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Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met…

10/05/2012

“All of a sudden, we are put together in such an important exhibition, and so I am obliged to confront with you and I’m really starting … really enjoying it.” Miuccia Prada
“Well, I am enjoying it too, I wonder… If we lived together at the same time, would we be friends or would we be foes?” Elsa Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Exotic Body; Orange gown by Schiaparelli & Gold dress by Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Elsa Schiaparelli & Miuccia Prada

On Tuesday, I was in The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art attending the Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibit. If you are not familiar with the creative work and vision of these two iconic fashion designers, Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada, I invite you to spend some time, watch the videos and enjoy the photos. The exhibit showcases two highly talented fashion designers discussing their views on their craft. Here are two women, from different eras, with strong, differing opinions on the subject of fashion, yet they share some common ground, albeit an intellectual one in the realm of fashion design. As Harold Koda, Curator for the exhibit suggested, “Juxtaposing the work of Elsa Schiaparelli and Miuccia Prada allows us to explore how the past enlightens the present and how the present enlivens the past.”  The exhibit did a difficult and terrific job of meshing the past with the present. It opens to the general public from May 10 – August 19th 2012.

“Had I not by pure chance become a maker of dresses, I could have become a sculptor.” Elsa Schiaparelli
“I’ve never wanted to be an artist. I’ve never wanted to be called an artist. The term itself seems old-fashioned.” Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… WaistUp (Jackets by Schiaparelli) WaistDown (Skirt by Prada)

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… WaistUp (Jacket by Schiaparelli) WaistDown (Skirt by Prada)

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… NeckUp & KneesDown Accessories..


Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations Gallery Views Narrated by Andrew Bolton, Curator

As part of The Metropolitan Museum’s unique homage to Schiaparelli and Prada, we get to eavesdrop on a dinner table conversation between them.  The Impossible Conversations video is a staged exchange, a fabrication of sorts, that uses actual words from both women to discuss their views on fashion and how their different approaches helped define their designs. For instance, in WaistUp/WaistDown Schiaparelli uses decorative details in her jackets in response to the attention given to the upper carriage (Waist Up) in restaurants in the 1930s. Prada focuses on the modern and feminine side (Waist down) in her skirts to bring out the playful.  Miuccia plays herself and an actress plays Schiaparelli and the exchange explores their ideas and concepts of fashion. The exhibition is set up to engage us in this exchange while showing us the connectedness between their fashions and personal philosophies.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates the achievements of Elsa Schiaparelli (1890- 1973) and Miuccia Prada (1949). Schiaparelli was closely associated with the Surrealist art movement, created such iconic pieces as the shoe hat, the tears dress, and the insect necklace. Prada took over her family’s Milan base business in 1978 and focuses on fashion that reflects the eclectic nature of Postmodernism. via MetMuseum

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Surreal Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Classical Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Naïf Chic

As you walk into the gallery, you are greeted by a huge screen; Miuccia Prada is having an imaginary, animated conversation with the late Elsa Schiaparelli. Elsa, the queen of shocking pink and the shoe hat,  is played by an Australian actress. The rest of the exhibition is divided into sections/galleries showcasing clothes and accessories that are tied to themes: WaistUp/WaistDown (Schiaparelli jackets/Prada skirts), NeckUp/KneesDown (accessories shown above), Hard Chic, Naïf Chic, Ugly Chic, Exotic Body, Classical Body, and the Surreal Body. I have added photos I took that represent each section below and I will include my observations under each section. Also, I’ve added snippets of their conversations and video to help us understand the perspective each designer brought to her body of work.

“Well, the men, they respect the strong woman, but they don’t usually love them.” Elsa Schiaparelli
“But women mainly need to have the power stuff… not the power, the will, the consciousness of themselves.” Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Hard Chic

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Hard Chic


Hard Chic | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

The gallery was crowded when we arrived and it took some time to move from one section to another. This was mainly because some of the hardcore Schiaparelli/Prada devotees, some dressed accordingly,  insisted on reading every plaque and every write up… slowly.  I had to move on and return twice to see the first three sections (WaistUp/WaistDown (Schiaparelli jackets/Prada skirts), NeckUp/KneesDown (accessories shown above), Hard Chic)  and get some photos. Hard Chic shows the influence of menswear and uniforms to create an aesthetic that denies the feminine.

