History of Elsa Schiaparelli Eyewear RIP

Elsa Schiaparelli (10 September 1890 — 13 November 1973) was a noted fashion and eyewear designer. On Nov. 13 she departed this earth but her memory lives on today and is known as one of the most influential fashion designers. Today we honor one the the most reknown designers of all time.


Elsa Schiaparelli, or “Schiap” as her friends would call her, was a woman wise beyond her years.  Born 1890 in Rome, Elsa was the spawn of an aristocrat mother and scholar father.  With parental units as such it’s easy to see how would Elsa journey down a path of success.  Albeit the prestige of her family, the merits of the soon to be acclaimed fashion designer were all her own.  At the ripe age of 22, Schiap did what so many nubile young women dream of doing  when she moved to New York City (and mind you this is nearly a century before Sex and the City debuted on HBO).

Elsa Schiaparelli’s move to the Big Apple was just in line with the Dadaist movement in art, and her own creativity was already in full bloom.  She rubbed elbows with artists and other people of interest while mending together her love of art and design; when her nouveau friends moved to Paris, she joined them.  It  is in this fashion capital that Schiaparelli began making clothes, and it wasn’t long after that she was pushing the barriers of women’s wear to new limits.  In the 1930s The House of Schiaparelli was opened with an ingenious business strategy to boot: women had to make”by appointment” bookings to shop the fashion house.  With that kind of prestigious exclusivity is no wonder why Schiaparelli was a fashion rival to Coco Chanel.

Elsa Schiaparelli lived through two world wars, procured a husband, birthed a daughter, collaborated with Salvador Dali, designed Oscar winning costumes for the film Moulin Rouge, dressed Zsa Zsa Gabor, had a perfume line with over the top packaging, created an eclectic jewelry line as well as a favorably distinct and dramaful eyewear collection.  It is Schiaparelli’s eyeglasses and sunglasses that still inspire the major fashion designers of today.

Elsa Schiaparelli had further gifted us with her “12 Commandments for Women” as dictated in her 1954 autobiography, Shocking Life.  In 1973, this Renaissance Woman passed away in her beloved Paris, France.  The Shades of Schiaparelli, now so many years having passed since created, will forever symbolize glamour, playfulness, and iconic style.  We will always have her amazing designs to not just admire, but to serve as the benchmark for the haute couture and eyewear styles seen today.  Here and now we journey through some of Schiaparelli’s remarkable eyewear designs and absorb their glory while excavating her 12 Commandments.

1. Since most women do not know themselves, they should try to do so.

Schiaparelli most certainly knew herself when she collaborated with Artist Man Ray on this eyewear design.  These spiral frames are just one example of Schiaparelli propelling modernism in eyewear fashion while adding her own playful spin.  I love the open space in the middle of the “lens” which is perhaps symbolic of a pupil.

Schiaparelli With Man Ray Eyewear
Schiaparelli With Man Ray Eyewear

2. A woman who buys an expensive dress and changes it, often with disastrous result, is extravagant and foolish.

Sometimes you just need to revert to the expert and listen to Schiaparelli on this stuff.  Once her designer eyeglasses were licensed in 1952, these lighthearted vintage ads were soon to follow.  Schiaparelli’s glasses promise to make even the prettiest eyes sparkle! I have no changes to make on the claims of these fantastic glasses.

She licensed her designer eyeglasses in 1952

3. Most women (and men) are colour-blind. They should ask for suggestions.

Not everyone has the same keen eye as a renowned couturier, or even a stylist for that matter.  Perhaps the flirty pair of spectacles below is nothing you would chose for yourself, but once this pair of black feathered frames hit the face the result is nothing short of DIVINE.  So be open, and willing to try something outside your norm.


Remember, 20 percent of women have inferiority complexes, 70 percent have illusions.

It is clear Elsa Schiaparelli would never want a woman to feel inferior, and perhaps treating one’s self to some luxurious eyewear is just what is needed to put some pep in that step! That’s the idea in this 1951 spread suggestively selling Hermès Sportswear with Schiaparelli designer glasses.  This is no illusion – It is a winning combo every modern woman needs!
1951-Schiaparellis-blue-eyelashes Hermès (Sportswear) 1951 Holiday Fashion in Trousers, Photos Mater-Kublin

Hermès (Sportswear) 1951 Holiday Fashion in Trousers, Photos Mater-Kublin 5. Ninety percent are afraid of being conspicuous, and of what people will say. So they buy a gray suit. They should dare to be different.

This commandment could be the most important of them all because without it fashion designers would have no market to be creative if we all merely strive to look the same.  The woman wearing these ultra-chic Canopy sunglasses looks both unique and confident.  She know she has a pair of designer frames with dark lenses, striped detail, and floral decals that are not of compare! She OWNS this look.

