The Supporting Structure of a Concept

2006BF7453_jpg_lThe Skeleton Dress (from The Circus collection), designed in 1938 by Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí


To many contemporaries the sinister black skeleton evening dress with its padded representations of human bones was an outrage – an offence against good taste. Although otherwise in elegant harmony with the prevailing lines of late 1930s evening wear, the skeleton dress is so constricted that it became a second skin and the imitation anatomy sat defiantly proud of the fine matt silk surface. Schiaparelli exaggerated the usually delicate trapunto quilting technique to make enormous ‘bones’ – the design was stitched in outline through two layers of fabric, then cotton wadding inserted through the back to bring the design into relief on the front. The shoulder seams and right side are closed by bold plastic zips.


Samsonite Black Label suitcases by Alexander McQueen, circa 2007-2008


The human form is treated just like an animal skin, with the rib cage and sternum at the front of the case, and backbone at the back. The inside is formed by the negative of the outside shape in a soft molded form providing contrast with the outer protective hard shell. In both examples skeletons were used as the supporting structure of a concept.