How to Fake Your Own Schiaparelli Sweater

A DIY for more than meets the eye.

Break out the quill, Rookies, because today we’re going to have a history lesson! During the 1920s, some high-society women were like, “I’m so sick of sitting pretty in parlors and doing nothing! How many tea sandwiches can a girl eat, you know? I want to play sports and release my inhibitions and feel the rain on my skin!” Obviously, they couldn’t just hop over to their local Target and buy cute athletic apparel, so a lot of active women turned to sweaters, because of their flexibility. Unfortunately, sweaters of that era lost their shape pretty quickly, leading to a sloppy look. Young fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli noticed this problem and discovered a way to knit fitted sweaters for women using a double-layered stitch. Finding them still boring, though, she began knitting bow patterns into her sweaters using a “trompe l’oeil” technique, which a quick Google search reveals to mean “something that deceives the eye.”

The sweaters put Schiaparelli on the map as one of the most innovative designers of the century, and she went on to create many other iconic looks. She even collaborated with artists like Salvador Dalí. Nowadays, it’s rare to find her sweaters outside of museums or auction houses, but do not fret! I’m going to show you how to deceive the eyes with a sweater of your own.

You’ll need:

  • An inexpensive sweater. (I got mine at Goodwill.)
  • Fabric paint. (You can use multiple colors if you want.)
  • A round sponge brush
  • Disposable cup or plate
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • A few old magazines

1. Spread your sweater out on a flat work surface, like your floor or kitchen table. Place the old magazines inside the sweater, so the fabric paint won’t seep through to the other side of the sweater or the work surface.

2. Tear off a piece of parchment or wax paper that is slightly longer than the length of your sweater. Place it over the sweater, and trace the shape of the neckline and armholes.

3. Following the traced neckline, draw a bow on the parchment paper in the style of your choice. I did a big, classic knotted bow with a collar, but a sailor’s knot would look nice, too.

4. Cut out the bow shape, being careful not to tear the paper. (If you do, that’s OK. Just tape it back together.) Tear off a few pieces of tape, stick the ends together so that they’re double-sided, and place them on the back of your bow stencil. Attach your bow stencil to the sweater, making sure that the neckline matches up. The tape ensures that your bow won’t shift while you paint.

5. Begin dabbing the paint on the open areas of your stencil. Focus on the edges first, then tackle the center. Reload your brush with fabric paint as needed:

7. Let it dry for about an hour, then remove your stencil. Look for any areas that are not opaque, and go back with your brush to fill them in.

Let the sweater dry overnight, remove the old magazines, put it on, and go fool everyone you know!


  • Muna September 26th, 2012 11:07 PM

    Adorable DIY! :)

  • Amy Rose September 26th, 2012 11:23 PM

    Soooooo cuttteeeeee

  • pez-darling September 26th, 2012 11:26 PM

    I’m gonna do this tomorrow! Eeee! :)

  • Skylure September 26th, 2012 11:52 PM

    This would work even better if you used single sided freezer paper! You iron it on and it makes a seal, so the picture is really clear. You can even do floating pieces <3

    • Gabby September 27th, 2012 12:05 AM

      omg! I have not heard about this magic paper you speak of! I am definitely going to try that out.

  • guiltfreedonut September 26th, 2012 11:55 PM

    Love it! The colors that you used look great as well!

  • TessaTheTeenageWitch September 26th, 2012 11:57 PM

    awww yis.

  • Suzette September 27th, 2012 12:21 AM

    lookin’ mega sassy, gabs

    p.s. this is embarrassing because now you know the semi-fake name that i use on the internet

  • SweetThangVintage September 27th, 2012 12:21 AM


  • Adrienne September 27th, 2012 12:43 AM

    So creative and cute!

  • histoireful September 27th, 2012 2:03 AM

    I love Elsa Schiaparelli and tromp l’oeil, which was actually a technique used by Surrealists to express the subconscious. I love Surrealism and I love her surrealist pieces, so this is AMAZING to me.

