Stairs and entry to exhibition Elsa Schiaparelli Shocking MAD ColleensParis
Let's Explore,  Museum exhibitions

Shocking! Surrealist Schiaparelli at MAD – Paris

When is a fashion house a walking art gallery? When your audacious mentor is fashion designer, Paul Poiret, and two of your contemporary artist friends are surrealists, Man Ray and Salvador Dali. When you walk up the stairs of the Musée des Arts décoratifs (MAD) toward the rays of sunshine, prepare yourself to be transported into a world of design in the shocking surrealist Schiaparelli show at MAD. 

The pink jacket with those sun rays greets you as you open the exhibition’s door. Welcome to the Elsa Schiaparelli retrospective, the first in 20 years. Shocking! The surreal world of Elsa Schiaparelli (Shocking! Les mondes surréalistes d’Elsa Schiaparelli ) continues until January 22, 2023.

Admiring the multitude of form-fitting jackets I asked myself, “to which tea or garden party or soirée would I have worn this?” A working girl’s imagination must have whisked her away to another planet if she was reading Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar in the 1930s and looking at photographs of Elsa Schiaparelli’s surrealist fashion art. 

What You Will See

Certain contemporary couture designers who turned their fashion into art, were inspired by the Italian-born Elsa Schiaparelli’s creative designs. Those inspirations are interspersed on two floors of the MAD building among the 520 works and 272 silhouettes and accessories designed by Schiaparelli. They are displayed alongside iconic paintings, sculptures, jewelry, perfumes, ceramics, posters, and photographs by the likes of Schiaparelli’s Surrealist friends and contemporaries: Man Ray, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, Meret Oppenheim, Elsa Triolet and Alberto Giacometti. Elsa Triolet designed jewelry and Alberto Giacometti buttons for her collections.

Elsa Schiaparelli highlighted themes for her collections rather than the name of the season, for example, the Circus, “commedia dell’arte,” Astrological, Pagan and Butterfly Collections.

A detailed version of the exhibition with numerous photos in the press kit is available in the MAD press section. If you are unable to download the press kit, email me at and I will share the pdf.

Elsa Schiaparelli designed the costumes for Mae West in the film “Every day’s a Holiday” (1937). The plaster model with the actress’s exact measurements was sent to the Schiaparelli studio. The model of Mae West’s silhouette would inspire the form of the Shocking perfume bottle. An excerpt of this film and others with Schiaparelli’s costumes are toward the end of the exhibit.

In an Arté interview, Jean-Paul Gaultier said he was inspired by Schiaparelli’s model for his scent collection. Her designs were also interpreted by and inspired the creations of Yves Saint Laurent, Azzedine Alaïa, John Galliano and Christian Lacroix, some of which are on display at the Musée des Arts décoratifs exhibition.

To read all the captions of the photos below, click on the circled “i” for more information when you open the photo gallery.

Definitely plan more than two hours for this exhibit.