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Elsa Schiaparelli hats – Mistress of Millinery – Rise of the hat

July 22, 2014

Elsa Schiaparelli hats are unique and elegant examples of surrealism in fashion . There is nothing I like better than a hat, if I had my way, we would always wear them, regardless of weather, climate or fashion. They are the final word in a look, the full stop of an outfit, the piece de resistance of any trend, any season. While once they wore hats to keep out the cold, now they don’t wear them at all, or rarely.


There was a time when a woman couldn’t enter a church without wearing a hat to hide her hair, as it was considered unseemly, and although I wouldn’t wish to return to such a time, I do miss the need for a hat as part of everyday wear. While I’m all for women showing off their tresses, hats are so elegant, their geometric lines and bold curves giving the face an altogether different shape and tone.

Elsa Schiaparelli hats – A hat for every occasion

Hats have come and gone and now we only wear them to keep out the cold. But there was a time when you wouldn’t be seen without a hat at all, from as early as the 1700s to the early half of the 20th century, the hat was the thing.


In between that we had millinery love, with hats being de rigeur for ever outfit. The millinery profession really took off in the 18th century with milliner’s being so much more than a hat maker and involving themselves in the whole accessory shebang, sorting out colours, trims, and accessories, so her ladyship really did look her very best.

From humble beginnings

18th century etching of ladies wearing calashes

18th century etching of ladies wearing calashes


18th Century Calash Georgian silk Bonnet c.1790'


That fine city of Milan in Italy would give us the hat, starting off with very simple affairs made from finely braided straw.


Hats would match the styles and suit the period of the time from the 18th century onwards, with the 18th century calash and large feathered hats and the stylish 20th century cloche.

Elsa Schiaparelli hats – hat designer

There have been many famous hat designers over the years and there are still famous designers today from Philip Treacy to Stephen Jones. There are many who still design in the old way with Brent Black still making those panamas and Katharina Sigwart creating hats from the roaring twenties. For me, there is only one milliner that stands out from the rest, one milliner who turned hat making into an art form. That milliner is: Elsa Schiaparelli.

Elsa Schiaparelli hats – The mistress of millinery

Schiaparelli is the mistress of millinery who would take fashion by the neck and give it a hard shake. Schiaparelli started off with sweaters, evening-wear, swim-wear and then eventually moved on to Elsa Schiaparelli hats. She would collaborate with other artists outside of fashion to inspire her shapes and colours. Salvador Dali was one such artist and helped her to create the most imaginative designs. Her collaborations with Dali would help her to come up with the famous shoe hat, a tears dress, and the skeleton dress. Even a colour was named after her, “Schiaparelli pink.” She was the first to use brooches as buttons and to match zippers to the material on a garment.


Whenever you see a catwalk with music and art at New York, London or Paris you can thank Schiaparelli, as it was her who came up with the idea. Following the war things would change, life would change and with it, the landscape of fashion would change.


Her design house closed in 1954, but never fear for there are always Elsa Schiaparelli hats, and for those that love vintage and especially love Schiaparelli, there will always be a market for Elsa Schiaparelli hats


This is a blog dedicated to the millinery genius of Elsa Schiaparelli, her hats, her designs, her world. Do come by and enter the wonderful world of Elsa Schiaparelli hats


The famous Schiaparelli shoe hat (with a little help from Dali)

Elsa Schiaparelli portrait

Elsa Schiaparelli Lobster Hat


Elsa-schiaparelli-leopard hat

Elsa schiaparelli shoe hat