  • Susann September 27th, 2012 2:16 AM

    That looks really good, I hope I can try it out soon – and get a result as pretty as yours!

    Fashion in Pepperland

  • ivoire September 27th, 2012 2:44 AM

    cuuuute! does anybody happen to own the schiaparelli and prad book?

    • amandajane September 27th, 2012 8:15 PM

      I WISH!

      I stumbled upon it in my school library. I pined over it for probably an hour and a half instead of writing my paper. I didn’t even know there was an exhibition. Oh to be in New York!

      You know what, I think I’m gonna treat myself and buy it online. It’s such a beautiful book.

  • julalondon September 27th, 2012 3:23 AM

    This is amazing and i especially love the colours you used, both for the ribbon and the sweater!

  • Hannah September 27th, 2012 5:40 AM

    That is so adorable.

  • Caitlin H. September 27th, 2012 6:06 AM

    Gabby this is amazing and I just love the way you write !!!

  • Kathryn September 27th, 2012 7:56 AM

    Just wondering, did you continue the collar around the back?

  • PearlFog September 27th, 2012 7:59 AM

    Very cute, going to have to try this out :o)

  • Tara September 27th, 2012 8:13 AM

    oh my god I love Schiaparelli and this is amazing. Gabby you rule.

  • raggedyanarchy September 27th, 2012 8:32 AM

    Totally doing this! I have like four sweaters that look exactly alike and sweater-time is swiftly approaching!

  • whatnaomiloves September 27th, 2012 9:19 AM


  • darksideoftherainbow September 27th, 2012 9:32 AM

    this is terrific! i’m going to be doing this as soon as i can!


  • Olivia September 27th, 2012 9:38 AM

    omg it’s so cute

  • Pearl September 27th, 2012 10:30 AM

    This is so adorable! I need to do this on my sweater soon!

  • alix September 27th, 2012 10:46 AM

    oh my god I really want to try this!

  • M.Rose September 27th, 2012 12:38 PM

    This is so cool. I’m feeling so empowered to buy a jumper right now.
    It’s on.

  • eliselbv September 27th, 2012 1:05 PM

    Love it this is so cute! And so easy I think I can even do it (I’m one of the most incompetent girl in the world O:) )

  • HollinsCollins September 27th, 2012 2:04 PM

    I MUST MAKE ONE OF THESE! It looks totally easy and not to mention ADORABLE.

  • commedesfilles September 27th, 2012 3:27 PM

    I keep looking for excuses to use fabric paint that don’t involve massive amounts of effort or chance of error, and this is a beaut @.@

  • mar9ar3t September 27th, 2012 3:28 PM

    This sweater is ADORABLE! Shiaparelli is the coolest. The Prada Schiaparelli exhibit at the met is beyond amazing <3

  • Eryn September 27th, 2012 6:51 PM

    Ohhhh those are so cute. (Also I am as-we-speak doing a project on Salvador Dali so yay!)

  • Juli September 27th, 2012 8:12 PM

    One word: Neat-o.

  • lunaticbeings September 30th, 2012 6:14 PM

    such an amazing idea. this shows me how i completely lack orginality.

  • umi October 1st, 2012 7:25 PM

    this is AWESOME!!!

  • thesexyzebra October 5th, 2012 10:38 PM

    Just did this, it came out great. Really excited to wear it EVERYWHERE, and I spent less than $2 on everything. pics:

  • eleanoraj October 12th, 2012 1:22 AM

    This is a great DIY! I can’t wait to try this out!!

    For those of you who knit, here’s a free pattern reverse-engineered from one of Schiaparelli’s 1927 sweaters:

  • wayffleos November 11th, 2012 3:44 PM

    this is sooooooo cool
    i absolutely lovvvvvvvve all of elsa schiaparelli’s designs, so this like made my day

    btw if i use a spongy brush that isnt round, do you think it will make a big difference????