In the Market Report: Patricia Underwood Book Signing & Cocktail Party

Hats will be the center of attention at the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, at the Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon at the Central Park Conservancy, (affectionately called the Hat Luncheon) next Wednesday, and at England’s famed Royal Ascot (June 16th through June 20). No doubt, a good many of them (whether they are made of straw, felt, leather or cashmere) will bear the label, Patricia Underwood (, whose mission from the outset was to make hats “a woman could wear”. I guess you could call her a ‘Thoroughly Modern Milliner’.

Ivan Leon and Victoria Perry assistants to Patricia

The famed British born milliner, who has been working in the USA since 1967, is known for her unwavering commitment to quality and design, and for her luxurious, custom made, hand finished and understated designs (all made in the USA). While attention grabbing and eye catching, they are never a distraction but rather flatter and enhance (many women claim their husbands were initially attracted to them because they were wearing one of her hats).They put the woman in the spotlight but never steal the spotlight.

Jeffrey Banks Doria de la Chapelle and Fern Mallis

Last night, hats (many of which were Ms. Underwood’s) were out in force, as was the designer herself. The occasion: a celebration of the publication of the new book, “Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat”, by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle, published by Rizzoli (, $33). Among the guests who attended: Fern Mallis, Mary McFadden, Freddie Lieba, Stan Herman, Cece Cord, Audrey Smaltz, Louis Dell Olio, Jean Shafiroff, Chiu-Ti Jansen, Teri Agins, Lauren Ezersky, Ellin Saltzman.

Patricia Underwood’s hats on the Ralph Lauren Fall 2015  runway

In addition to having her own line, Patricia has worked with the some of the world’s most renowned designers (her headwear always adds the finishing touch and the right attitude to whatever story they are telling). This list includes Perry Ellis, Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, and Ralph Lauren, with whom she has enjoyed a storied and ongoing collaboration. So it could not have been more fitting that the venue for last evening’s event was the gorgeous Ralph Lauren flagship at 888 Madison Avenue.

Rizzoli’s Nicki Clendening wearing a Patricia Underwood  hat

As it turns out, the beautiful coffee table tome is a perfect way to celebrate (or should I say, “cap” off) the 40th anniversary of Patricia’s contribution to the fashion industry which began after she enrolled in an evening course in hat making at FIT. But it really took off after Vogue’s legendary Polly Mellen put one of her designs on Lauren Hutton during a Richard Avedon shooting. She has been appropriately honored with a Coty Award, a CFDA Award (she is an Emeritus Board Member of The Council of Fashion Designers of America), an American Accessories Achievement Award, and Fashion Group International’s Entrepreneur of the year award (of which she is a member).

Tziporah Salamon wearing a striped turban

The book contains images from her own archives in addition to iconic magazine editorials by the world’s greatest photographers (Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Horst, Annie Liebovitz, Barry Lategan, among them). Ms. Underwood’s designs have been featured in such films as “Sex in the City 2”, “Cinderella”, “Sabrina”, “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, “Austin Powers”, and they are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute, Fashion Institute of Technology Museum and the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Marilyn Cane wearing a Patricia Underwood hat

Here are some of my favorite quotes about hats through the years:

“Wearing a hat is like having a baby or a puppy; everyone stops to coo and talk about it.” (Louise Green)

“Fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves.” (Yves St. Laurent)

“Life is like a new hat. You don’t know if it suits you if you keep trying it on in front of your own mirror.” Shirley McLaine.

“A hat is a flag, a shield, a bit of armor, and the badge of femininity. A hat is the difference between wearing clothes and wearing a costume; it’s the difference between being dressed and being dressed up; it’s the difference between looking adequate and looking your best. A hat is to be stylish in, to glow under, to flirt beneath, to make all others seem jealous over, and to make all men feel masculine about. A piece of magic is a hat.” (Martha Sliter)

“Fashion is a kind of communication. It’s a language without words. A great hat speaks for itself.””Whenever you wear your hat, your day will be special.” (Margo Nickel,

“Women are vain.  They think they look better in hats–if they have any sense.” (94-year-old Louisa Hagood).

Marilyn wearing a hat and carrying a Ralph Lauren bag

There is no question that hats can instantly change the way you look, your outlook, and attitude. I even put one on for the occasion.

– 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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