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

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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