Sherry Lea Holson did Benjamin Green-Field proud. Her organization of this wonderful luncheon for the oldest service organization in Chicago, the Service Club of Chicago, was held today to honor the work of Benjamin Green-Field of Bes Ben hats. The presentation by noted Bes Ben historian, Elizabeth Jachimowicz with a slide show had ladies laughing at some unique hats.
Just as Elizabeth is seen here reviewing the exhibit hats, she has been studying these hats since her 15 years at the Chicago History Museum when Ben was present for the exhibit of his works. There are many hats that have crossed her hands, and each one has all of the details recorded in detail. There were stories of his successes and his hats. Just in case you were needing a new tidbit, she explained that he started in 1919 with his sister Bessie, creating hats designed to reflect the latest Paris styles. His travels to Paris included returning with prime examples of what women around the world wanted. After ten years Bessie removed herself from the business, but the name remained. At that point he consolidated their several stores to the one most folks recall, in the 900 block of Michigan Avenue. He left many decades later only because the building was to be torn down. One Mag Mile now stands in its place.
As far as Bes Ben Hats, you could admire some on loan in the midst of a pleasant room at the Club, or on the heads of several attendees. Sherry Lea Holson wore the coral hat that was heavier than most other Bes Bens in the place. Two attendees from the Benjamin Green-Field Foundation wore delightful small hats, as well as an iridescent one on the head of Iris Sholder, the newest Bes Ben fan. Another woman had on a delightful white number as well. And if there were more of you out there who were not sighted by this writer, please update us. Your willingness to share by wearing was most appreciated.
What hats were ladies wearing to this event? Overwhelmingly they were big brim hats. The Kentucky Derby had nothing on these 230 ladies. Many of the hats had been made especially for this day by the premier couture milliner from Chicago, Loreta Corsetti, who was resplendent in a voluminous cream (?) straw creation. Picture by John Reilly PhotographyAren’t John Reilly’s photos spectacular? Here are more:
Prizes were awarded for several categories to Mamie Walton, Laurie Davis, Rochelle Trotter and Cheryl Bollinger. Winners had delightful stories to tell . The two most memorable of the four stories were from Rochelle and Cheryl. Rochelle could not have been more excited, and had struggled even until last night to decide which hat to wear, making a John Koch of Chicago very notable. A rust/orange dupioni silk with an upturned brim was simple in its use of fabric in a way that made the design sing.
Cheryl could have been a contender if there were a category of largest hat as well. She regaled everyone with her story of the Paw Paw, MI florist, Sherri Taylor owner of Taylor’s Florist, who created a BIG hat to match her floral print dress. Based upon a black hat there were white flowers bigger than nature ever intended. Perhaps I am misquoting her, but I think she said her husband thought it was a refrigerator that had been delivered when the box with the hat arrived. When I came home and told my husband the story of this hat and that we were making a trip to meet this newest milliner, he rolled his eyes. Men!
But speaking of men there were two who added much to the day. Patrick Kearney brought four hats from Susannin’s Auction of Chicago, and also represented Irene, who sadly missed the fun on behalf of Robert Feigenheimer. Four hats loaned from his sister’s estate were only a few of many purchases of Linda Feigenheimer. Elizabeth’s slide show ended with the picture of the Independence Hat. Linda had outbid a New York collector in 1999 at an auction for this hat. It was more than $18K, which remains the highest ever for a hat. But then she spent over $30K that day on Bes Ben hats alone.
The other gentleman present was Bunky Cushing who recorded details of this event that are far more inclusive than what is in this blog. For the inside scoop you must go to http://www.bunkycushing.com. Thank heaven he has professional pictures to share.
Bunky joined in the hat judging, and this man knows style. It was a pleasure to confer with Elizabeth and he about the wonderful hats selected for prizes. If there could have been an additional twenty runner-up hats they would have included, in no particular order: Cheryl Coleman who went to Jill Henning of Ohio during the Kentucky Derby, Sally Shock in a floral knockout, Shanna Montgomery who insisted the bright pink headwear she sported did not qualify, tho really it did, Tracey Di Buono in the Butterfly creation of Philip Treacy, Tina Weller in a turquoise hat that made her dress a standout, Roni Siegel in feathers, Julie Peckham and Lily Hauf, both in Loreta Corsetti hats, and all those others whose names escaped me while enthralled with their hats.
All in all it was a perfect day in Chicago to wear a hat, as it will be again tomorrow.