NYFW Spring 2015 Hats

Thom Browne, spring 2015, photos by Kim Weston Arnold/indigitalimages.com, via style.com

New York Fashion Week is almost over, and yesterday hats had their day in the sun. Yes, hats. Did you notice them too?

Thom Browne, spring 2015, photos by Kim Weston Arnold/indigitalimages.com, via style.com

Let’s start with Thom Browne. Milliner Stephen Jones designed hats that wittily played off Browne’s ensembles.

Karen Walker, spring 2015, photos by Livio Valerio/indigitalimages.com, via style.com

Karen Walker’s straw hats took the Western in a simple and elegant direction.

Donna Karan, spring 2015, photos by Yannis Vlamos/indigitalimages.com, via style.com

Donna Karan mixed up her looks with hats that either reached for high heights or mimicked an early 1900s oversized shape.

Rosie Assoulin, spring 2015, photos courtesy of Rosie Assoulin, via style.com

Rosie Assoulin went for a super dramatic brim.


Alice + Olivia, spring 2015, photo by Michael Loccisano for Getty, via fabsugar.com

And Alice + Olivia created a dramatic Marie Antoinette towering hairpiece with a bird perched on top.

These hats were certainly no wallflowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one New York Fashion Week in recent history. Should we blame it all on Pharrell’s Vivienne Westwood hat?

The Calash


calash, 18th century, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the second half of the 1700s, women’s hairstyles grew to be very elaborate in extreme sizes. The most fashionable and wealthy women were known to sport extravagant coifs. But women were still expected to wear hats for protection and modesty. For outdoor use, the calash was introduced.

The calash was a style of bonnet or hood designed to accommodate the large hairdos, without damaging them. Supported by semi-hoops, the calash was made of fabric and looked like a French carriage. It was worn through the mid 19th century.


calash, 19th century, from Museum of Fine Arts Boston


calash, c. 1820, from Metropolitan Museum of Art


calash, mid 19th century, from Museum of Fine Arts Boston

As you might expect with such an odd-looking, oversized accessory, the calash was ripe for satire. Cartoonists took aim in their illustrations.




The cartoons were exaggerations, meant to mock women for their fashionable choices in hairstyles and hats. But what did the calash actually look like in real life? The photos below reveal a more accurate proportion.


The above photos were taken in the late 19th century, many decades after the calash went out of fashion. The best guess is that the woman pictured is dressed up in historical 1820s fashions, specifically for the photograph. Even though the hat and dress are in essence a costume, it is still a great look at what the calash actually looked like on a woman.

Friday File

My parents are coming into town this weekend, and I’m looking forward to their visit. I’m taking them to Publican, a meat-centric restaurant with communal tables. All week I’ve been excited to get oysters!

I’m trying to fend off getting sick too. This has been a bad winter for my health. Stay warm, healthy, and have a great weekend!

And now here are this week’s links:


Solon and Emma Borglum in the Artist's Paris Studio, c. 1899, from Metropolitan Museum of Art, courtesy of Peter H. Hassrick

I had no idea cowboy artists in Paris were a thing during the late Victorian era.

Great blog post by the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection on the shirt-waist, a blouse women wore at the turn of the century.

I think libraries are awesome, and so is this piece proclaiming their hipness.

My colleague and former boss, Karen Herbaugh of the American Textile History Museum, was interviewed about wearing pajamas in public alongside Clinton Kelly. Karen shared her historical point of view, while Clinton brought his What Not To Wear-trademark assessment.

I was fascinated by this piece in The Atlantic called “The Death of the Cool Feminist Smoker.”

I’m not sure I understand normcore. Do you get it?

I’m trying to figure out how I can see the traveling exhibition of Dr. Seuss’ hats.

When Hats Were Huge, Literally

The few years between 1908-1912 could be considered the king of hats. During these five years, hats grew to overwhelming proportions — not only a large brim, but an colossal crown was very chic.

To support such a mammoth size, the foundation of the hats were mostly constructed from buckram and thick metal wiring. Over the base, silk and velvet were popular materials. Some hats were made of straw.

La saison à Trouville, toilettes | toilettes à Auteuil, both from Gallica Bibliothèque Numérique

This was the period when Coco Chanel opened her first shop at 21 rue Cambon in Paris, creating hats before she became a couturier.

And there was no shortage of decoration. Artificial flowers, buckles, feathers, ribbon, rosettes, and lace were de rigueur. It seems the more over the top they were, the better, when it came to trims.

hat, c. 1910, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

hat, 1910, from Philadelphia Museum of Art

hat, 1909-12, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

But the crowning glory was none other than the ostrich plume. Hats could be piled with ostrich feathers. They were luxurious and voluminous. One advertisement in a 1909 Sears catalog raves “most becoming dress hat literally loaded with ostrich plumes.” And another from the same page describes the trim as “a single 17-in. ostrich plume in black, applied from the left side of the crown, drooping across the front to the right brim.”

Sears catalog no. 124, 1912, pages 119 & 124, from Winterthur Museum Library

About 1913-14, women’s preferences changed and the crown shrank. No other period in the 20th century has seen hats like these.

illustration of women in hat, 1910-14, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

photo of Phyllis Le Grand by Bassano Ltd, May 15, 1911, from National Portrait Gallery, London

Could you imagine the balance it would have required to keep one of these things atop your head? Even though they aren’t heavy, I can imagine they’d be quite unwieldy perched on your coifed hair.

