Thursday, May 08, 2008


As a fashion spectacle (where hats take center stage), almost nothing compares to The Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon, organized by the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy. The 26th FLO luncheon took place on Wednesday, May 7th, spearheaded by chairwomen Memrie Lewis, Gillian Miniter, Nancy Missett, and Tara Rockefeller, boasted a guest list which included some of New York’s biggest movers and shakers (Mayor Bloomberg and Martha Stewart among them), and best dressed social fixtures (Jamee Gregory, Amy Fine Collins, Somers Farkas, Susan Fales-Hill, Muffie Potter Aston). Those honored “for their outstanding commitment and contributions to preserving the park” were Nancy Paduano, Margaret and Ian Smith.

In fact, this annual rite of spring (which is the Central Park Conservancy’s largest benefit), has become known as the “Hat Luncheon”. And for a good reason. What began as a small intimate gathering for a few hundred is currently a popular ‘see and be seen’ date on one’s social calendar, which now draws well over 1200 guests, most of whom apparently use the theme and location of the event as a perfect opportunity to ‘cap’ off their spring finery with a hat. And as everyone knows, hats are ‘big’ these days. In fact, the millinery industry has been getting a real boost from the fashion world these past few seasons what with influential designers such as Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Proenza Schouler, Carolina Herrera, Alexander McQueen, Donna Karan, featuring hats prominently on their runways.

While some of the headgear worn by guests at the FLO luncheon could admittedly best be described as ordinary, run of the mill and ‘garden variety’ (pardon the pun), and not every woman (or man) wore a hat, (no, that was not Mayor Bloomberg wearing a flower laden chapeau), there were many guests whose inspired, whimsical choices proved they put a great deal of thought and planning into their outfits, and were obviously inspired, as usual, by the enviable natural setting of the location, (the breathtaking Conservatory Garden).

Right: Amy Fine Collins
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

And so, it was not surprising (and somewhat predictable) to find flowers everywhere; flowers decorating hats and floral printed dresses and coat ensembles. Perhaps it was a case of floral overkill in some instances where guests mixed the two…yikes! And it was hardly surprising that everywhere I looked there were guests clad in colors that mimicked flowers: pink in every shade was a crowd favorite and I noticed a lot of shocking pink worn with black (a real trend this spring), in addition to lilac, purple, yellows, red, and greens. And then there were the feathers….which are obviously not just ‘for the birds’ and continue to be a perennial favorite with both women and fashion designers. Feathers of all kinds, in all sizes and colors adorned every imaginable style of hat. And then there were butterflies: one huge butterfly (no, not a real one) was sitting atop a garden of flowers on one woman’s large hat.

Okay, so it didn’t always work and quite frankly, taken out of context and away from the gorgeous surroundings, (walking around in mid town for example) many of the guests would have looked downright silly if not preposterous. But in the most glorious spot in Central Park, with the lush greenery, breathtaking flowers, and the sun shining brightly on a gorgeous spring day (they say “it never rains on the FLO Awards” and this year was no exception…the legend continues!), everything takes on a life of its own.

Mayor Bloomberg with the Conservancy's President, Douglas Blonsky
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

I know this is not a ‘fashion’ event per se, the guest list is not solely
comprised of fashionistas and fashion insiders (could it be that Mayor Bloomberg was the only one present at the FLO luncheon who also attended Monday evening's Costume Institute Gala?!?) so you must temper my comments with a grain of salt. From my perspective, I would like to see more women show some individuality and not look so Garden Party-ish, and wearing hats that look like bad cast offs from last year’s Kentucky Derby.

