Mad for Hats - Fashion Photography's love affair with the hat
Posted on 02 January 2014
Brigitte Bauer Berlin-1965
There's just something about hats....
Maybe, it's because it takes so much confidence to wear one well, or maybe it's because everyone can wear one, regardless of age, stature or size. But whatever the reason, we are simply fascinated by them. Even in 1939, Fernand Fonssagrives understood the importance of a well placed hat.
Designers often incorporated hats into their fashions, and some like Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Courreges, Pierre Cardin, Givenchy, and Yves Saint Laurent made them a vital part of their lines.
Vintage Elsa Schiaparelli Hat
There were, of course, exclusive designer hat makers as well - many of whom, including milliners like Jean Barhet, Caroline Reboux, and Howell Conant are now highly collectible! Mr. John, Lilly Dache and Emme also made great collectible hats.
Photographers have always had a love affair with hats. Some, like the brilliant Irving Penn used the hat as an important architectural element in their photographs. There is no one who understood the art of contrast better than Irving Penn and fashion popped off of the page in an artistic way that kept up with the times throughout his career. Even the simplest of hats became a sculptural marvel through his creative lens.
You can see in the gallery below how Lillian Bassman's unique, dreamy and ethereal style was perfect for millinery. Her blurry yet powerful images were very original at the time. Her photographs evoke an emotional response on so many levels and in many of them, you really don't even see the clothing! Even though you are aware of only the outline or suggestion of the fashions, find yourself wanting to own whatever the models are wearing!
Fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar have understood the mystical allure of the hat for years now. Hats have been center stage on their covers all around the world on models and celebrities like Wilhelmina Cooper, Jean Shrimpton, Patti Boyd, and Audrey Hepburn. From Christian Dior and Balenciaga to Courreges and Givenchy, most of the designers throughout time have embraced the hat phenomenon!
Regina-Relang and Henry Clarke's hat photography took advantage of the the personalities of the models and gave the reader a sense of what type of person might wear the particular hat in the photograph! Whether you identify with Veruschka walking her little dogs with her wide brimmed floppy hat and over-sized Gucci handbag, or with the model wearing the Balenciaga hat out to lunch with her little black poodle, somewhere in the pages of these magazines, you could find your alternate self living the life you were meant to live!
It would be impossible to look at fashion photography from the 1960s without mentioning David Bailey, Willy Rizzo and John French! Their iconic images captured mod hats from Chanel, Courreges, Balenciaga, and other couture designers of the time.
The mid century photographers who created those immortal fashion image we all know and love so well had a talent of bringing something like a hat to life and making something that might look only "nice" on a hat stand become an extraordinary fashion statement. Richard Avedon, Jerry Schatzberg, Andrew Macpherson, Barry Lategan, Georges Dambier, Helmut Newton, Cecil Beaton, Horst, Leombruno Bodi, Louis Dahl Wolfe, Patrick Demarchelier, Norman-Parkinson, Nat Farbman and William Klein are just some of the incredible talents that created a fashion image history that defined the 20th century.
In the more recent past 20 years, Fashion photographers have continued their love affair with the hat - Steven Meisel photographed Fei Fei Sun for Vogue Italia in a fabulous fedora, Kate Moss has been photographed in too many hats to name including those designed by Louis Vuitton and Chanel, Milla Jovovich was photographed by Richard Avedon in an incredible Yohji Yamamoto hat, and Annie Liebowitz photographed Lady Gaga for the cover of Vanity Fair in an over the top Philip Treacy headpiece.
So it looks like hats are here to stay and I for one am glad to hear it. There are new Milliners opening shops all around the country and my vintage hats are selling as fast as I can find them! To me, that means that people still appreciate the art of and form of finely crafted fashion and accessories. So hats off to all of you who understand that some things are still worth keeping around for a while.