Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli

November 1, 2020
Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli

At an early age, BillyBoy chose two mentors: Bugs Bunny andElsa Schiaparelli. From Bugs Bunny, he learned the basics of how tobehave in society and how to manage life's wicked turns; to be coy,smart, witty, and to always dress appropriately with the assuranceof Beau Brummell. But most of all, his cartoon mentor taught him alighthearted approach to life, and an entertaining charm that is topersonality what humor is to good conversation. From Schiaparelli,who he discovered at age fourteen through a very strange hat in aParis flea market, he learned the meanings of love and art. Hishuman mentor opened doors that he "never even dreamed existed," asthe title character says to her nephew in Auntie Mame. As Schiapturned into a genuine passion, she became a golden thread that ledto all sorts of discoveries, encounters, and inspirations over thenext forty years. A wealthy orphan with a glamorous but complicatedbackground, BillyBoy adopted the legendary designer as aguardian angel of sorts, and has spent a lifetime searching forher, through her clothes.Inspired by Shocking Life, Schiaparelli's own memoir,FROCKING LIFE will resonate with anyone who loves fashionand flamboyant storytelling. Built around some of the most iconicpieces ever created by the designer, this book is about endlessdiscoveries, and the meaning that can be transmitted, acrossdecades, by a simple piece of clothing. Peopled by dazzlingcharacters from Schiaparelli's own inner circle and the worlds ofart and fashion— Saint Laurent, Vreeland, Warhol to name a few—thisis a scintillating yet profound homage to a woman who saw life asart, and inspired a young boy to do the same.BillyBoy has always been a strange fruit and it must besaid, not everyone could have a bite of it. The press adored himsince he was, as author Edmund White wrote, "good copy." In fact,his thrilling journey through fashion, culture, and art are deeplytied to what he wore for each occasion. One day, it is a skintightsilver lamé studded outfit by Nudie Cohen (the designer of ElvisPresley's elaborate ensembles), which was originally made for DavidCassidy. For a tea with the Begum Aga Khan at the Ritz, he playedthe part of the dandy in a conservative suit with impeccable tie,topped by a Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McClaren Buffalo hat adornedwith a silk lettuce leaf. For an interview at home with GermanVogue, he transformed into a sex kitten in hot pants andan Yves Saint Laurent sheer blouse. This book is bothBillyBoy's personal story of his intense spiritual andmetaphysical journey through life, and also his authoritativeinsight into the life and work of Elsa Schiaparelli who became suchan influence on him.As an historian and collector, his close examination of themilieu of European and American, Scandinavian and Asian highfashion and his detailed research into Schiaparelli's haute coutureseasonal collections (and her vast number of licensed fashion andaccessories) will appeal not only to fashionistas and haute couturedevotees and collectors. It explores their relationship to her era,through the many friendships and relationships with the iconicpeople in fashion he forged over four decades. Anecdotes of variedstars in all aspects of culture will interest those who study20th-century art and history.BillyBoy* was a precursor at an early age of collecting fashionand his account of the origins of haute couture collecting willinterest those who have followed his passion for all subjectsrelated to the art of dressing. This is a must-read for anyonewanting to learn more about the iconic "Schiap," told from theunique and...