Somers Farkas
Photo: Patrick McMullan for the Central Park Conservancy

Which is why my vote for 'Best in Show’, has to go to statuesque social fixture Somers Farkas, who literally put everyone else to shame arriving in a dramatic starched white floor length shirtdress, accessorized with a messenger bag slung over her body, low heeled sandals, and a jaunty staw fedora adorned with a spray of white ostrich feathers. Of course, being almost 6 feet tall, rail thin, perpetually suntanned, and great looking doesn't hurt (who said life is fair?) and admittedly not too many others could have pulled that off. That said, I can’t think of a better excuse to "go with the 'FLO'", let loose, lighten up, dress up, have fun, smile, and most importantly, raise money ($2.4 million to be exact) for a great cause.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

‘Head’ Case

Nancy Cunard wearing a turban photographed by Cecil Beaton

We all know that hats are an ever growing category of accessories, especially as of late. They are popular with all ages, both sexes, and not just humans, and in addition to keeping us all warm and dry, they add a bit of whimsy and personality to anything they are worn with. And of course, they were all over the runways for fall 2007, showing up in a myriad of statement making incarnations.

Having said that, blame it on the inclement weather (you know, that annoyingly fine mist which is symbolic of April and wreaks havoc with one’s hair), or just simply the fact that turbans are the focus of so much attention and are seemingly all over the place these days (featured in magazine ads, blogged and written about, photographed on socialites out on the town), but whatever it is, I must admit I’m sort of taken with the idea of turbans these days; not that I’ve actually worn one (yet, that is).

Hardly surprising since the admittedly retro headgear (the subject of one of my recent Daily Fashion Reports) was Miuccia Prada’s most surprising fashion statement for spring 2007. Though nobody should be surprised by anything Miuccia dregs up from the fashion ‘cemetery’. If anybody can resuscitate something old and retro, and make it look new and young and hip again, it is Miuccia. And more than the specific accessory or piece of clothing she puts her magic spell on, it is the ultimate statement she is making that seems most relevant: “Never say Never”. Whenever you think something is so ‘out’ it could never possibly be ‘in’ again, there it is. And there turbans are again.

Fashion Week Daily called it “Turbania” (March 26, ‘Tracking the trend’) and Eric Wilson wrote a column about the turban in last Thursday’s Style section of The New York Times, taking about the pros and cons of actually wearing one. While I agree they can be tricky and are NOT for everybody (like all other fashion ‘trends’, one must proceed with caution, have a sense of one’s body and style, and take a good long look in the mirror before venturing out), I think they have the ability to look pretty cool in that eccentric Edie Beale kind of way. Or in that Nancy Cunard kind of way.

A fabulously stylized black and white photograph taken of a turban clad Ms. Cunard by Cecil Beaton graced the cover of the Book Review section of The New York Times this past Sunday, accompanying a review of a book written by Lois Gordon, “Nancy Cunard: Muse, Heiress, Political Idealist”. (It sounds intriguing by the way and I intend to read it). Though the picture was dated 1930, it looked timeless and so very ‘now’, the epitome and definition of true style. For me, turbans are not just stylish and chic, but they are part of that whole move towards covering up rather than undressing and baring all. And that includes the head. The way I see it, turbans (which are fabric twisted around the head or around the base of a hat) are another way to wear cloth, another way to add color, texture, pattern, etc.

They represent another choice, another option, and an alternative: whether it is to overcome a bad hair day, camouflage when one has not had time to get to a hair colorist or hair dresser an outfit, or to simply have fun with something novel.

It all goes back to the idea of the ever changing face of beauty (or should I say, the ever changing head of beauty); it’s not just about one way to look great: there are many ways and the good news is that you don’t’ have to fret if you were not blessed with fabulous hair, or if you don’t have the time to primp and pamper yourself, of if your hair is thinning for whatever reason (many women have had to deal with the horrible side effects of chemotherapy, an undeniable fact of life these days).

By the way, this is a perfect time to be dishing about turbans and hats in general…Easter Sunday is upon us (not that the Easter Parade is anything remotely like used to be decades ago), and the Frederick Law Olmsted Award Luncheon held on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Central Park Conservancy (the hat event to beat all hat events), will be celebrating it’s 25th anniversary so it should promise to be even more spectacular this year. It’s an event that many women put a lot of thought into picking out a perfect ‘chapeau’ and quite frankly, I happen to think turbans are a far chicer and more interesting choice than the more obvious and predictable ‘garden’ (pardon the pun) variety large brimmed straw hats trimmed with flowers that so many women opt to wear.

