Friday, May 13, 2011

"The Hat" That Ate The Royal Wedding

Isabella Blow wore Phillip Treacy to death. Literally. This was a woman who treated fashion with respect, and yet, nothing wore her. She wore it. She wore Phillip Treacy hats with apblomb, and largely helped to establish him as a fixture in the fashion/hat firmament. It's said that Phillip Treacy designed more than 36 hats for guests at the Royal Wedding. The statements that his designs made reverberate in the fashion world even as they are seen on runways and on the heads of over-the-top celebrities.
This time, for the marriage of Kate Middleton and Prince William, Phillip Treacy outdid himself. This time, it wasn't just the world of glossy magazine layouts that sat up and took notice. This time, because of an interesting twist on a bow on the head of Princess Beatrice, , the entire world took notice.
The headpiece in question, done as an artistic and very creative interpretaion of a bow, was created in the palest of nudes, to accessorize the Princess' very chic Valentino ensemble.
"The Hat" sat forward on the forehead, much like the "dolls' hats" first designed by Elsa Schapiarelli in the 1930's . The cap was trimmed with what some have called "antlers". Treacy is no stranger to antler shapes as headgear: his collaboration with Alexander McQueen, for McQueen's 2006 collection demonstrated this. This was not an antler.
The trim of Princess Beatrice's hat was a monochromatic extension of the cap, largely resembling a bow, the knot of the bow, and the ends of the ribbon looping around and up . Treacy's vision was glorious from a milliner's point of view. How the molded bow was made is his secret, as are all of Treacy's methods. They appear as constructions molded and suspended in air. From his first collection, from his senior graduating project for the Royal College of Art, Treacy has learned how to defy gravity .
Bob Mackie once described a gown he made for Jayne Mansfield as a "hydraulic suspension bridge". Phillip Treacy designs create the same sense of awe and admiration from those of us who design hats.
Consternation, on the other hand, is what most of the world expressed when they saw "The Hat" . "The Hat" has been a hot subject of discussion since Beatrice stepped out of her limousine at the gates of Westminster Abbey
Reaching at least a foot above the Princess' height, "the Hat" cause an instant reaction in the worldwide press. "Overshadowing" most of the day, for some "out of place" for others. "The Hat"gave the public something to fixate upon. Here in the States, Joan Rivers called it an IUD. Some called it " a pretzel. "The Hat" gained an immediate following on Facebook, with thousands of commentaries decrying its originality and assertiveness.
For me, this bit of joyous exhuberance harkened back to the days when Isabella Blow was seen everywhere in her Phillip Treacy hats. Her spirit lives long after her death because of the phantasmgorical headpieces Treacy has produced through the years. Never one to demur to a regime of quiet reserve in her dress, Issy gave us Treacy by day, Treacy by night . Even the tribute that sat upon her coffin was her favorite Treacy hat. Isabella Blow was on all fronts, an innovator. Had she been at the Royal Wedding she most certainly would have applauded the little bow that sat upon Princess Beatrice's head. Certainly not screaming in color, "The Hat" represents the fashion forward direction that Great Britain had always taken. Traditionally, the Brits are a hat loving folk. May they be eccentric to our eyes? May they be silly by our standatds? to some, Great Britain resounds of colonial retribution since for centuries Britannia ruled the waves and it attributes. America was indeed one of those attributes, a colony of misfits that sought refuge on the shores of an exciting new continent.
Well, the excitement has diminished and the conservative fashion scene in the US now rules our shores. So thank God for the excitement generated by anything that Philip Treacy, Vivienne Westwood, or a host of other designers show us with their stimulating collections.
"The Hat " may cause strife in the minds of the more fashion conservative . Indeed it may cause consternation. But the primary rule of the fashion industry is to put something out there that will make people sit up and take notice.
Princess Beatrice has put her Treacy up for auction, to benefit UNICEF. Perhaps that was always the plan, to attract enough attention so that the buzz would reverberate around the world, and help to drive the feeding frenzy. This would be ingenious marketing at it's best. It worked with the ubiquitous floppy brimmed hat worn by Jennifer Lopez many moons ago, and it worked for the girls of Sex in The City. And now the worldwide press is watching every breath "The Hat" takes. Tracking "The Hat" has become a pasttime for some, an income for others.
"The Hat" lives on, but more importantly, the millinery industry may have finally gotten it's golden shot in the arm. You probably won't see "The Hat" walking down Main Street , but it might yet be caught on the High Street. The avant-garde of the fashion world may not feel as negatively as the middle class does. But fashion needs the middle class: they're our shopping public.
No, the ordinary woman may not pick up a over-the-top fascinator to wear to the country club, or to Coney Island. But hat have now captured their share of the popular cultural spotlight. The Headwear industry may now be perhaps experiencing it's long awaited Renaissance. No longer the forgotten child of the accessory world. Hats are finally out of the closet, and are yet on the tip of everyone' s tongue when they talk of the Royal Wedding.
"The Hat" will live on, in the closet of it's next owner. But it's myth will spark a renewed interest in headwear, and forever be a touchstone in fashion history. Hopefully "The Hat" will be won at auction by a museum, where it can be both admired and critiqued for centuries to come.
After all, fashion is, indeed, subjective. and it all started with a bow.


photonutz said...

I think the issue with "The Hat", is not it's creativity, but the fact that Beatrice could not do what Isablla could. Isabella would have worn "The Hat", but in this instance "The Hat" wore Beatrice.

joe said...

Well said Ellen. It is great to see such amazing design and craftsmanship, as well as someone taking a fashion risk. Many of the other choices for the wedding were really safe and boring.I would have expected to see more from the elite hat wearers, who can afford the $1500 cost for these hat.