Over three years after writing this post, the internet rewarded me with the true answer to my questions about this hat. It was not made by Madame Suzy of Paris, it was made by an American company headed by milliner Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld. Her daughter Suzy has filled me in on the story.
Here you see the latest distraction in my life. Made from a fine wool jersey knit, it was probably intended for wintertime sports or casual wear. The label reads, “Suzy” with another one from the store, “Flint & Kent, Buffalo”.
I love hats, but they are not my strong suit. I bought this one purely on the strength of the sporty design, though I knew I had heard/read/seen the Suzy name somewhere. After several days of searching for information and reading, I imagine I recalled her name from the pages of Vogue and Bazaar magazines of the 1930s and 40s, as her work was often used in their editorial pages. Finding good, solid information about her has proved to be a bit difficult.
According to the V&A site Suzy became known in the 1920s and had a shop at 5 rue de la Paix in Paris. During WWII she designed hats for the American market, and she stopped production in the 1950s.
All that information was a good starting place, but it was incredibly short on details. Continuing on, I found an interesting hat at the Antiquedress.com site. It is a bonnet, identified as 1890s, with a Madame Suzy at 5 rue de la Paix label. Interesting, as several sources, including the V&A one have the label starting in the 1920s.
And then I found an article in a millinery magazine from 1921, and it identifies Madame Suzy as the hat designer for Maria Guy at her shop on the Place Vendome.
By the mid 1930s, Suzy must have been well-known to American women, as I found hundreds of references to her and her new styles in various US newspapers of the time. There were American stores selling adaptations of her styles. Then, when WWII came, Suzy left Paris, and ended up in New York, making and selling her hats. With the end of the Occupation, she returned to Paris in 1944. In the post-war period, she continued traveling to the US, in an effort to help re-establish the French fashion industry.
I can find no primary references to Suzy after 1949, and several sources said she closed shop in 1951, and others said in the 1950s.
I’m thinking my cap dates to Suzy’s New York years. I’m in the process of working my way through several dozen fashion magazines from the time, hoping that by magic I’ll turn a page and there it will be. It has happened before so keep your fingers crossed for me please!
UPDATE: I’ve heard from a very knowledgeable collector of antique and vintage hats, and this person thinks my hat is from a different Suzy than Madame Suzy of Paris. If any of you have any information about other Suzys, please let me hear from you!
A word about Flint & Kent: Established in 1865, it was an upscale Buffalo department store. It changed hands in 1954, and ceased to be in 1956.