Book Review: How to get a ‘head’ of fashion…

(Originally blogged April 16, 2009)

1860s plaster spoon bonnet mold, complete with an unfinished black straw bonnet. The ends of the bonnet were tacked in place on wood inserts in the mold and heat was applied to shape.

There have been few books written about hats; since hats have been more ‘out’ than ‘in’ fashion since the 1960s everyone forgets what great accessories they were. One of the few publications on the topic is well known to fans of the chapeau – written by Sue Langley Hats & Bonnets 1770 – 1970 was published in 1998 and graces the shelves of most collectors, museums, and libraries I know.

At the risk of using a predictable cliche, I am happy to announce that Sue Langley has thrown her hat in the ring once again with a second edition of Hats & Bonnets. However, this is far more than just an updated first edition – its an entirely new book featuring hat and bonnet treasures she has found in the past decade. Not only are all the images new but there is also much new research.

Black felt and green silk hat by Jeanne Lanvin, c. 1911. A leading couturier of the 20th century, Lanvin began as a milliner and was instrumental in popularizing the cloche or bell shaped hats of the 1920s, of which this is a predecessor.

An interesting snippet from this volume discusses the Society for Abolishing the Wearing of Birds. In the 1890s, even though fashionable women slung pelts of mink, fox, seal and otter around their necks, they were concerned about the use of bird’s wings from rare species, like parrots, to trim hats. Princess Alexandra of England, a fashion leader of the era, was at the forefront of this anti-feather movement.

The 416 page, all colour illustrated tome is from Collector Books. Although designed as a collector’s guide, I never pay much attention to suggested retail price guides – those prices become dated after a while. For me, the value will remain in the book for its depiction of outrageous, rare, whimsical, beautiful, and sometimes even practical hats and bonnets. Sue’s collection is a treasure and her willingness to share invaluable. There are exceptional examples from milliners such as Jeanne Lanvin, Rose Valois, Jack McConnell, Sally Victor, Lily Dache, as well as some unique novelties such as a World War II hat trimmed with velvet carrots and a beach hat a yard in width! Hats & Bonnets 1770 – 1970 Second Edition is a valuable visual guide to the history of getting a head of fashion.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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4 Responses to Book Review: How to get a ‘head’ of fashion…

  1. jackie machado says:

    have many red feather hats by jack mcconnell I had heard that he took pics with his clients that he made one of a kind hats for. Do you know of any books that he published with pics of his hats. I have about 30 one of a kind red feather hats and they are very old with many feathers on them and crystals in the boxes.

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  3. Dana Blondin says:

    I have a mold that that looks just like the one shown in this article but it has an eagle on the front with a 1c3 above the eagle. What would the purpose be for the eagle and 1c3.

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