Exhibit shows off the history of hats

April 4, 2012 2:36:47 PM PDT
A new exhibit in Manhattan is dedicated to one accessory's transformation through the years and the famous people who love to wear it.

The exhibit really is all encompassing.

It features hats that were worn by celebrities like Brad Pitt and Madonna and there's even a piece that dates back to the 12th century.

The show examines the history of hats, the culture of wearing hats and the practice of hat making.

"The exhibition offers everything, a full scope of experience for the visitor," said Nina Stritzler-Levine, Chief Curator.

From the unusual to the ornate, traditional and over the top, this new exhibit at the Bard Graduate Center features 260 hats.

One was Napoleon III's wife's from 1865 and another one belonged to Sarah Jessica Parker.

"The exhibition ranges in all kinds of styles but there's a humor with elegance in many of these hats that I find incredibly appealing," Stritzler-Levine said.

It's collaboration between the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and world renowned milliner Stephen Jones.

In fact, part of the exhibit takes you inside his atelier.

Once there you'll get a rare peak at Jacqueline Kennedy's handwritten letters in which she admits, though a fan, she still felt absurd wearing hats.

"We also have the hat that President Roosevelt wore to the fourth inauguration which is a magnificent mink top hat," Stritzler-Levine said.

Another display pays tribute to famous hats from American History.

It features Andy Warhol's wig and others that are a nod to New York City hat makers, including Harlem based Rod Keenan.

There's a selection of hats made out of paper, wood, and plastic.

It's as much for the aficionado as for the person who knows nothing about hats but is considering wearing one.

Stritzler-Levine feels all of this came together at a crucial time in the art world and has set up an exciting dynamic.

"The opportunity for fashion to be understood as something part of everyday life but also an important part of history and museum going experience is something I think is really important to assert," Stritzler-Levine said.

The hats are showcased on three floors at the Bard Graduate Center.

There is also a video component to the exhibit which runs through April 15th.

For more information please visit: http://www.bgc.bard.edu/gallery/gallery-at-bgc/main-gallery.html

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