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Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the 20th Century

August 21–November 28, 1993

The Philadelphia Museum of Art will celebrate the art and craft of 20th-century millinery in the first major survey of its kind to be mounted in the United States. Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the 20th Century will present some 100 of the Museum's most spectacular women's hats, supplemented by an equal number borrowed from the costume collections of leading Museums throughout the country and private collectors. Ornamenting the human form is among the world's oldest outlets for artistic expression. Within the realm of modern fashion, no single article of clothing has inspired so much variety and innovation as the hat. The work of leading American, British, French, and Italian designers--including the fanciful turn-of-the-century hats of France's Mme Georgette, America's "Big Three," Lily Dache, Mr. John, and Sally Victor, and the innovations of such couturiers as Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, and Halston--will be displayed in a series of "shop windows" decorated in the spirit of the times. The exhibition begins with extravagant hats created in Paris at the turn of the century. Other installations will showcase hats trimmed with everything from feathers and birds, beads and jewels, to flowers, fruits, and even vegetables. The exhibition will also explore the materials, including felt and straw, and the shaping and construction methods, such as blocking and traditional dressmaking and tailoring techniques, that form the foundation of 20th-century millinery. Influences on women's hat design will be shown to be wide ranging and reflective of their time. During the two world wars, for example, millinery not only imitated military styles and expressed patriotic or anti-war sentiments, but also found relief in whimsy as exemplified by the tiny, doll-sized hats of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Among other sources of inspiration for headgear are the movies, men's hat styles, non-Western and European folk material, art and architecture and the aesthetics of the space age. The exhibition will conclude with a gallery devoted to recent work by over 25 of today's most creative millinery designers, artists, and craftspeople from the United States, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. These hats range from creations based in the historic traditions of millinery to those that push design to its limits, with many one-of-a-kind works designed especially for this exhibition. Ahead of Fashion: Hats of the 20th Century will be accompanied by a double issue of the Museum Bulletin, illustrated with approximately 80 color plates.

Main Building


Pew Charitable Trusts
The Fashion Group of Philadelphia Fund
The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art


Dilys E. Blum, Curator of Costume and Textiles

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