Meryle Secrest’s Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography is the most comprehensive biography of the Surrealist Italian fashion designer who made some of her most famous designs in the 1930s and 40s. In fact, Secrest’s book is one of the only English-language biographies of the designer. Famously secretive, Schiaparelli did not leave behind diaries or many letters, and thus did not leave behind much material for biographers to work with. Secrest’s biography is certainly constrained by these serious limitations, but she makes up for the lack of information from Schiaparelli’s own pen by mining past studies of the designer, and adding a lot of interesting historical background. Her writing is excellent and moves along at a nice pace. Her book is gossipy, but not excessively or offensively so. I admit that I am more interested in Schiaparelli’s designs than her life and thoughts, so the lack of information about her doesn’t bother me much. Secrest’s book includes many illustrations, both black and white and full color, of Schiaparelli’s most famous designs, and she includes excellent and long passages about the designs and many of Schiaparelli’s influences. While fashion scholars and/or Elsa Schiaparelli fanatics will not learn any new facts here, readers (like me) who love fashion and a good read will enjoy this biography. It is also a beautifully produced book with a gorgeous pink dust jacket, deckle edges, and a beautiful pale gray textured cover.
(I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review.)