1961 Schiaparelli Canopy Sunwear
1951 Schiaparelli Canopy Sunwear

6. Women should listen and ask for competent criticism and advice.

We miss out on so much when we submit to close-mindedness.  So why not be open and listen to the advice of others? I wonder who advised the lucky winner of these Blue and Cream sunglasses when they were sold at auction in 2009? What amount would you pay for this beautiful piece of vintage eyewear? The uniqueness of the shade over the lens design and overall quality must have played a part in the $854 price tag.  It’s a bargain at that price to own an original pair Schiaparelli sunglasses.  Going once… Going Twice… SOLD!

Sold at Auction in 2009 for $854.00
Sold at Auction in 2009 for $854.00

7. They should choose their clothes alone or in the company of a man.

When in doubt, don’t have doubt! Be daring in your choices and do not convolute the waters with too many mixed opinions as it is only a waste of precious time.  If I had the chance to set my eyes on these precious chocolate toned Schiaparelli glasses I would make them mine in a moments notice! I love eyeglasses that have a larger lens so people can see the beautiful eyes that lie beneath.  The gilded flower and diamond design on upper edges of the frame will certainly enhance the iris of the wearer’s eye, especially when they display hazel or gold tones.  There is no confusion on the curb appeal of the eyeglasses.

Up for auction from $500- $700.00
Up for auction from $500- $700.00

8. They should never shop with another woman, who sometimes consciously, and often unconsciously, is apt to be jealous.

Good advice from Shiap here, as you would never want that green monster to rear it’s ugly head and ruin an otherwise pleasant shopping excursion.  Lucky for us these Via Lunetier Vintage plastic frames come in multiple colors, so there is nothing to hiss over.  This way the blonde can have the pretty yellow painted eyeglasses, and the brunette can have the darker similarly painted pair (or vice versa!).  These Cat-Eye glasses are certainly lust worthy, but should not be a cause of any Cat Fights.  Meow!


Via Lunetier Vintage
Via Lunetier Vintage

9. She should buy little and only of the best or the cheapest.

If you live by the rule Quality over Quantity you are already in line with this ordinance.  I would rather spend more on something that is unique and special, such as these Cork Sunglasses, than have a million cheap carbon copies of the same old thing.  Any wine lover knows all about cork, and I for one am so excited to see it used in eyewear.  These frames are large and in charge with an amazing texture that only spongy cork can provide.  I also love the makeshift look of multi-colored rivets and the ropes weaving in and out of the frame as if it’s that technique that’s holding them together.  These Schiaparelli shades demonstrate true craftsmanship and are worth every last penny!

Elsa Schiaparelli Cork Sunwear
Elsa Schiaparelli Cork Sunwear

10. Never fit a dress to the body, but train the body to fit the dress.

Ultimately this commandment is a mandate to take care of yourself and in turn your sense of style will never be compromised.  Why not pamper yourself by protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays with something beautiful like these frames that are piped with floral and striped detail?  I just want to take a bite out of these decadent frosting-like designs! These eyeglasses do not HAVE to be as stylish and detailed as they are, but Schiaparelli says show yourself some love with silver and gold detailing on your already necessary eyewear.  Listen to the expert on this one!


Pearl Schiaparelli on Etsy
Pearl Schiaparelli on Etsy
These were seen for about $450 USD

11. A woman should buy mostly in one place where she is known and respected, and not rush around trying every new fad.

The easiest way to break the bank and lose your identity is by following too closely behind every trend.  Why not identify yourself as a glamourous daring darling while letting the designers you know and trust uphold your reputation?  A woman wearing these Sparkly Elsa Schiaparelli frames must really OWN IT! The plastic exaggerated cat-eye style is so cool because it is clear frame and adds to it texture and embellishments.  The prototype eyeglasses below are in a category all their own with the ornate detailing on these semi-rimless eyeglass styles.  Case in point, one does not simply put these frames on out of the blue; wearing glasses like this is part of a Lifestyle.


1955 Schiaparelli Prototyp e Eyeglasses
1955 Schiaparelli Prototype Eyeglasses

12. And she should pay her bills.

Elsa Schiaparelli was an entrepreneur and as such was always thinking of new ideas.  In 1952 she applied for a U.S. Patent on this design of fold-up glasses.  Did she do it to make a sale of the design or for the love of her craft? I think it is her harmony of both that kept this Renaissance Woman in business! We all owe many thanks to Schiap and her revolutionary contributions to eyewear fashion.

 Elsa Schiaparrelli applied for this Pat. 171,056 at the US Patent office in 1952
Elsa Schiaparrelli applied for this Pat. 171,056 at the US Patent office in 1952


Erkers1879 Eyewear - The Optical Journal