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World famous milliner offers an unrivaled look at hat design
Milliner Stephen Jones, whom Italian Vogue’s Anna Piaggi describes as ‘the maker of the most beautiful hats in the world’, has worked with some of the world’s most prominent fashion houses.

SALEM, MASS.- Explore the exuberant and varied world of millinery - from wildly plumed bonnets and silk turbans, to embroidered crowns and fanciful fascinators - with Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones on view at the Peabody Essex Museum. Exuding wit and whimsy, over 250 hats created over the last 900 years have been selected for display by the British milliner to the stars, Stephen Jones, working with the V&A's fashion curator, Oriole Cullen. Hats reveals the rich artistic history, boundless creativity, and enduring fascination with the form. The exhibition is organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones presents bold fashion statements by designers such as Balenciaga, Schiaparelli, Givenchy, Philip Treacy, and Stephen Jones alongside remarkable historic pieces and examples of pop culture headwear. The exhibition's inventive installation evokes the life cycle of the hat from the perspective of a milliner, tracing the creative process and sources of inspiration, to a hat's debut in a salon and finally as a crowning expression of an owner's personal style.

"Fashion expresses the private and public aspects of creativity in ways that very few art forms can," says Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, PEM's James B. and Mary Lou Hawkes Chief Curator. "This exhibition provides the perfect opportunity to salute fashion as a growing and engaging presence at PEM."

One of history's most trailblazing milliners, Caroline Reboux (1837-1927), was a Parisian designer closely associated with the origins of haute couture, both for clothing and hat design; she tirelessly promoted hats as an essential fashion accessory. Reboux is credited with creating original designs, such as cloches, veiled hats, and berets for women. A hat, created in 1865-70 for Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, is constructed of sable fur and grosgrain ribbon. Its jaunty irreverence and spirited youthfulness strikes a remarkably modern profile even to this day.

Lacking the restraints of most forms of fashion design -- the need for neck holes, sleeves, or pant legs -- milliners possess an unparalleled degree of freedom. A milliner's inspiration may be found anywhere and everywhere, from geometry and the natural world, to exoticism and historic forms. Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) created a shoe hat in 1938 -- in collaboration with artist Salvador Dalí -- which famously became a Surrealist icon and paved the way for radical headwear designs to come. There are only two Schiaparelli shoe hats in the world, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's collection and the other in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Jo Gordon (b. 1968) takes the traditional structure of a 19th century mourning bonnet to extremes with her 1994 hat, Kiss of Death. The long, menacing feathers project forward over two feet in a tunnel-like brim, which virtually obscures the face. Rather than simply offering protection from the elements, a bonnet takes an aggressive and dramatic stance, distancing the wearer from the world. Comprised of satin and pheasant feathers, Kiss of Death combines modern design techniques with traditional materials found in the artist's native country of Scotland.

Stephen Jones has been described by Vogue Italia as, "the maker of the most beautiful hats in the world." An uncompromising style leader, Stephen Jones made his entrée into the London fashion scene during an explosion of street style in the late 1970s establishing a millinery salon that was patronized by everyone from rock stars to royalty. Boy George and Princess Diana were among Jones' earliest clientele, embracing his radical and idiosyncratic designs. Jones' hats have graced the heads of Marilyn Manson, Pink, The Rolling Stones, Gwen Stefani, Beyoncé Knowles, Kylie Minogue, Dita Von Teese and Madonna. No stranger to the spotlight, Jones has created some of the most memorable runway spectacles of the past quarter century through his collaborations with Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier, Marc Jacobs, and John Galliano for Dior. His works have been collected both as fashion and sculptural works and are featured in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Louvre, the Brooklyn Museum and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

During the exhibition run of Hats, visitors can find millinery surprises dappled throughout the museum. Over 40 hats -- spanning the 18th century to present day -- complement artworks in many galleries, lending a global perspective to the creativity of hats. An ornate kingfisher feather bridal headdress appears with PEM's Chinese art collection, while a brass and abalone inlay fireman's helmet makes a strong visual statement in the Japanese art galleries, and an Unangax hunting hat enhances PEM Native American art display. The work of four contemporary New England milliners are featured, as are select loans from private collections, including a game-worn, autographed Red Sox baseball cap lent by Tiffany and David Ortiz.

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