A music themed dress and matching gloves from Schiaparelli’s Fall-Winter 1939 collection.

Schiaparelli

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Irony is typically associated with the literary and oral; I intend to explore visual irony, specifically within Surrealist fashion, where puns are conceived and presented as optical double entendres, adding layers of meaning to deceptively simple forms. Inconsistencies between expectations and realizations of fashion are often humorously absurd– but what initially seems silly can effectively question functionality, gender, art history, politics and social standards. The Surrealists were, after all, affiliated with the French Communist Party (before they were kicked out!), but their focus was on an emotional revolution that they believed would achieve the same ends as a strictly economic one would.

Elsa Schiaparelli was the first and arguably the most influential designer to explore irony in dress, collaborating frequently with fellow Surrealists Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali, and Man Ray. Following the tenets of Surrealism such as the banishment of false rationality and restrictive customs and structures, she conflated tropes of music, optical illusion, classic statuary and traditional fashion, deliberately presenting incongruity and discordance.

Fredric March in Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931, dir. Rouben Mamoulian)

Fredric March

“All things therefore seemed to point to this: that I was slowly losing hold of my original and better self, and becoming slowly incorporated with my second and worse.”

-Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) (via)