Fashion should allow us to taste the joys of flight. … We shouldn’t be afraid of age but wear our clothes with youth and innocence.” Elsa Schiaparelli
“Not real innocence, but innocence as a choice … And I think that when you get older, you can really be wild.” Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Naïf Chic

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Naïf Chic

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Naïf Chic


Naïf Chic | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

I liked the Naif Chic section because its purpose is the subversion of expectations society has of age appropriate dressing. The dresses were girlish and made with African prints, playful patterns, and styles that remain fresh and breezy. What struck me throughout the exhibit was the unusual masks the mannequins were wearing. They were as varied as the exhibit and there was no mention of their overall impact.

“I remember my mother used to say to my sister that she was beautiful and I was ugly…” Elsa Schiaparelli
“All my life is working against the cliché of beauty… And the necessity and obligation of being sexy, being beautiful.” Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Ugly Chic

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Ugly Chic

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Ugly Chic


Ugly Chic | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

There wasn’t anything ugly about this section other than the odd color schemes and combinations. There was a preponderance of Prada designs here and I noticed that people didn’t linger much in this section which represents how “women subvert ideals of beauty and glamor by playing with good and bad taste through color, prints, and textiles.” I’ll  still take that long jacket/coat if you pay for it.

“You have to try to get influences form other cultures, other religions…So you can try something new.”  Elsa Schiaparelli
“No, you cant do that because it was already done… You, Schiaparelli did it. Yves Saint Laurent did it.”  Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Exotic Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Exotic Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… Exotic Body


The Exotic Body | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

My first impression when I saw the clothes in this section was how much they reminded me of Indian saris and sarongs from the East. Even the delicate pleats in the gold dress were reminiscent of the pleats in a sari. The color schemes were warm and bright and are popular colors in the East.  The Exotic Body “explores the influence of Eastern cultures through fabrics such as lamé, and silhouettes such as saris and sarongs.”

“I was never able to do, probably a single beautiful evening dress in my life…” Miuccia Prada
“For me, It’s an opportunity for the cloth to respect the architecture of the body…” Elsa Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met…The Classical Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Classical Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Classical Body


The Classical Body | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

This section was the least colorful; the mood was somber and muted. Made up mostly of black, beige, brown and white, the pieces were elegant, unpretentious and beautifully cut. I wasn’t as excited about it as I was some of the other sections; perhaps because it was all too familiar to me. The Classical Body,” explores the designers’ engagement with antiquity through the gaze of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Fashion is art: “Dress designing… is to me not a profession but an art.” Elsa Schiaparelli
Fashion is not art: “Dress designing is creative, but it is not an art… but at the end who cares? “ Miuccia Prada

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Surreal Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Surreal Body. This was a collaboration between Dali & Schiaparelli

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Surreal Body

Schiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations – Exhibit Opens At The Met… The Surreal Body


The Surreal Body | A Bazmark Production. Directed by Baz Luhrmann.

Walking through the Surreal section was like walking through a house of a thousand mirrors; an optical illusion meant to create a sense of expansiveness in a small space. There were mirrors and videos reflecting off each other and it was hard to get any decent pictures because of the glare. The idea was to create a surreal space to compliment Schiaparelli’s association with the period. One of the most popular gowns in this group, is the flowing beige cape and gown above with red decorations; its a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Schiaparelli.  The Surreal body shows how “women affect contemporary images of the female body through Surrealistic practices such as displacement, playing with scale, and blurring the boundaries between reality and illusion as well as the natural and the artificial.” Hope you enjoyed my tour… Oh, and the descriptions for the sections came from the Museum’s website.  But do go see it yourself. 🙂 Thank you!

What are your thoughts? Would you see the exhibit? Do you have a favorite designer? What do you think of their aesthetic or fashion sense? Do share! Thank you. 😉

*Please bear with me as I continue to catch up on your blogs and commenting… Thank you all for your patience! 🙂

For More: Women’s Lives & Issues 

Positive Motivation Tip: Fashion is a microcosm of our world, our history and out tastes… Imagine what yours adds to the conversation.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All photos from my personal collection, Collage of Schiaparelli and Prada via MetMuseum.org  and/or via Wikipedia or via Flickr.

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/05/2012 5:57 am

    All gorgeous and very classy . . . 🙂

    Like

  2. 10/05/2012 6:00 am

    I love all of your posts…but, as always…will have to come back and absorb it more and watch the video…so intriguing…but, I love “art”…oh, no… it’s “being creative” ~mkg

    Like

  3. 10/05/2012 8:00 am

    Thanks for sharing this so I could see a glimpse of the collection. It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum. Both of my sons want to go to NYC. I’ve been thinking about trying to get out there this summer, but not sure if it will work out. You’re reminding me of one of the places that we would need to see!

