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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Behind-the-Seams Look

Museum’s exhibitions and photos share the beautiful exteriors of their objects. However, sometimes – especially with dress – some of the most interesting parts are hidden inside.  Luckily, thanks to the work of the Goldstein’s Team Digi, we’ve been able to capture interesting details that might have gone unnoticed.  For example, the silk brocade skirt of this 1890s ensemble is supported by a beautifully detailed underskirt, beneath. 

                  

      Silk brocade bridesmaid’s dress, 1896, Gift of John J. Schlenck (1966.005.002a-c)

The evening dress below from Oscar de la Renta doesn’t stay up on its own.  Rather, it is built on top of a structured foundation.


     


















Silk taffeta evening dress by Oscar de la Renta, Gift of Elizabeth G. Weymouth (2012.002.003)

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Striking Hats from the Collection

The Goldstein’s collection includes a number of hats that range from demure to whimsical.  Some of our more quirky hats are by “Bes-Ben,” seen below. 


 

Top hat-shaped toy hat by Bes-Ben, 1950-1959, Gift of Ethelyn J. Bros 

These hats were designed by Benjamin B. Green-Field, who opened a hat boutique in 1920 with his sister Bes, hence the name.  He was known as "Chicago's Mad Hatter," remembered for crafting quirky but elegant hats for women.  While the spiral structures of the hats below on the left might seem daring, they are actually quite tame compared to some of his other designs. Many included figures of small animals, like the penguins and swans on this hat, while others featured household items like silverware or kitchen utensils. 

 
Two hats with veils by Bes-Ben, 1950-1959, Gift of Ethelyn J. Bros 

Despite their sometime “common” embellishments, Bes-Ben hats were by no means cheap.   They were worn by celebrities like Lucille Ball, Marlene Dietrich and Elizabeth Taylor.
Lilly Daché is another high-end hat designer whose work is represented in the Goldstein.  She was born in Paris, but moved to the US when she was 16.  She opened her first shop in New York in 1926, but continually moved into larger spaces on better streets.  Within 11 years, she became the first milliner to occupy an entire building – which was called “the Daché millinery madhouse” (Jody Shields quoting The New Yorker).  As the title hints at, Daché was known for her tempestuousness.  Hate lore suggests that at one point she wore bells on her ankles during a strike to warn her workers when she approached (Shield, 1991, p. 114). 


 
Wool felt hat with feathers by Lilly Daché, 1945-1955, Museum Collection 
       
However, she was also known for her exception skill as a milliner. Her turbans, which were often wrapped on 
clients’ heads, were particularly revered.  Like Bes-Ben, her customers included many film stars, including Joan 
Crawford, Marilyn Dietrich, and Carole Lombard.  Her hats were quite expensive, ranging from $35 to $500 in 
1942. Today that equates to about $500 to $7,300. However, she did introduce less expensive lines in the 1950s. 

                     

     Three Lilly Daché hats, 1938-1940 (left and center) and 1960-1969 (right), Gifts of Costume Rentals, Merry C. Detlefsen, and Mae Larson 

In the late 1950s, Daché hired a young milliner named Roy Halston Frowick – who would later be known simply as Halston.  He rose to fame after designing the hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s inauguration in 1961.


Reference:

Shields, J. (1991). Hats: A stylish history and collector's guide. New York: Clarkson Potter.