Suzy USA Hats

Over three years ago I posted photos of a hat I’d found that I at first thought was made by Madame Suzy, a Parisian milliner.  I pretty quickly came to the realization that I was not correct, but until now I did not know who the Suzy who made my hat was.  The problem is there was not just one Suzy hatmaker in the mid twentieth century, there were actually quite a few.  Besides Madame Suzy, I’ve found Suzy Lee of California, Suzy Michelle, Suzi of California, Suzy et Paulette, and Suzy B.

Last week I had the good fortune of hearing from a woman named Suzy.  She is the daughter of the milliner who designed my hat, Sylvia Whitman Seigenfeld, who sometimes went by Midge.  It was she who formed Suzy hats sometime in the 1930s.  I’ve had several emails from Suzy in which she has told me about the hats that were designed by her mother.

Sylvia was born in 1909 in New Jersey.  When she was sixteen she went to work in the millinery business of her father, Nat Whitman.  When she was twenty she married Nathan Seigenfeld whose family was in the clothing business.  In fact, Nathan’s mother was a sister to Anna Miller and Maurice Rentner who owned the companies that gave  Bill Blass his start in the 1950s, and of which he became owner  in the 1960s.

With husband Nat Seigenfeld, son Alan, and daughter Suzy, 1944


Sylvia and Nathan’s daughter Suzy was born in 1938, and around the same time, they began the millinery, which was also named Suzy.  Suzy really didn’t know which came first, the daughter or the millinery, but she suspects that the business was born first.  The showroom was located at  417 Fifth Avenue, right across the street from Lord & Taylor.  There Sylvia gave showings of her hats to buyers from major department stores from across the country.  The workrooms and shipping departments were in the back of her showroom.

Sylvia and Family, Homecoming on the Queen Mary, 1950


Suzy can remember her mother going to Paris every year on the Queen Mary or Queen Elizabeth.  She visited the Place Vendome and Rue de la Pais.  Paris inspired her designs.  Sylvia made all sorts of hats – hats with veils, straw hats,  pillboxes, snoods, and cloches.
Suzy has confirmed that my hat is one of her mother’s, as it does have the label that she used.  My hat is made from jersey, as was another Suzy hat that I found in an online listing.
I want to thank Suzy for sharing her mother’s story and photographs with me.  It is so important that we continue to find and document the stories of people from the past who played such a major role in the history of American fashion.

Sylvia in Florida, visiting her parents, 1940s

Vintage photos copyright Susan Novenstern.  Do not copy.


Filed under Designers, Rest of the Story

19 responses to “Suzy USA Hats

  1. Pingback: Milliner Suzy of Paris (or Somewhere) | The Vintage Traveler

  2. KrissyCos

    This is wonderful! I work for a museum with two Suzy hats in the collection and it’s always wonderful to have insider research like this to add to our files. Makes for an even greater appreciation of the object when there is more of a personal story to go with it!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. poppysvintageclothing

    Thanks for keeping us so well informed, Lizzie. Nice to hear you heard from the daughter who was able to share the information regarding her mother’s millinery business.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thank you again for keeping us updated on historic designers, Lizzie, and thanks to Suzy for writing. The photos & details are fascinating!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a great discovery, Lizzie. Thanks for sharing…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a find and story! I love Sylvia in that last photo! So Katharine Hepburn!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just love this, Lizzie! And I want you to put all these stories into a book so that we can have them forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love these photos. . . and I love that you have solved the mystery of your Suzy! Great blog-work, Lizzie.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. So interesting. I loved the pictures too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for this story, and I couldn’t help but notice how fashionable and beautiful Suzy was too.


  11. Pingback: The Milliner and Her Hats | The Vintage Traveler

  12. Helen Driscoll

    Thank you for your research and wonderful story! My mother-in-law just gave me a Suzy hat for my birthday this month, a hat she was gifted by her mother-in-law Dorothy years ago. (she also sent me a link to your blog) Lavon thinks that this hat (a black velvet box hat which is almost a beret, in perfect condition) might have been given to Dorothy as a gift, since she had a famous hat collection. (Dorothy favored dramatic and large hats, which she wore exquisitely well, standing over 6 feet.) This storied hat also has a Lord & Taylor label. I hope to wear it soon – it will go perfectly with a fabulous vintage coat dress I bought at a San Morino estate sale years ago.



      Enjoy my Mother’s hat! What does it look like? I am her daughter, Suzy!👍

      Sent from my iPhone



      • Helen Driscoll

        Hi Suzy! I will enjoy it! I wanted to leave a photo of it, but can’t in the comments 😦
        It’s part pillbox (but soft) and part beret – simple black cotton velvet with red cotton gaberdine lining and red interior form band. The shape is more Scottish or English than french beret ie more structured. It’s in perfect condition, the lining slightly but evenly faded (not faded from light). The hat was given to my mother-in-law by my husband’s grandmother – so my mother-in-law’s mother-in-law! She was a Greenwich Village Follies dancer and had an amazing theatrical hat collection, The hat was gifted to my mother-in-law by Dorothy Rubel in the 1960’s.


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