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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:

    1940 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Elsa Schiaparelli, born 1890 - died 1973 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered silk crêpe, pearls, sequins, metal strip, plastic

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Madame Elsa Schiaparelli

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) enjoyed the enormous publicity that her more bizarre creations generated, but her less provocative designs rarely caused a furore and have been somewhat neglected. She often referred to her simple black dresses and their versatility, and regularly wore black herself. Schiaparelli gave this dress to the V&A after her retirement.

Here she composed a short-sleeved dress in matt black crepe. The extremely simple, fluid shape is relieved by a slashed neckline and a bold embroidered spray of lilies (by the specialist embroidery company Lesage) in various sizes of pearls, sequins and metallic strip. The dress fastens with a black plastic zip on the left-hand side.

Physical description

Evening dress of embroidered black silk crêpe. With a large embroidered lily motif on the breast carried out in pearls of graduated sizes, sequins and metal strip and thread for the leaves. The dress is floor length and has a high round neck with a small central slip at the centre front, and the neck dips to a waist length 'V' flanked by pleats at the centre back. The dress has no waist seam at the front, which is made in two pieces, but there is one at the back. The sleeves are small and slightly gathered into the shoulder. Fastens with a black plastic zip on the left hand side. Unlined.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1940 (made)


Elsa Schiaparelli, born 1890 - died 1973 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Embroidered silk crêpe, pearls, sequins, metal strip, plastic

Marks and inscriptions

'Schiaparelli, 21 Place Vendome, Paris, Automne 1940'
On a printed label inside the right-hand seam of the skirt

Writted in ink on the back of the printed label


Length: 148.5 cm, Width: 74.5 cm, Circumference: 890 mm, Circumference: 710 mm, Width: 381 mm

Descriptive line

Evening dress of embroidered silk crêpe with pearls, sequins and metal strip, designed by Elsa Schiaparelli, Paris, 1940

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Mendes, Valerie. Black In Fashion. London: V&A Publications, 1999.

Labels and date

EVENING DRESS, embroidered woollen crépe
French, Paris, Schiaparelli, Autumn 1940

Schiaparelli designed clothes that were almost theatrical in their impact. She favoured strong colours, including deep reds and purples as well as her own shocking pink but she also used a great deal of black for restrained and supremely elegant garments. Vogue and Harper's Bazaar frequently illustrated her '30s creations in black. Her autobiography "Shocking Life" often refers to her black dresses... "I had designed a very plain black dress typically Schiap, a dress that was high in the neck and could be worn at the office and at the theatre, the sort of dress I wear all day myself." The dress on display is one she wore, although she has relieved its severity with a bold spray of lilies embroidered in pearls, sequins and gilt metallic thread and strip. Another quote from her autobiography contains interesting details about the women who bought black - "Curiously enough, in spite of Schiap's apparent craziness and love of fun and gags, her greatest fans were the ultra-smart and conservative women, wives of diplomats and bankers, milllionaires and artists, who liked severe suits and plain black dresses."

Worn and given by Madame Elsa Schiaparelli
T.48-1965 []

Production Note

Autumn 1940


Evening wear; Fashion; Women's clothes; Embroidery; Textiles


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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