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!”
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:
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:
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:
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.
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!
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.
I think the one on the left owes a nod to Schiaparelli:
Bless her pointy little head.