    Like

    • 10/05/2012 10:35 am

      TY and when you make it in, give me a holler and we can share a bite of food with the kids. 🙂

      Like

  4. 10/05/2012 10:25 am

    we have no money to buy clothes closely associated with the Surrealist art movement, but we like museums featuring surrealism too:

    photo: me and my wife in Brussels, discussing with Magritte, dressed orthodoxly

    Like

    • 10/05/2012 10:32 am

      Great photo! You were discussing with Magritte? I’m impressed. 😆

      Like

  5. 10/05/2012 11:34 am

    Reblogged this on Emotfit's Blog and commented:
    This one is for my NYFriends and the fashion minded among you. Thank you my blogging friend for sharing this with this ex-New Yorker. Almost wanted to book a flight back. Staying strong.

    Like

    • 10/05/2012 7:27 pm

      TY for the re-blog and comment… I have to visit your site again to find it as I didn’t the last time I checked. It was a fun show with some limitations. Thanks again for your feedback. 🙂

      Like

  6. 10/05/2012 12:55 pm

    I would love to see the exhibit in person! Your pictures are extremely enticing. Thanks so much for sharing. miriam

    Like

    • 10/05/2012 1:21 pm

      Maybe they’ll come to you and then you won’t have to come to NY for it. 🙂

      Like

  7. 10/05/2012 3:54 pm

    It’s what I miss most about nYC! Beautiful.

    Like

  8. 10/05/2012 7:26 pm

    Ooooooooohhhh. I have haute couture envy.

    Like

  9. 10/05/2012 9:13 pm

    I would have LOVED this exhibit! I’m not such a fashion plate myself–but I DO appreciate beautiful couture. Artists! Both of them! Debra

    Like

    • 11/05/2012 10:33 pm

      TY! It was a lot of fun even as I fended off the guards as I took my photos> It was a challenging one to curate… I imagine. But they did a terrific job. 🙂

      Like

  10. 10/05/2012 11:58 pm

    I need a ‘love’ button (sounds a bit naughty) for this post! What an amazing opportunity to see this exhibition. The exotic speaks to me and the classical to some degree, love the evening gowns. Is it art? the surreal can only be art for me because fashion should always be for real women to wear in my eyes.The conversations are just brilliant, ‘what is globalization’? perfect! Great photography Elizabeth, the very first orange gown hit me with a huge wow. Thank you for giving me an entertaining start to the day 🙂

    Like

    • 11/05/2012 10:35 pm

      Yes, I enjoyed listening to the conversation too… Both women were determined to hold onto their point of view… TY for sharing your joy about the exhibit and the photos. They are not my best photos for obvious reasons, but I’m pleased to have the memory of it. 🙂

      Like

  11. 11/05/2012 3:36 am

    Gorgeous! But some of the pics aren’t showing.

    Like

    • 11/05/2012 10:36 pm

      If you refresh the page, you will see all of them. It’s a lot to upload hence the delays… perhaps. TY! 🙂

      Like

  12. 11/05/2012 7:28 am

    Wonderful post, Eliz. Judy Davis was awesome as Elsa Schiaparelli. I have always admired her range. And I so enjoyed the conversation between these two accomplished artists. We will be in New York in June. I think I’ll go!

    Like

    • 11/05/2012 10:37 pm

      TY and I’m glad you enjoyed it. If/When you come to NY, reach out to me and we can connect at The Met. Thanks for the pingback. I will add it to my related articles list. 🙂

      Like

  13. 13/05/2012 11:53 am

    How wonderful to be able to attend this show. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  14. 14/05/2012 7:17 am

    Excellent post. I’m adding a field trip to this exhibit on my “fun things to do list” . I thought you might be interested in this link to an on-line exhibit of the haute couture of Worth and Mainbocher. They dressed the high society ladies of NYC in the 19th and 20th century. http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MNY_HomePage#/CMS3&VF=MNYO28_4

    Like

    • 14/06/2012 6:00 pm

      Fantastic!!! Love it… You know they have a Worth St in Palm Beach named after Worth… 🙂

      Like

  15. 14/05/2012 7:50 am

    Every time I hear “Prada” now I can’t help but think of Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

    Like

    • 14/06/2012 6:01 pm

      Yes, i hear you… It opened the door to another level of convo in fashion. 😉

      Like

  16. 17/05/2012 4:49 am

    I LOVE this post. It’s a sensiry feast. What Miuccia Prada says about being older and wild is quite fascinating (and why wasn’t that butterfly-print dress around in my youth?! :-)) Thanks for sharing this exhibition with us, Elizabeth – sublime

    Like

    • 14/06/2012 6:02 pm

      That comment did it for me… Loved it and agree. I’m tired of all the “what you should wear at age X” folk! 🙂

      Like

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