And let’s not forget the highly anticipated upcoming Paul Poiret exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, “Poiret: King of Fashion”, May 9 – August 5th . Paul Poiret was known for his wrapped heads among other things). I think it’s safe to say that many of the lucky female guests attending the celebratory Conde Nast and Balenciaga sponsored gala are already ‘head’ing to the Prada shops around town or scouting vintage shops and websites, to buy their satin turbans which will be the perfectly chic and appropriate accessory for their festive frocks. I also think it’s safe to say Chairwoman Anna Wintour will not be in that head dressed group…she would NEVER think of covering up her trademark bob (which is too bad since it would be rather interesting for her to break out of her expected ‘mold’ sometimes).

-Marilyn Kirschner


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gilding the ‘Lilly’

One well dressed woman who I can guarantee will NEVER (repeat, NEVER) cover her trademark newly highlighted bob with a hat is Anna Wintour. But she is apparently in the minority, as hats are continuing to take off as a major accessory. And it’s been a banner year for hats.

First there was Miuccia Prada reviving the turban with her spring/summer 2007 collection which was shown last October. Who would have thought? To this day, whenever I see a turban, I can’t help but think of the late great Carrie Donovan, who I had the pleasure of working with when I was at Harper’s Bazaar and who made the chic turban a signature accessory, along with her Halston wardrobe and Elsa Peretti cuffs. She knew what many smart, well dressed, fashionable, women are beginning to learn: hats can be an indespensible and integral part of a woman’s wardrobe. They not only serve a purpose and a function, but can be great looking and statement making to boot. Just think about it: you don’t have to worry about having that Bad Hair Day, and you don’t have to be a slave to your hair colorist. How modern is that?

And notwithstanding the trend towards global warming, hats, which undisputedly serve the practical use of keeping you warm (since you lose most of your body heat from your head) were the surprise star accessories on the runways at the recent round of international showings for fall/winter 2007. Some collections were notable for their headgear and others were ‘saved’ by the addition of whimsical and wonderful hats. British star milliners Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones provided the hats for Donna Karan and Marc Jacobs respectively, hats were abundant on the runway of Proenza Shouler, and at Isabel Toledo’s launch for Anne Klein, the witty, eccentrically knitted hats added a welcome punch of individuality and whimsy. Coincidentally, in a case of life imitating art (or visa versa), because of the positively frigid weather during the entire 8 days of New York Fashion Week, hats also stood out as the surprise accessory on show goers, who showed up in eye catching hand knitted hats (many with whimsical pom poms), and especially, fur hats (the bigger and taller the better).

So, with this in mind, I would say this couldn’t be a more fortuitous time for The Museum at FIT to launch a brand new exhibit “Lilly Dache: Glamour at the Drop of a Hat”. Curated by Pamela Roskin and Kristen Shirts, it runs through April 21 and highlights the extraordinary designs of the late French born Dache who was a true rags to riches story, rising from a hat sales girl at Macys’ to the “foremost celebrity hat designer in the US during the 30’s and 40’s”. It illustrates her wit, humor, and personality, chronicling her work from the 30’s through the 6o’s and includes non hat designs, photographs, magazine covers, and famous quotes (“More than anything else, I wanted to be beautiful”, “If one did not have dreams, life would not be worth living”, “In this so-big and beautiful American, women can do anything”).

Among the selection of hats that caught me eye since they would undoubtedly look as good today as they did decades ago: a tall yellow felt hat with violet grosgrain ribbon band and bow (1937), a silk jersey ‘Coiffure Hat’ made from feathers, grosgrain, ribbons (1959), which according to the museum, illustrated her sense of humor since it was meant to ‘mimic’ hair at a time when the emphasis was more on hairstyles and the trend was going away from hats; and of course, the timely turbans (the gold velvet turban draped into a large bow at front, 1940; the pale green raffia turban, 1944, and the chic and sporty black wool jersey knit turban cap, 1945. Oh, I can just see Carrie Donovan smiling now.

Oh, by the way, if you check out Ebay, you will routinely find Lilly Dache hats offered at great prices. thought I’d mention that since I love finding a good bargain. And these days, good bargains (like good men) are hard to find.

-Marilyn Kirschner

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