The surrealist Salvador Dalí was not only an exceptional painter—he also designed furniture, clothing, jewelry, and perfume bottles. In fact, his perfume and jewelry continue to be sold even today.
Dalí was interested in fashion long before he entered the fashion world. The Spaniard was considered a dandy due to his long hair, sideburns, and eccentric dress—he often wore a coat, stockings, and knee breeches like previous generations did in the aesthetic dress movement. Always one to shock, after he became popular in America he attended a “Dalí Ball” wearing a glass case on his chest that contained a brassiere.
At the London International Surrealist Exhibition, Dalí said his clothing for a lecture was meant to show that he was “’plunging deeply’ into the human mind.” He wore a deep-sea diving suit and helmet, and his accessories included a billiard cue and a pair of Russian wolfhounds. Apparently he couldn’t breathe well in the get-up, and had to have the helmet removed as he gasped for air.
For a masquerade in New York City, Dalí and his wife, Gala, dressed as the Lindbergh baby and his kidnapper. (The toddler son of aviator Charles Lindbergh had been kidnapped a couple years before, and was discovered dead due to a skull fracture; the murderer was convicted the year after Dalí’s costume.) He ended up having to make a public apology for the outfit.
But while Dalí was gaining in popularity, the other Surrealists were getting annoyed, thinking the painter too much of a commercial sell-out. In particular, he was confronted for apologizing for he and Gala’s Lindbergh kidnapping costume. The rationale for their displeasure lies in the message of the movement: Surrealism, defined by André Breton, was supposed to exist “in the absence of all control exercised by reason.” The same year, the Surrealists put Dalí “on trial” and then formally expelled him from the group. Dalí’s nonchalant response was simply: “I myself am surrealism.”
Dalí continued to exhibit at Surrealist art showings, but some of the group started to speak of him in the past tense, as if he were dead. In response to his popularity and the subsequent commercialization of his work, Breton, the author of 1924’s Manifestoes of Surrealism, gave Dalí a new nickname: He was called “Avida Dollars,” an anagram for “Salvador Dalí” that loosely translates as “eager for dollars.”
Considering Dalí’s personal style, it’s not surprising that he delved into the arena of fashion. Vogue magazine used his artwork on several covers in the 1930s and ’40s. He was invited by Coco Chanel to her house on the French Riviera in 1938, and counted Helena Rubinstein and Christian Dior among his friends.
Dalí entered a fashion contest in New York in 1953 (he and his wife moved there during the war and stayed for eight years). The theme of the contest was “The Woman of the Future.” The dress Dalí designed, shown below, was so large that photographer Philippe Halsman couldn’t photograph it in the street; they had to go to the roof of a building.
Les Parfums Salvador Dalí
Although you can’t go to a boutique and buy any of clothing designed by Dalí or purchase his furniture for your house, you can still buy his perfumes. (Click here to visit the online fragrance store of The Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.)
One of Dalí’s most famous perfume flask designs was for Le Roi Soleil. In 1945, the design was requested by the Schiaparelli firm and Elsa Schiaparelli’s perfume factory created the jasmine scent. Only 2,000 units were produced, making the original bottles worthy of a place in museums. He created other works for Schiaparelli, including a white dress with a lobster print, a shoe-shaped hat, and a pink belt with lips for a buckle.
Another famous perfume bottle design is the lip-shaped bottle, inspired by Dalí’s painting “Apparition of the face of Aphrodite of Knidos in a Landscape.”
The woman’s perfume bottle has a nose on top of lips. The man’s bottle has the lips above the chin from the painting. Dalí for Women is an oriental blend that includes florals, myrrh, frankincense, and woods; it was developed for his wife, Gala. If you’re interested in trying out some Dalinian fragrances but can’t decide which one, there’s also a gift set for women that includes five popular scents.
Reproductions of Dalí’s jewelry can also be purchased online. Some of the most famous designs include a Pomegranate Heart pin, the Bleeding World pin that symbolizes his hope for peace, the ‘Living’ Flower pin, and the Ruby Lips pin (inspired by Mae West). (Click here to view the jewelry and watches available online from The Dali Museum.)
This post’s featured artwork is Dalí’s The Hallucinogenic Toreador, which portrays the Venus de Milo. It has so much detail it can be viewed as 12 separate paintings, each a square metre in size.