Designed by Charles James (1906-1978)
Museum no. T.901-1974
The couturier Charles James began his career as a milliner in Chicago. He opened his own shop in 1926 under the label 'Charles Boucheron'. In 1928 he began designing dresses using the same 3- dimensional constructive approach found in millinery. James referred to himself as a 'sartorial structural architect'.
This hat is made of one piece of grosgrain silk fabric which is cut and folded in an origami style to create a peaked hat with a crown which flows into a high blunt brim. It came straight from the studio of Charles James into the V&A collections and retains a paper label stitched to the side, which reads 'PLEASE DO NOT UNPICK SEAMS OR STITCHES', presumably a warning to those working with fabrics in his studio. The hat is a great example of James's structural approach and his talent for creating volume out of flat materials.
The hat forms part of the Cecil Beaton Collection which was brought together by the late Sir Cecil Beaton. With great energy and determination, Sir Cecil contacted the well-dressed elite of Europeand America to bring this lasting monument to the art of dress. The collection was exhibited in 1971, accompanied by a catalogue which detailed its enormous range.