The Zodiac Collection
by Elsa Schiaparelli
In 1938 Elsa Schiaparelli presented her iconic Zodiac Collection. This grouping of highly ornate and embellished designs, inspired by astrological signs and the palace of Versailles during the reign of Louis XV, embody the sumptuous qualities the art of couture was founded upon.
From jackets embroidered with planets, shooting star motifs and the big dipper, Schiaparelli’s good luck emblem, and lavishly beaded evening capes bearing the Greek god Apollo and a golden sun, this autumn/winter 1938/39 collection lays claim to a number of Schiaparelli’s most distinguished designs.
Although Schiaparelli’s celestial citations are far more overtly rendered throughout the Zodiac Collection, the designer also makes notable references to the lavishness of France’s late 18th century monarchy, most specifically in two distinct jackets.
The collection’s ‘Hall of Mirrors Jacket’ was inspired by the baroque opulence of the Palace of Versailles, with two prominent mirrored panels across either breast, in reference to the royal château’s ‘Galerie des Glaces’. The theatrical effect of the hall’s seventeen massive archways, each filled with twenty-one mirrors; was portrayed by the designer through a mirrored mosaic secured by star-shaped glass rivets and framed with gold gilt metal strips.
An equally notable 18th century-inspired design from the Zodiac collection is Schiaparelli’s commanding black wool coat with padded shoulders. This simple overcoat incorporates references to the days of Louis XV, expressed in the outer garment’s 18th century porcelain-inspired appliqué. The six individual pink velvet rococo vase-shaped pockets include, at the center of each, female profiles in violet sequins with gilt metal strip edges. In honor of King Louis XV’s ties to France’s Sèvres porcelain factory, Schiaparelli commissioned the jacket’s gilt-edged pink and white porcelain flowers from the Sèvres factory in Vincennes, France.
As in the work of many of her fellow artists and frequent collaborators, Schiaparelli’s designs are collections of symbols and references. No minute detail is overlooked in the mind of this visionary designer.