From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
She was born in Rome, Italy.
Schiaparelli opened her first salon, "pour le Sport," in 1927, and as the name indicates specialized in sportswear. In 1931, her design of a divided tennis skirt for star player Lili de Alvarez shocked the staid tennis world when Alvarez wore what was the forerunner of shorts at the Wimbledon Championships. Schiaparelli became famous for her black knit sweaters with a white bowtie pattern sewn into the sweater. She had a flair for the unusual and even hired Salvador Dalí to design fabric, producing a white dress with a lobster print. Schiaparelli was the first to use shoulder pads, animal print fabrics (in 1947), and zippers dyed the same colors as the fabrics. She is also well known for her surrealist designs of the 1930s, especially her hats, including the Dalí design resembling a giant shoe and one a giant lamb chop, both which were famously worn by the Franco-American Singer sewing machine heiress Daisy Fellowes, who was one of Schiaparelli's best clients and who owned a pink gemstone that inspired the color shocking pink. She collaborated with many surrealist artists, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, and Alberto Giacometti, between 1936 and 1939.
She designed a number of perfumes in addition to clothing; the first and most famous of which, named Shocking, was created in 1936. Shocking is famous less for the fragrance itself than for its packaging: besides a box colored a shocking pink, the bottle itself was in the shape of a woman's torso, based on the curvaceous body of one of Schiaparelli's clients, film star Mae West. For West, she designed costumes for the film Every Day's a Holiday(1938). She also designed Zsa Zsa Gabor's costumes for the film Moulin Rouge(1952). In 1935 Schiaparelli moved to a salon overlooking the Place Vendôme in Paris. Her output slowed by World War II and with title of trendsetter going to younger designers such as Christian Dior. In 1954, her couture house declared bankruptcy and she moved to the United States.
She was briefly married to Count William de Wendt de Kerlor (1883-), a Franco-Swiss psychic medium once described as "a persuasive but inconstant Theosophist", and moved with him to Greenwich Village in New York City, where she sold clothing designed by the French couturier Paul Poiret. They had one child, Maria Luisa Yvonne Radha, known as Gogo, who was born in New York City in 1919.