Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations

The Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, opening tomorrow, May 10th and running until August 19th, explores the parallels (and differences) between the fashions of the two Italian designers and the idea of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada having that impossible conversation, an idea put into practice by a series of videos projected on the walls of the show. The videos were directed by Baz Luhrmann and feature Judy Davis channeling Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada herself.

If you haven’t already watched these I invite you to when you have half an hour to spare as I think they depict the interesting approaches on fashion of the two designers which have made their works so influential, covering the categories the gallery is divided in: Waist Up/Waist Down, The Classical Body, The Exotic Body, The Surreal Body, Naïf Chic, Hard Chic and Ugly Chic. I’ve only chosen three videos for my post, but you can and really should see the rest of them too here.

Waist up/ Waist down: in the times of café society when women needed to look good from the waist up Schiaparelli focused her attention above the waist: embellished jackets, “up with the shoulders, celebrate the bust”, and ‘crazy’ hats. As opposed to Prada, who, in different times, focuses on the waist down: on skirts, “I refuse the conventional conviction that you have to be beautiful from the waist up”, and shoes, where she feels she can have so much freedom, where she can really experiment and exaggerate and “it doesn’t feel to me stupid.”

Classical design:
Schiaparelli: “Miuccia, I don’t understand why you find designing evening wear so difficult.”
Prada: “Because the draping was done so well in history that what can you do with draping? You can’t do anything anymore.”
Schiaparelli: “Are you against it?”
Prada: “I don’t think I’m against it, but I was never able to do a single beautiful evening dress in my life.”

Learn more about the exhibition from Hamish Bowles’ article.

videos source: YouTube


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