Museum Month: Peabody Essex Museum HATS Exhibition

junkyardarts November 21, 2012 Comments Off on Museum Month: Peabody Essex Museum HATS Exhibition
Museum Month: Peabody Essex Museum HATS Exhibition

Last week I had the great pleasure of attending the Peabody Essex Museum’s Hats event, featuring the work of milliner Stephen Jones and friends. The event, filled with a runway show, Q&A, hats to try on and a cash bar, was a great success…and a bit crazy.

As my friend who joined me noted, it felt a little like being in the cast of Beetlejuice, if it had been filmed by David Lynch, with Otho as his tour guide. First, being in a museum at night is a little strange, particularly the PEM since it has the most gorgeous atrium ceiling in the main hall and you are hyper aware of the time of day. A little dark, you only heard the murmuring of voices in the distance when you entered. Once you reach the crowd, you realize there are a lot of people wearing hats. Apropos for a hat-centric event, certainly, but this being the Northeast and not a Sunday, well we just aren’t used to seeing so many fabulous head pieces, let alone 100 in the same room.

And then I broke a wine glass. So that was great.

And then I tried on some hats, as one does. I spoke with Dinah Makowsky, a milliner who was featuring her works at the event, and being out of Memphis had the most delightful accent. Her pieces were particularly nice because of the feel – made from a fur felt, they have this uber soft, super luxurious texture. And feathers. So many feathers. Really, they were the hats you wish you had more occasions to wear them too (though she would argue there is always a time and a place for a good hat). I put on a few and really thought “I should be wearing these more often!”.

I had a good time.  lauren wearing a hatThrough our short conversation, Dinah answered one of the burning questions I had for the night.  How does one really store and ship hats like these?  Some of the brims were 12″+ deep and have plumes flying off of them.

Well, she said, pointing to a rather wide brimmed number.  “I’d wear this right on the plane.  I’d keep it on until everyone was seated and then right before we took off, I would stash it in the safest overhead storage”.

She flies in style.

The Hats show itself is really a wonder to behold.  Aside from the wow factor, anyone with an interest in construction, architecture and fashion would really appreciate it.  Of course it is an artistic endeavor, but craftsmanship and construction are so key it is hard for the layman to conceive of how to make some of these shapes out of a fabric we think of being used as a Christmas Tree skirt.

The Jones exhibition boasts 250 pieces from his personal collection, ranging from fascinators to wide brims to crowns – and pretty much everything in between and having been worn by everyone from Hollywood to actual Royalty.  It it so worth the trip to Salem MA, I can’t even really put it into words.  So here’s some images from the exhibition to do the talking for me:

Jo GordonKiss of Death1994© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Michael of LachasseMartian's claw1955© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Bonnet1870s© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Kirsten WoodwardSex on the Brain1989© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

BonnetAbout 1835© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

BicorneAbout 1800© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Stephen JonesPas de deux1982© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Philip TreacyFeather hat1995© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I would argue one of the best parts of the event was simply seeing how many people from the community came out to be a part of it.  I have spoken at length of the PEM’s outreach to the local communities and ensuring that art education and appreciation is taught not just on a higher-culture level, but to the people they see everyday walking by the museum.  They constantly host events inviting locals to participate, and as such has become a beloved part of the museum circuit in the New England area.  This Hats exhibition, again, demonstrates why they are a competitive museum bringing exciting exhibitions to the North Shore and challenging the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (it’s closest competitor) to always keep their eyes peeled for this gem just 30min away.

Certainly I’ll be back for another look at the HATS exhibition before it closes on February 3, 2013, and you should get there as well.  It’s not every day an exhibition like this comes along, and when you can try on one-of-a-kind pieces in the museum shop?  Don’t miss your chance to wear a professional church hat like a pro.

Peabody Essex Museum / Dinah Makowsky / Stephen Jones /

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