by Miles Howard
| August 25, 2012
Back in their dapper day, our grandparents and great-grandparents wouldn’t have been caught dead leaving the house hatless. By the late ’60s though, headwear had largely fallen out of favor, eventually getting relegated to bad-hair days and Sox games. But then came a resurgence of sorts. In recent years, we’ve seen enough fedoras around town to outfit a Bogart flick; spots like Salmagundi and Goorin Bros. have reintroduced terms like trilby, cloche, and porkpie to our vocabularies. And last year’s royal wedding had us fascinated with the beautiful and bizarre hats of Britain’s upper crust. London milliner Stephen Jones is a favorite of said set, and he’s collaborated with high-fashion names like Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Jacobs. Now he’s bringing standout toppers to the Peabody Essex Museum (161 Essex Street, Salem, 978.745.9500) for “ Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones.” Opening on September 8 and running through February 3, 2013, the exhibit features more than 250 hats, representing a huge range of eras and aesthetics. We singled out some choice specimens to pique your inner haberdasher’s interest.
Most Indians were less than pleased when the Brits seized control of the subcontinent. But one imperial staple that India gladly adopted and adapted was the European-style crown. Cotton-based, velvet-lined, and embroidered with sequins, seed pearls, glass beads, and tinsel, this 19th-century crown was likely part of a young noblewoman’s wardrobe.
While Jackie Kennedy was donning demure pillbox hats in the States, Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga created this swirly, sculptural take on the shape. Crafted with cream-colored silk in 1962, this spiral hat was designed exclusively for Balenciaga’s then-legendary couture house Eisa.
Simone Mirman was the go-to milliner for the British royal family in the 1960s, but we somehow can’t picture Queen Elizabeth wearing this wild design, titled Langoustine Fantasia. Boasting bright hues of coral, yellow, and turquoise, Mirman’s 1965 piece features a padded silk ring strung with shoulder-length tentacles.
Scottish designer Jo Gordon put a gorgeously nightmarish spin on the traditional 19th-century mourning bonnet with this 1994 work. It’s titled Kiss of Death, but we doubt anyone could get close enough for so much as a peck: the two-foot-long pheasant feathers attached to the satin base create a tunnel-esque brim that largely obscures the wearer’s face.