A Light-hearted Look at the Surrealist Hat.

The great thing about having a blog is that all kinds of wonderful learning opportunities find their way into my email inbox.  The problem is that I’m located about 600 miles away from most of them, and I can’t just hop onto a plane whenever I want to attend a lecture in NYC.  I do, however, have friends in such places, and one, Monica Murgia, attended a recent lecture on Surrealistic hats, given by Dilys Blum.  Her report:
Thanks to The Vintage Traveler, I attended a talk on Surrealist Hats by Dilys Blum.  (That’s her above, with Monica)  Blum is a costume and textile curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  She divulged her  fascinating research on the topic, complete with a feast for the eyes.  I was dazzled by over 120 images, illustrating the origins and legacy of Surrealism.  Here are some of the highlights:
La Revolution Surrealiste: This French magazine was dedicated to Surrealist art and design.  The magazine published 12 issues from 1924 to 1929.  While the magazine initially was concerned only with fine and decorative arts, it laid the groundwork for surrealist images and how they would be photographed in fashion. It was also a forum for disseminating scandalous and revolutionary ideas, as well as reproductions of surrealist art.  Contributors included Man Ray and Rene Magritte.   (Photo montage by Magritte. Title of image is Je ne vois pas la [femme] cachée dans la forêt”.  Image courtesy of musee-magritte-museum.be)

Wigs & Surrealism: Surrealist headwear wasn’t limited to hats.  Wigs played a major role in the movement.  Elsa Schiaparelli, the surrealist couturiere of the time period, was one of the first to make surrealist wigs.  She commissioned many of these by Antoine.

Antoine, born Antek Cierplikowski, became the first celebrity hairdresser.  He started his career in Paris around 1901, and quickly became a trendsetter for his avant-guard styles.  He was the first to dye women’s hair lilac or blue, and also introduced hairstyles that used bold streaks of blond on dark hair.  (Very Surrealist, don’t you agree?)

In 1931, Schiaperelli was photographed by Man Ray in a wig by Antoine.  (Image is courtesy of sfmoma.org)   Schiaperelli loved the wig so much, she had several comissioned.  She wore a blond version for skiing, and a silver for vacationing.

You may see the parallel in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Fall 2006 collection.  The hats were made of hair. ( Image courtesy of coolspotters.com)

A Head of Roses:  A prominent motif in Dali’s paintings were figures with heads of roses. Such works include:
Necrophiliac Springtime
 Woman with a Head of Roses
Dali’s cover for Vogue in December 1938.

These images inspired a series of Bonwit Teller displays and publicity photos of a phantome woman with a head of roses hat.  This hat completely obscured the face, in accordance with Dali’s paintings. (Image: A scan image from the book Happy Times. Image by Jerome Zerbe.  Photo Courtesy of wandernvisuals.com)

Dali also collaborated with Sheila Legge to promote the International Surrealist Exhibition in London of 1936.  Legge, a fellow surrealist artist, appeared as The Phantom of Sex Appeal.   Legge is dressed in a white satin dress, wearing a hat with roses and ladybirds.  (photo  courtesy of manchesterconfidential.co.uk)

Surely Phillip Traecy’s Butterfly hat for Alexander McQueen’s FW2006 bears a striking similarity to the version worn by Legge.  (Photo courtesy of wicked-halo.com)

Clearly, hats can fit the category of “art to wear”. And what better way to pay homage to an artist than to wear something in his or her honor? I was left wondering if this idea was what inspired Philip Tracey to create this hat , which resembles Dali’s mustache.

photo by Philippe Halsman

That really made me want to be there!  My thanks to Monica for sharing this with us.

And ironically, I got a notice from Jillian at the Bard Graduate Center.  They will be having a fantastic book sale:

On December 8th through the 11th, and the 15th through the 18th, we will be featuring a 70% discount on many of our current and extensive backlist of BGC Gallery Publications, including:  Knoll Textiles,  Shaker Design,  Marimekko: Fabrics,  Fashion,  Architecture,  and The Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory.   This sale is a great compliment to our two current exhibits, Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones and American Christmas Cards, 1900-1960, now showing at our gallery. We are also selling copies of the accompanying book to American Christmas Cards, which has just been featured on Amazon’s Top Ten Hot New Releases in Graphic Design.

Information about visiting the Gallery can be found at    Bard Graduate Center:  Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture  18 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024


Filed under Museums

4 responses to “A Light-hearted Look at the Surrealist Hat.

  1. What a fun, informative post. My fav is the blonde hair hat from the Fall 2006 collection of Jean Paul Gaultier.


  2. Fabulous as always! The butterfly hat and Philip Tracey ‘moustache’ style hat are my absolute favourites. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Guest Post on Surrealist Hats for The Vintage Traveler | Monica D. Murgia

  4. Pingback: Surrealism Strikes Again | Monica D. Murgia

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