Student Work

  • Fashion Studies (MA)

    Alexandra Grant

    “La femme n’existe pas”: Elsa Schiaparelli, Claude Cahun, and Feminine Body-Identity

    Elsa Schiaparelli and Claude Cahun have been continuously under-examined in the context of Surrealism and Feminism. Although these two figures lived extremely different lives, each echoed the other in their work, creating similarities that should be explored. Both Cahun and Schiaparelli’s creations — for Schiaparelli, primarily fashion designs, and for Cahun, writing and photographs — speak to the grotesque and uncanny female body. Themes and images appear again and again in their work in startling patterns that call to mind many theorists’ writings on feminine body-identity, the uncanny Other of womanliness, and perhaps most importantly, the re-appropriation of power through images. Schiaparelli and Cahun’s work adds to the dialogue on self and the “masquerade of womanliness”; their work highlights the ever-present struggle and triumph of the embodied Other. This thesis explores the work of Schiaparelli and Cahun in tandem, working through themes of feminisms and body-identity to further the academic conversation about their art. Both figures wrote and worked with the body in mind, teasing the viewer with surreal illusions. In this way, their work becomes an exploration of self and presentation, a self-reflexive dialogue on power and body politics.