Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)
Black silk taffeta, plastic
29 in. (73.7 cm)
Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Arturo and Paul Peralta-Ramos, 1955 (2009.300.1227)
Hands figured prominently in Surrealist imagery. As Richard Martin notes in Fashion and Surrealism (1987), separated and migratory body parts—particularly eyes, lips, hands, feet—are essential elements in the Surrealists' philosophy of transmutation. Here the wearer is given an extra pair of perfectly manicured hands, which, attached to the belt, actively embrace the wearer yet, ambiguously, are folded upon each other in an inert state of ladylike repose. This design has inspired many subsequent interpretations.
Dilys Blum notes in Shocking! (2003) that sketches of hands by the Swiss-German Surrealist artist Meret Oppenheim are likely to have been the sources of the design of this belt and other hand motif objects shown in the fall 1934 collection.