Salvador Dali, Surrealist artist, first put a lobster on his dress to make it provocative. It worked. It worked. His 1937 collaboration with Elsa Schiaparelli, a boundary-pushing fashion designer caused consternation. Wallis Simpson wore the silk organza A line gown they made together in Vogue. It was a result of shock, head scratching and lots of lively conversation from the fashion industry. However, Dali was clearly disappointed. Dali felt that the dress needed a little more mayonnaise.
Collection included plenty of pink and green crustaceans
It is hard to imagine that a lobster on a gown would be so significant in today’s world. This print can be found on everything, from loafers to smocks. Henrik Vibskov’s Spring/Summer collection included plenty of pink and green crustaceans. Louis Vuitton’s autumn-winter menswear show featured models walking down the catwalk in white fluffy coats with similarly large lobsters.
Surrealism, a 20th-century avant-garde art movement, is partly responsible for such common imagery. Surrealism was founded on the belief in the untapped power and potential of dreams. It also encouraged the creation of fantastical art using techniques like automatism (spontaneous uninhibited writing and art) and juxtapositions that create unlikely images. Surrealism sought to free the subconscious mind and open up the possibilities for imagination. Freud’s writings about hidden desires and emotions, along with other psychological and political thinkers like Karl Marx, were deeply influenced by Surrealism.
Who brought a Surrealist perspective to fashion photography
Although the word was first used in 1917 it gained popularity as a movement in the 1920s. The 1930s saw the rise of Surrealism. Many of Surrealism’s most important proponents turned towards design, creating remarkable, often surprising objects. Only a few people have taken up fashion. Schiaparelli worked with Dali and Meret Oppenheim. Meret would later go on to use unnerving clothing in her own work, including gloves with fur and veins. Joan Miro created bright, bold costumes for Ballet Russes. Eileen Agar created playful designs such as her 1936 “Ceremonialhat for Eating Bouillabaisse”, which featured seashore debris, including a lobster tail and a fishing line. The back and forth between fashion and art was also evident in other ways. Man Ray and Lee Miller were photographers who brought a Surrealist perspective to fashion photography. Leonor Fini, a painter, was known for her outrageous costumes.
Many of their designs have been adopted by mainstream fashion. Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1938 padded, skeleton-style dress has been a model for many other designs. Alexander McQueen’s 1998 Spring-Summer spine corset, created in collaboration with Shaun Leane, is a notable example. The movement’s determination to disrupt the norm has been reflected in shows such as Hussein Chalayan’s Autumn-Winter 2000 catwalk, which featured tables transformed into skirts, and Victor & Rolf’s Spring-Summer 2010 collection tulle ballgowns with large cut-away holes.