What is the impact of surrealism to the world of fashion?

Surrealism is a movement in art and literature that flourished in the early 20 century. The attempt was to change perceptions of the world by expressing imaginative dreams and visions free from conscious rational control. Salvadore Dali was one of the most influential surrealist artist.

I am a huge fan of him and I absolutely adore his art; no matter in which format –his painting, his sculptures, his interior design, his fashion, his performance… To me, he is the Godfather of Surrealism. I also truly believe that a true artist has a playful spirit inside, that makes them so full of imagination. Dali has made him such a popular art icon by his eccentric way of expressing himself. It showed through his work of art. I also love his “logo”  — the mustache!

lg3560portrait-of-the-artist-salvad.jpg Salvador Dali Portrait. image by rachelIRL

This hilarious clip from Dali on a 1950s game show really sums up the childlike witty side of his character.

His work are so unusual, the way of thought are out of the ordinary mind.

SalvadorDali-TheCityoftheDrawers.jpg Salvador Dali image by jessiegold

The_Persistence_of_Memory Dali

Dali the Surrealist also has some very interesting connections with fashion. Although some of his costume design might not be wearable. But it had always been treated as a fashionable art piece.

Dali costume

But when he collaborated with the great Surrealist of Fashion, Elsa Schiparelli, one of the most original fashion designers of the 20 century, they created the Lobster Dress in 1937, based around the lobster motif which was inspired by the Dali’s Lobster Telephone.

The Lobster telephone a painted plaster sculpture from 1936 is seen ahead of Saturday's public opening of the 'Liquid Desire' Salvador Dali exhibition at NGV International on June 11, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. The exhibition will bring together over 200 works by the Spanish artist, drawn from the permanent exhibitions from Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali in Spain and the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg, Florida.

Nowadays, there are many different versions of the lobsters on fashion or on accessories.

Isabella Blow was the fashion icon and former magazine editor. She was also famous for having the eccentric spirit.


Schiaparelli and Dali are both bold and provoking. “Shoe Hat” was another one from Schiaparelli’s collaborations with the Surrealists in 1937-38, aimed to encourage new interpretations for familiar objects and clothing. It featured a hat shaped like a woman’s high heeled shoe, with the heel standing straight up and the toe tilted over the wearer’s forehead. This was worn by Gala Dali, Schiaparelli herself.

Schiaparelli shoe hat

See the example of how Schiaparelli’s “Shoe Hat” has influenced today fashion.

One of the Surrealist philosophy of art was to have no boundary of logical conception, it thus give the pathway for some very original and fun fashion pieces. One very famous Schiaparelli’s work was created in 1938 —- the “Skeleton dress”. This evening dress was full of intrigued details which was inspired by human spiral bones and ribs. She demonstrated that fashion need not adhere to convention.

What do you think about the similarity of Elsa Schiaparelli’s dress and the luggage of Alexander McQueen’s?

May Ray was the pioneer in surrealist avant-garde photographer who was a significant contributor to both the Dali and the Surrealist movements. He turned models into Surrealist masterpieces by adding a little fun and cleverness into his work.

self portrait

The Surrealist emphasis on distortion and masquerade can be seen in Man Ray’s work.

“Mujer sardina 2” is the opposite thinking of a “mermaid”.

Modern Day Surrealism

From the 20 century art movement to today’s perception of reality. What began as a fashion experiment with a contemporary-art movement has become a source of inspiration for ready-to-wear and fast-fashion labels worldwide.

The black patent leather high heeled purse

Carol Malony lingerie

Jezebel fall 2010 “Zip it up”collection

The runway show is the perfect place for today’s fashion designer to express their inner passion and feeling to their clients.

Leather and suede gloves from Sportmax has a contemporary, playful approach to today’s fashion industry.


Handbag hat from Isaac Mizrahi Fall 2009

slideshow image


This is a lampshade skirt! Surreal / Real?

Express your thought from Viktor and Rolf Fall 2008

Does this make your eyes blink twice? Thumbs up of the optical illusion! By Marc Jacobs Spring 2008

slideshow image


Moschino was one of the influential fashion surrealist in the 80’s.

His hotel in Milan “Maison Moschino” are decorated as a fantasy wonderland.

Moschino’s and Dali share the same quality of fun and witty spirit —  playful, surrealist aesthetic

Some others very interesting surreal fashions…

Leather and suede gloves, Sportmax
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