01 February 2017

Royal Flashback of the Day: February 1

Something very familiar floated down the runway during Haute Couture Week in Paris in January. For its Spring 2017 Couture collection, the House of Schiaparelli revived one of the most famous dresses the maison has ever created: the Lobster Dinner Dress.

The Lobster Dress, from 2017 (left) and 1937 (right)
Vogue and Philadelphia Museum of Art
The original dress was created in 1937 and was a collaboration between innovative couturier Elsa Schiaparelli and legendary artist Salvador Dalí. Dalí's lobster rested on a silk organza skirt along with parsley sprigs. It was a provocative design; lobsters were known to have a sexual connotation in the surrealist's work (see also: his Lobster Telephone) and this one was strategically placed, plus there was a sheer panel at the rib cage and some sheerness to the skirt. An order for the dress was quickly placed by none other than Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor and one of Schiaparelli's most famous clients.
Wallis in her lobster dress
Wallis gave the dress a place in royal fashion history when she wore it in a series of Cecil Beaton portraits for Vogue. They were taken during her engagement to the recently abdicated King Edward VIII and were intended as a public relations move to sort of soften her public image. The choice of dress basically overrode that, though it did prove her to be a fashion-forward dresser. The portraits also helped to solidify the dress as one of Elsa Schiaparelli's most famous creations. The designer included an original Lobster Dinner Dress in her donation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art; at the 2012 Met Gala celebrating the Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations exhibition, Anna Wintour paid tribute to it in a Prada gown embellished with a giant gold lobster.

The 2017 lobster
Eighty years later, the lobster is once again walking down the runway. The new dress is a one-shoulder crepe gown with a lobster applique handsewn onto its bias-cut skirt. Creative director Bertrand Guyon told Vogue that the creation took six people 250 hours to complete - an haute couture piece that looks simple but exhibits advanced construction technique. Shall we start the countdown to Queen Máxima discovering this? She does love a good lobster embellishment. (Come on, Máx. Let's have some fun.)