“Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations”—A Preview


Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations met

Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The 'Naïf Chic' gallery.

With all the gossip about the guest list, we haven't lost sight of the fact that tonight's Met gala is being held in celebration of a major exhibit. This morning, we were treated to a preview of the Costume Institute's "Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations," curated by Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton. Despite some initial misgivings in the press about how the two disparate designers' work would go together, the exhibit is a fascinating melding of both women's oeuvres. The connections went far beyond basic similarities like Italian heritage, femaleness and a cerebral, Surrealist-influenced approach to fashion. Shared motifs like quirky, naïf prints (Schiap's lobster dress, Prada's Spring 2011 monkeys-and-bananas-fest), the concept of "ugly chic" and embellishment were evident in the clever pairings. Meanwhile, the section "Waist Up/Waist Down" highlighted the designers' split focuses. Schiaparelli, as Bolton explained in his post-preview remarks, focused on the upper body because she was dressing women in café society, who were often photographed in a seated position. Prada's focus on the lower body, best exemplified in her wide '50's-style skirts, reflects her modern leanings, as well as the increased mobility of women today. 

And, never fear, there are plenty of accessories on hand. In one vitrine, a tantalizing array of Prada shoes—from flatforms to kitten heels—were placed alongside Schiaparelli's quirky, elegant hats. Masks and headgear created by hairstylist Guido Palau added to the fun.

Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations met

Photo courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The 'Surreal Body' gallery.

As previously reported, Baz Luhrmann directed Judy Davis (as Elsa Schiaparelli) and Miuccia Prada in a film where they participate in an "impossible conversation" using their direct quotes. Separate clips of the film, which depicts the two sitting at opposite ends of a grand banquet table played at intervals throughout the exhibit. Prada's theater training is definitely evident here, as she more than holds her own with Davis.

Everyone from Katie Grand to Stefano Tonchi was in awe of the exhibit (endearingly, we spotted Bill Cunningham snapping pictures of the gift shop items too.) The show opens to the public on May 10 and runs through August 19.

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