Following my afternoon spent contemplating Isabel Toledo’s ascendance to the fashion throne, I got to thinking about another, like-named force in fashion history: Isabella Blow.
I will preface this conversation with the disclaimer: I LOVE Isabella Blow. She was a mysterious visionary; a tortured, talented, and avant garde force in fashion. To think, without Ms. Blow, Alexander McQueen may never have made it clear of Central Saint Martins. And the world would have suffered.
After she passed, I – in all earnestness – wore black for a solid week of mourning. (I also purchased an outrageous turquoise ostrich feather headband in her memory: Best. Money. Ever. Spent.)
Naturally, when you think Isabella Blow, your mind wanders to her signature accessory: The hat. The multi-tiered, sculptural headdresses that graced the cranium of this creative diva were very rarely actual hats, so to speak. Nonetheless, her fondness for elaborate headgear causes pain in my heart when I think of the pitiful anomaly that hats have become in our daily lives. There was a time when neither man, woman nor child would leave home without a hat.
Alas, times have changed… My initial reaction to the realization that we as a society no longer consider hats to be of great importance was quick and alarming: BRING HATS BACK! We must band together in body-heat-preserving unity and re-introduce the hat as a staple fashion accessory! But then, it occurred to me that finding hats in this day and age might not be so simple. (And when I say hats, I don’t mean of the baseball or ski resort variety.)
So, I did a bit of snooping about, and here is what I found:
--- An abominably limited selection at Bergdorf’s, albeit with an exceptionally gorgeous, colorful display of Kokin Lacquered Fedoras – so all is not lost.
--- Greater diversity and versatility, but an ultimately less appealing spread at Barney’s.
--- A noticeably greater quantity at Bloomingdales, but a selection so dull that I briefly considered impaling one of my eyeballs with the end of a Burberry visor.
That may only be three online shopping outlets, but you know what? I have no patience. Isabella would be ashamed. And, there is only one place that I choose to promote when it comes to hat purchasing, and that is because they are my neighbor: The Barbara Feinman Millinery on East 7th Street.
Playing perfectly to my point that hats are a dying art form, Ms. Feinman reveals the “time-honored methods” of Feinman hats via her Web site: “Barbara Feinman Millinery is one of very few New York shops where hats are actually made on the premises. The hats are hand-blocked and hand-crafted from start to finish, using techniques and equipment that have scarcely changed since the 19th Century.”
Okay, so we typically like to see progress in fashion. Something that hasn’t changed in roughly 200 years may not be so thrilling to many, but, as they say, everything old is new again. It’s high time we get crackin’ on reviving decorative head wear.
Photo credit: Photographer Miguel Reveriego for The Daily Mail, 1996 (hat by Philip Treacy).