FrouFrou 4 YouYou

Chicago Millinery History: The Millinery Herald February 4, 2011

The Millinery Herald was published by the Millinery Herald Co. The bound copy at the Chicago History Museum has Spring 1907 through Winter 1910-11. It is in wonderful condition and is a joy to page through since the quality of the paper chosen for the printing has withstood the test of time.

The search through only a few issues was aimed at seeking the impact of the Merry Widow Hat craze upon Chicago headwear. The search was worthwhile in more ways than just large vs smaller hat information. It brought about a greater realization of the serious nature of millinery sales in Chicago.

This publication was offered free to those in the hat trade. It had the look of a fashion magazine whose aim was to sell more hats. In 2011 the bridal business produces some worthy present day versions.

The Spring 1907 issue informs us ” Published by the Millinery Herald Co. under the auspices of the following firms…” The twenty cities listed from one to eight wholesalers, with Chicago and Cincinnati having eight each.
One part helps put this in perspective in the section “Concerning Our Magazine.”
…”the members of the Millinery Jobbers Association…It’s publishers are composed of the representative men of the Western Millinery Market…It’s fundamental object will be to set the fashions for American Millinery, through the portrayal of the hat accomplished by authentic advance information.”
Over the course of the publications in this bound collection most of the original participants remained. Those were Theo. Ascher Co., Chicago Mercantile Co., Gage Bros. & Co., Edson Keith & Co., Spiegel Bros., and Weiskoff & Co.

One name stands out as a mystery in that they did not participate after the Summer 1907 issue; D.B.Fisk & Co. This was a company that remained successful for many many years after this publication. They were the publishers of their own magazine, at least from 1896 through 1900.
Other participants were O’Meara & Miller, replacing Fisk, and Kaufman, Schmidt, and Auerbach replacing H. M. Rich & Co.

Looking at the Winter 1908-09 issue on page 8 there is an article, “The New Flat Hat.”
“A startling development this season is the new big flat hat. Everyone is talking about it. You will notice ever so many of these flat effects are shown in three degrees, viz: flat, flatter, and flattest. That is somewhat medium crowns, others very low crowns, and still others almost no crown at all.”
Moving on to page 26 “In Paris” the article tells us:
“Flatness, bigness, and simplicity are the three distinctive features of the Pariaian fashionable head.
Hats are so flat that sometimes that which is called a crown is not a crown as so much an elevation.
The dimensions of brims are so great that sometimes one seems sheltered as if under a canopy .”

It seems the Merry Widow hat phase was predicted to be somewhat winding down when one reads the Issue Spring 09 for an article “Large Hats,” on page 4.
“The advent of interesting bonnet shapes and the presence of the Russian turban styles, have in no way intruded on the assured position of the large hat. At first some thought this season would revert to the small hat, but everyone  is satisfied now that the large hat is still an accepted favorite, and will continue so throughout the summer. How could it be otherwise? It goes to show the becomingness of the large brimmed hat is too deeply appreciated by Milady Beautiful, to be lightly discarded. And the only difference this season, is that extreme and grotesque shapes, such as have called forth the censure of those of good taste last season will not appear. The large hat of today has class and distinction.”
It seems the overpowering images ridiculed in the Merry Widow postcards from back in the day had their desired impact of bringing fashion back to more modest sizes of large hats.
But this being said it does not change a burning desire to design some REALLY large hats. Wonder what attendees will wear to the Joffrey production of the Merry Widow soon playing in Chicago. Better yet, wonder what the hats look like in the production.

Happy 35th day of 2011!


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