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Hats: An Anthology By Stephen Jones

October 17, 2011

by Hilary Dare

As a lover of fashion accessories, I am MAD as a hatter for millinery in general and decorative cocktail hats! Wearing sculptural hats and tiaras has always been the closest thing to wearing a crown to feel regal. In observation, wearing flamboyant hats and ornamental head wear is mostly a European trend. With the event and hype of Prince William & Kate Middleton’s royal wedding this year, hats and ornate headpieces are becoming integrated with American outfits as ensemble accessory center-pieces.

Stephen Jones, a notable London Milliner was asked by the Victoria & Albert Museum in London to co-curate the Hats Anthology exhibit. The hats he chose for display are an eclectic and breathtaking global collection of unique head decorations spanning from the twelfth century to the present day. The exhibition is divided into the following sections:

Stephen Jones, London 1982

Inspiration presents popular themes of exoticism, modernism, and inspiration from the natural world that also motivated numerous designers. There are historic to modern expressive translations of the tricorn hat, bowler, baseball cap, bonnet, skullcap, and tiaras.

The Salon exhibits the best hats and headpieces of prominent fashion designers from Philip Treacy, Coco Chanel, to Yohji Yamamoto, and more.

The Client category has hats on display that celebrities and members of the British royal family wore to events, hats that are part of professional daily uniforms, and iconic head wear of famous icons. This section shows that the client base brings in the money, customer- image, and attention to the milliner.

Aero Club Hat, London 1912

A unique edition to the Hats exhibition is the American Hats collection case where one of Andy Warhol’s wigs, Babe Ruth’s Yankee baseball cap, and the Statue of Liberty’s green foam crown souvenir are displayed. It is a great touch and tribute to New York City and to American pop culture. My favorite “theme group” of hats is the shoe-hats since I design shoes for a living and the tiaras & crowns since I love the sparkle.

The Hats Anthology exhibit is very lighthearted and fun for anyone who loves hats, wears hats daily, or at least interested in hats even if they don’t wear them often. With modern, forward-thinking fashion that deals with function, necessity and lack of decorative details – the exhibit inspires its viewers from near or far that the human head is the perfect platform on the human body to display beautiful wearable artwork.

Elsa Schiaparellli, Paris 1938

Hilary Dare is a women’s footwear designer and founder of Dare Fashion. She is an alumna of Parsons the New School for Design’s BFA Integrated Design department. She currently works for herself at Dare Fashion harmonizing technology, fashion, comfort, and individuality. She can be contacted by e-mail at:

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