Schiaparelli Hat Influence

When I woke up one morning this week, I remembered a woman’s voice — kindly, humorous, possibly my Girl Scout Leader —  saying, “Why, bless your pointy little heads!”

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I must have been dreaming about the hat worn by Carole Lombard at the end of the movie Now and Forever (1934), which I had just watched on Turner Classic Movies. It was one of those cone-shaped felt hats that comes to a point on top, like this one:

Story illustration , Woman's Home Companion, May 1937.

Story illustration, Woman’s Home Companion, May 1937.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Pointy hat by Elsa Schiaparelli, 1933-34, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli seems to have been the source for many of the silliest hats of the 1930’s and 1940’s; she didn’t necessarily design all of them, but she had a genius for publicity. Dilys Blum’s massive book on Schiaparelli, called Shocking, printed a page of hat sketches from Schiaparelli’s studio notes:

1930's Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

1930’s Schiaparelli Hat sketches pictured in Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

I’m amazed by how often very similar designs appear in Butterick publications, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Woman’s Home Companion — and that’s not counting Vogue and other high fashion magazines.

Schiaparelli was close to the Dadaist and  Surrealist art movements; she had Dali design fabrics for her, and she even made a suit like a dresser, with pockets that were actually drawers. Not to mention her “shoe” hat:

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Schiaparelli Shoe hat, winter collection 1937-38. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

The notebook sketch for the shoe hat shows it with a bright red sole, anticipating Louboutin by 70 years or so.

There’s a reason her perfume (and her biography) was called “Shocking;” shocking people generated publicity. The magazine Minotaure published a contemporary article written by her friend, Dadaist Tristan Tzara, and illustrated with photos by Man Ray, in which Tzara claimed that Schiaparelli’s 1933-34 hats with holes in the crown, or shaped in a series of oval ridges, represented female genitalia.

Hat from Schiaparelli's winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray.

Hat from Schiaparelli’s winter 1933-34 collection, photographed by Man Ray. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. WInter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Hat with a hole in the crown, photographed by Man Ray, modeled by Elsa Schiaparelli. Winter 1933-34 collection. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

That’s the kind of article (however firmly the writer had his tongue in his cheek) that gets your hats talked about. If Tzara was right, then the shocking artworks of Judy Chicago (see The Dinner Party, from 1979) were  . . . old hat!

For that matter, in the nineteen thirties and forties (and fifties) the chairs that lined the counter of a diner always had a clip at the back for holding a man’s hat while he ate. Imagine the shocking display of fedoras at lunchtime!

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930's. Form Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hats by Schiaparelli. 1930’s. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

The conical, pointed hats had variations in the thirties which allowed them to be folded over at the top, or squared off, or open, or dented in at the top, and there were many versions of the exaggerated — and frequently dented — fedora, like the ones at top in this sketch.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Hats from Schiaparelli sketchbook. From Shocking, by D. Blum.

Pointed hat, fashion illustration. March 1934.

Pointed hat, magazine pattern illustration. March 1934.

Coonical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Conical hat with blunt tip, Jan. 1936.

Woman's Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937.

Woman’s Home Companion, coat ad, Nov. 1937. Conical hat, squashed.

Delineator, Feb. 1935.

Delineator, Feb. 1935. Dented crowns, a la Schiaparelli.

Women in ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Women in an ad for Ponds cold cream, WHC, Oct. 1937.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Knit hat by Schiaparelli, 1937. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Women in an ad for B>F> Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Women in an ad for B.F. Goodrich rainboots, WHC, Nov. 1937.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Hats shown with clothing from Mainbocher, Worth, and Molyneux. Feb. 1936, WHC.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Schiaparelli hat sketchbook 1930s. From Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick fashion news, May 1938. These hats could be made from a Butterick pattern.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick hat pattern No. 7858. May, 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

Butterick Fashion News, March 1938.

I think the one on the left owes a nod to Schiaparelli:

Schiaparelli's

Schiaparelli’s “double slipper” hat, Spring 1938. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Museum.

Bless her pointy little head.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

Elsa Schiaparelli in one of her hat designs. From the book Shocking, by Dilys Blum.

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10 Comments

Filed under 1930s, Accessory Patterns, Hats, Musings, Vintage Accessories, Vintage Couture Designs, vintage photographs

10 responses to “Schiaparelli Hat Influence

  1. Fun! I just read a new biography of Schiaparelli (and finally learned how to spell her name) by Meryle Secrest. What amazing creativity that woman had. I am looking for someone to make a picture book on her buttons.

  2. Nancy Alexander

    Maybe that’s why the British cal them fascinators! Great article as usual.

  3. What a gorgeous, interesting and challenging post. I would love to make up some hats like these.

    • I’ll be writing about some 1930’s hat patterns soon. I always think of millinery as difficult, but some really whimsical — and chic — hats can be made without a hat block. I think the secret is in the wearer’s attitude!

  4. Pingback: Hats from the Ladies’ Home Journal, 1936 | witness2fashion

  5. Pingback: Hairstyles and Hats for the Mid-Nineteen Thirties | witness2fashion

  6. Pingback: Butterick Hats and Dresses for May, 1933 | witness2fashion

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