The Easter Bonnet Chronicles

Until the 20th century, people did not buy a lot new clothing from year to year, but instead updated what they owned with new trims, collars, buttons, etc. A new dress was a big purchase for most women and, therefore, rare. Perhaps a woman would only buy one, maybe two, new dresses per year.

bonnet, 1800-1810, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

But a new accessory, like a hat, cost much less than a new dress. Spring hats were a more common purchase for women transitioning from winter attire to summer clothes. But even old hats could be made like new with new ribbons and silk flowers. Remember, before the 20th century, it was rare for a woman to leave the house without some kind of head covering.

bonnet, c. 1830, from Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

bonnet, c. 1840, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

In the 1800s, much of life revolved around religion, so it might be no surprise that Easter was the date to unveil a new spring hat. By the late Victorian era, the term Easter bonnet had been coined.

Old European superstitions supported wearing new clothes and hats on the holiday. A column titled “Your Easter Clothes,” in the March 27, 1900, issue of the New York Times read, “At Easter let your clothes be new, or this be sure you it will rue. This is an old fifteenth century couplet proving that the Easter bonnet necessity was not invented by the rapacious milliner, but is simply a survival of an ancient superstition.”

bonnet, 1853-57, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

A poem by Tom Hall published in Vogue‘s April 2, 1896, issue captures the author’s pleasure at seeing the woman he fancies in a new Easter bonnet:

To Her Easter Bonnet

Ah, me! It is a wondrous thing,
That little Easter bonnet.
Why, all the flowers of joyous spring
Are fastened there upon it.

Just what the name of each may be
I do not know at all.
But I would call the whole — let’s see —
Well — Horticultural Hall.

But let me stop. It pleases her,
And see this kiss she tossed me.
It’s worth ten thousand bonnets, sir,
No matter what they cost me.

bonnet, c. 1865, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Likewise, a short story from Vogue‘s April 5, 1900, issue told, “Only that morning Mrs. Hunter entered a millinery shop to order a bonnet for Easter, for not being a follower of the very latest fashions, Mrs. Hunter felt that every woman should have a new bonnet for that day. It encouraged the minister, and it showed a proper respect for the occasion.”

This passage shows us that people believed that fashion and religion could go together, and that wearing fashionable attire was actually a way of showing reverence at church. Since church life was so important to society at the turn of the century, perhaps this attitude makes sense.

bonnet, c. 1880, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Celebrations for Easter grew bigger than ever before during the Victorian era. By the 1880s, New York City was known for its Easter parade, and many other major U.S. cities followed suit with their own. Everyone would turn out to the parade in their newest and finest frippery. The Easter parade solidified the tradition of dressing up in one’s new spring attire.

bonnet, 1887, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

Then Irving Berlin commemorated the Easter bonnet through his 1933 song “Easter Parade.” He sang:

In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

bonnet, c. 1890, from Metropolitan Museum of Art

And so, through both religious life and pop culture the Easter bonnet became the item every woman and young girl needed for Easter Sunday. While bonnets themselves fell out of fashion in the 20th century, we still call any spring hat worn that day an Easter bonnet.

I’m curious, did any of you wear an Easter bonnet when you were a kid? Or maybe you still do! Please tell!

Friday File – Lecture Central

Next week is Spring Break at work! However, all that means for me is that it’ll be super quiet with no classes in session. I still have to work. But that’s ok, because I have a lot of registrar-type backlog (cataloging and organizing files) to do since the past few weeks have been devoted to hosting classes and giving lectures.

I’ll be surprised if I’m not a little hoarse by this afternoon. I have two tours, a presentation, and two lectures today. Wish me luck on keeping up my energy.

Here are my favorite links from the past week:

A guest post by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell on Worn Through takes us through the history of ship-themed headwear — literally. Check out these crazy historical illustrations of miniature ships perched atop elaborate coiffures. The post doesn’t miss contemporary references to headwear shaped like ships either.

Over on Business of Fashion, another guest post by Diane Pernet breaks down fashion criticism over time. This op-ed covers who the top critics are and doesn’t hesitate to offer opinions on who is good at it.

Street-style blogs have made careers of some of the people who cover fashion shows. The Cut reviewed the style evolution of a number of street-style stars — what they wore before the photographer’s lens was trained on them and after.

And lastly, the New York Times put out a full special section on museums yesterday. I was like a giddy kid when Sandra of Raincoast Cottage filled me in. I haven’t had time to read many of the stories yet, but I bought a physical copy of the paper yesterday, and I plan to spend some quality time with it this weekend. I’m sure you fellow museum nerds will enjoy it as much as me.

Happy weekend!

Loving Belize’s Hats

We’ve discussed the U.S. Olympics uniforms for the Opening Ceremony on this blog already, but I’d like to turn attention on the country with my favorite uniforms — Belize. Well specifically its hats.

The Belize uniforms for its eight athletes were designed by Jeff Banks. Banks said, “I used the Great Gatsby as my inspiration with a modern touch reflecting the Belize Caribbean sprit.” This is more proof how much influence on fashion the Great Gatsby movie is having even before its December 2012 release. The jackets are contemporary versions of men’s 20s-style blazers in the country’s national blue with white contrast edging. The men wore white, pleated, flannel trousers and the women wore white, flannel, pencil skirts.

The women’s hats are super chic. They were hand blocked by Yvette Jelfs in Scotland. Called “panama cloches” by Banks, they are a little too shallow to be considered true cloches, but they definitely have a similar shape of the crown. The ribbon in Belize’s colors adds a little extra flare. I want to know where I can buy one!

The men’s hats are traditional panama style with ribbon trim.

Which country had the best Opening Ceremony uniforms in your opinion?