Monday, September 12, 2011

Hats, Hats and More Hats - WSJBy ALEXA BRAZILIAN

From the runways to the streets, topping off is an essential act for fall.
Great article curtesy of the WSJ.

Often referred to as the orphan of the accessory world, hats are parentless no more. It's been quite a season for chapeaus, which popped up on the runways in London, Milan and Paris, and were the talk of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's wedding in April. Now, the oh-so-British flourish is taking Manhattan, as English milliner to the stars Stephen Jones's exhibition, "Hats: An Anthology," travels stateside from London's Victoria & Albert museum to the Bard Graduate Center, Sept. 15 through April 15.
In addition to the toppers included in the U.K. show—Mr. Jones's countless collaborations with designers like John Galliano and Rei Kawakubo, Cecil Beaton's hats from "My Fair Lady" and iconic pieces from other English milliners—new American headwear will join the party. Estée Lauder's silk turban from the '70s, an Andy Warhol wig, Babe Ruth's Yankees cap, FDR's top hat and the bunny ears Candice Bergen wore to Truman Capote's Black and White Ball will sit alongside designs from contemporary U.S. milliners such as Ellen Christine and Albertus Swanepoel. "American women wear their hats with more wit, panache and irreverence," said Mr. Swanepoel, who was born in
Pretoria, South Africa, and who supplied a miniature cowboy hat for the exhibition. "In South Africa, hats are worn for going to formal places like parliament and horse races—it's certainly more serious." Mr. Jones agreed. "Hats fit into American culture and British culture very differently," he said. "Baseball caps, for example, are such an exotic thing for us Englishmen, just like the crown is exotic to Americans.
I hope the exhibition will make Americans realize what a good time wearing a hat can be. Dress up a bit and you'll have a ball."
That's just the message designers on both sides of the pond sent for the fall season, transforming the aristocratic accessory into a democratic one. Marc Jacobs punctuated looks from his own collection with felt berets (made by Mr. Jones) and capped models in bellhop hats in his sexy dominatrix designs for Louis Vuitton. Alber Elbaz created wide-brimmed preacher hats for Lanvin to accompany his '60s cocoon
coats and mini cocktail numbers; Hermès showed cloche-baseball hat hybrids in supple caramel lambskin. There were also evening looks, such as veil-like lace fascinators from Manhattan designer Jason Wu, along with more whimsical takes from Miuccia Prada—who created sequined and shag embellished swim caps—and Riccardo Tisci's felt panther-eared helmets for Givenchy.
Although designers showed their collections before Will and Kate's nuptials, the event certainly gave the accessory an image boost. "The royal wedding made hats newsworthy enough for Americans to take notice," said Manhattan-based designer Eugenia Kim, who's had her namesake millinery since 1998. "Sales of our big-brimmed hats have increased for fall '11 and spring 12, and requests for fascinators have increased inordinately," she said. This enthusiasm should only build with the release of Madonna's film "WE"—on the Duke of Windsor and his American bride, Wallis Simpson—for which Mr. Jones, in collaboration with costume designer Arianne Phillips, made dozens of hats. "The truth is Wallis always said she didn't much like wearing hats; it was more out of necessity," said Mr. Jones. "In those times if you walked out of your house without a hat, people would think you'd taken leave of your senses."
Today, however, the converse is more likely to be true. Mr. Jones offers advice for getting one's head in
the game. "Hats are much less of a commitment than a statement dress. You can't take your clothing off, but if a hat suddenly feels too much, you can. If you're putting lots of thought into your clothing, that's serious. If you put thought into a hat, it says you're having a really good time—they're light and easy!" On selecting the right hat, Mr. Swanepoel suggests looking for a style that complements the shape of your face.
"It's all a matter of contrast. When I fit people I have simple rules I follow," he said. "If you have a square face, wear a round hat. If you have a long nose, your hat should have a short brim, and if you have a narrow face choose a rounder hat. Opposites attract here, or rather cancel one another out." And as for hat-phobes? "Try wearing it at home first, and then move on to a short trip to the deli," said Mr. Swanepoel. "If you're shy it's the perfect thing to hide under."

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