Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Keneth Hopkins – Hollywood milliner

hopkins

Keneth Hopkins

There is little information to be found about Keneth (aka Kenneth) Hopkins, but for a few years in the mid-late 1940s when he was one of Hollywood’s top milliners – on and off screen.

LIFE magazine, April 1946

LIFE magazine, April 1946

Hopkins was born Feb 27, 1912 and was educated in San Francisco, where he worked as an artist in his youth. He went into the millinery business in San Francisco with his partner Avis Caminez (who later became the editor of Tatler magazine as well as a playwright.) Actress Jeanette MacDonald reportedly discovered Keneth’s hat shop in San Francisco and soon Hopkins had a following of celebrity clients. By 1944 Hopkins had moved to Los Angeles and was making hats for films. His first was a hat for the movie Phantom Lady –  a murder mystery where the accused can only verify his alibi by finding a lady he can identify only by her hat! The most famous film for Hopkins’ hats to appear in was Cover Girl, with Rita Hayworth.

Coronet, April 1945

Coronet magazine, April 1945

From his Beverly Hills salon Hopkin’s long list of private clients ranged from actress Kay Francis to stripper Lily St. Cyr – the “best dressed undressed woman in the theatre.” In 1950 he was commissioned to create a $1,000 chinchilla hat for Mrs. Earl Warren, the wife of the Governor of California. His hats were often seen on covers of various magazines, from Coronet to LIFE. In 1948 Hopkins was commissioned to create new styles of men’s hats to combat the growing trend in hatlessness, but the oversized caps and asymmetrically brimmed fedoras he designed were not a hit.

On February 5, 1953, Hopkins burned to death weeks before his 41st birthday in his West Hollywood apartment. The cause was determined to be a fire started by careless smoking in bed.

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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17 Responses to Fashion Hall of Obscurity – Keneth Hopkins – Hollywood milliner

  1. Tracy says:

    I’ve always felt that the hat in The Phantom Lady should have had it’s own credit in the cast list.

  2. Jonathan,

    Thank you for posting this. I have been a long time fan of Keneth Hopkins and although it took many years, I have managed to collect a number of his hats from the 1940s, as well as some news clippings and magazine articles about him from old magazines, etc. Almost no one remembers him today. Again, thank you.

    • Jonathan says:

      I just recently acquired one of his hats (first in the collection) so that is why I researched his name. His hats are VERY creative.

    • Jonathan says:

      Thanks Barbara for the photo of Keneth Hopkins! (added Sept 20, 2016)

  3. Kelly says:

    On Leave It To Beaver, (first season), Aunt Martha left with a hat box with Keneth Hopkins written on it. Curiosity led me to this site. Thank you for the info!

    • Jonathan says:

      That’s funny – I wonder if the box was a prop, or the actual box of a hat in wardrobe.

      • Darlene says:

        I did the same thing as Kelly, having just seen the Beaver episode! So if Kenneth died in 1953, he would have already been dead when this episode aired, correct?

  4. DIANA PEREZ-SORIA says:

    I was just watching sn episode of Leave It To Beaver titled “Beaver’s Short Pants” (original air date 12/13/57). There is a scene where June Cleaver is holding a Keneth Hopkins hat box. That is what made me look up his name.

  5. Janie Bohan says:

    I am repairing one of his stunning multicolored feather beauties for a client. Red, yellow, brown, green clipped plumes cover small pillbox ring with long plumes sweeping down the back. How clever!

  6. Skip Flem says:

    Just saw June Cleaver with a Keneth Hopkins hat box,
    in an episode about ‘Aunt Martha’…
    the aunt ‘with birds in her hat’…

    • Jonathan says:

      It must have been a hatbox from the props department in a backlot since Keneth Hopkins was already dead and his business closed when that episode was filmed.

  7. Dee Davis says:

    I also saw a hat box of visiting Aunt Martha’s on Leave It To Beaver, and was curious as to who Keneth Hopkins was. Thanks for this info, beautiful hats!

    • Jonathan says:

      I suspect they purposefully used a hat box from a milliner no longer in business so as not to advertise.

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