Designer: Elsa Schiaparelli (Italian, 1890–1973)

Design House: House of Schiaparelli (French, founded 1928)

Date: fall 1938

Culture: French

Medium: wool

Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. J.R. Keagy, 1974

Accession Number: 1974.338.1a, b


Although sinuous curves ruled the evening wear silhouette in the 1930s, the strong shoulder was a dominant element as well, especially in the crisp suits of Elsa Schiaparelli. While not herself a tailor, and scorned by arch-rival Chanel for her lack of skills, Schiaparelli presided over one of the great tailoring ateliers responsible for the definitive broad-shouldered and form-fitting suits and jackets of the 1930s. The designer's conceptual embellishments were based on this tailoring foundation. In some instances, the tailors spoke for themselves, as in this example, a suit with breast pockets incorporated into the dimension of the bust. The strong shoulders of the 1930s were expressed through shoulder pads, wide lapels, shawls, capes, boat necklines, and accents of feathers or frothy scarves. Hollywood actress Joan Crawford was particularly enamored of the padded-out look after buying a few Schiaparelli suits in the early 1930s. This and the work of American designer Adrian carried the strong shoulder into the 1940s.