rows of gold braid encircle the slim and columnar full length skirt at regular intervals from the waist down. Fastens at the back with a gilt button on which is impressed a horse. No sleeves, but the shoulder is covered with a small gathered cape attached to the neckband. The bodice is open to the back of the waist and fastens from the waist to hip with a matching celluloid zip fastener. Grouped at the centre back.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


late 1935 (designed)


Elsa Schiaparelli, born 1890 - died 1973 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Wool crêpe, gold braid, celluloid, impressed gilt metal

Marks and inscriptions

Stamped on a label stitched to the inside side seam

Object history note

Worn by Mrs. Peter Otway-Smithers, who remembered this being one of the first dresses to have a zip fastener.

Photo notes:
Bodice front: Trapunto embroidery over the breasts; applied gold braid strips on skirt from waist down
Back hem: gathered flounce at back.
Label: Paris label hiver 35-36
CB Zipper: brown plastic zipper at CB. Probably Eclair zip

Jan G. Reeder, Curator, The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Taken May, 2011, Compiled September, 2011

Descriptive line

Evening dress of woollen crêpe, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, Winter 1935-36

Production Note

Reason For Production: Commission


Wool crepe; Gold braid

Subjects depicted



Fashion; Women's clothes; Evening wear; Textiles

Production Type

Haute couture


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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