Some of her finest work came from her 1938 'Circus Collection', a daring, innovative and shocking collection with many of the pieces taking inspiration from the Surrealist movement, influenced particularly by her friend Salvador Dali. Described as one of the most 'riotous and swaggering shows' that Paris had ever seen, the collection show saw performers skipping up and down the staircase and models wearing clown hats alongside striking examples of fashion decorated with acrobats and performing animals.

Vogue Illustration 'Vogue Illustration' - Illustration by Schiaparelli's friend, painter Christian Bérard, for Vogue in 1938

Dali & Schiaparelli 'Dali & Schiaparelli' - A photograph of Salvador Dali and Elsa Schiaparelli

One of the most famous dresses included in this collection was the 'Tears' dress. The slender evening gown was presented in a print designed by Salvador Dali and influenced by some of his Surrealist paintings that portrayed veiled figures, such as Necrophiliac Springtime, (apparently Schiaparelli owned one of Dali's paintings with this motif). The veil continues this theme with carefully cut out rips lined in magenta.

Tears Dress 'Tears Dress' - Schiaparelli's 'Tear Dress' in a print designed by Salvador Dali

Dali also helped Schiaparelli design another of the stand out dresses from the Circus Collection, the black crepe 'Skeleton Dress.' This almost sinister looking dress was inspired by the Surrealist's fascination with anatomy and the human body. Created in the classic 1930s silhouette design yet padded to represent exaggerated human bones (ribcage, spine and leg bones) this dress caused shock but also admiration amongst critics.

Skeleton Dress 'Skeleton Dress' - Elsa Schiaparelli's iconic 'Skeleton Dress', now housed in the V&A Museum

Schiaparelli in Surrealist hat 'Schiaparelli in Surrealist hat' - Schiaparelli wearing the iconic ‘shoe hat’, the design of which was sketched by Dali for Schiaparelli’s 1937/1938 Autumn/Winter Collection

The Circus Collection will go down in fashion history as a highlight of Schiaparelli's career with most of the pieces now housed in museums (the Skeleton Dress is currently on display in the permanent fashion collection at the V&A Museum in London) and the collection has inspired many copycat designs since 1938 and continues to be celebrated today.

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