Stylish Hats: 200 Years of Sartorial Sculpture:

200 Years of Sartorial Sculpture:
September 16, 2001 – December 31, 2001

Two hundred hats take center stage this fall when Stylish Hats: 200 Years of Sartorial Sculpture–a delightful exhibition of over 200 hats and headdresses–opens to the public on September 16, 2001.

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West Coast collector and curator of the exhibition Neil S. Vincent selected the head coverings for the show from his extensive collection of costumes and accessories. “These are classic designs that represent the best historic examples of artistry and craftsmanship. They are the purest form of fashion whose only function is to be fashionable,” Vincent said.

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Hats dating from about 1906 and 1906,
from the Neil S. Vincent Collection

There are also unusual treasures such as a blue plaid silk capuchin lined in ermine, and a charming chestnut velvet toque decorated with a preserved starling nestled against black silk flowers and rhinestones. In the late nineteenth century, ostrich tips and glistening jet frissonés tremble above flower bedecked capotes, perched regally upon the crown and tied smartly under the chin (directly under the chin, not at the side as they do it in the movies). In the twentieth century, lavishly trimmed mushroom hats grew closer and simpler through the first decade, transforming themselves into the chic cloche of the twenties. Hats hugged the crown in the early and middle thirties, and then perched giddily on the wearer’s brow from the late thirties through World War II. After the war, the modest calotte returned to favor, to be followed in turn by deep-crowned toques, Asian-inspired conical hats and a revival of the cloche in the late fifties. In the early sixties, Dior’s flower-banked cocktail hats seemed to put a woman’s face in the center of a bouquet, while at the end of the decade, simple classic forms continued as over elaborate coiffures tried to put hats out of fashion. High style creations from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries showcase the talents of legendary milliners such as Virot, Felix, Lilly Daché, Balmain and Balenciaga.

The delightful artistry and craftsmanship of these hats and headdresses transcends the ebb and flow of mercurial fashion, and allows us to see these creations not just as the head coverings they once were, but as superb works of sculpture.