Topping off a recent afternoon

I wrote a story about Pelham milliner Susan Saas in our January issue.

Then in February, editor Georgette Gouveia wove a lovely tale that put the spotlight on both Janet Langsam, the dynamic CEO of ArtsWestchester, and the organization’s latest exhibition, “HATtitude: The Milliner in Culture & Couture.”
As you might guess, we at WAG just love our hats.

I decided to feed the fascination further, so I dropped by the arts council’s White Plains headquarters on a recent afternoon as the exhibition continues there through April 12.

It is, in a word, incredible. It’s a walk through fashion, history, trends and materials. You’ll delight in the treasure trove of pillboxes and top hats, fedoras and cloches, turbans and fascinators and countless sculptural hats that seem to defy gravity.

It’s a bonanza of materials, including – and this is just a sampling – satin and sequins, velvet and felt, tulle and straw, silk and crystals, feathers and faux flowers, chiffon and semiprecious stones and even artificial grass and a toy tractor.

The hats are displayed on simple Styrofoam heads, allowing both uniformity and a virtual blank canvas for the artistry on top.

Categories range from couture hats to little black hats to hats for celebrations and performances as well as  work (think a 1930 nurse’s cap), worship and whimsy.

The main floor’s famed safe (the space was a former bank) has been transformed into “A Milliner’s Workshop” by the Milliners Guild, while a portion of the exhibition’s second floor is devoted to “One Block, Many Milliners.” This guild project took one single wooden block (what milliners use to form hat shapes) and had it travel from one milliner to another. Each of 25 milliners use the form to create the stunningly diverse results now featured there.

I had my share of sighs, daydreaming of wearing such fanciful creations as I wandered among the exhibition’s some 200 hats (which, I was pleased to see, included several from Saas).

“HATtitude” is an exhibition that will simply have accessory lovers enthralled.

And for those who still haven’t had enough after touring the show, there’s a selection of hats for sale and, near the entrance, a tabletop filled with styles you’re encouraged to try on.

As a line in the exhibition text reminds: “The possibilities for individual expression through a hat are endless.”

The show’s curators are Judith Schwartz, anNYU art professor and milliner; Tom Van Buren, a folklorist; and gallery director Kathleen Reckling.

Exhibition hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The Arts Exchange is at 31 Mamaroneck Ave.

Among the upcoming events are a March 6 talk with Ellen Christine Colon-Lugo, exhibiting milliner and historian of millinery; a March 13 lecture by Nazanin Hedayat Munroe, a textile artist and art historian; and family activities that include a “Crazy Hat Day Hat & Headband Decorating” program March 8 and a hat-making workshop March 15.

Those who love their hats are even invited to wear them to ArtsWestchester’s April 4 awards luncheon at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown.

For more, visit artswestchester.org/hattitude.

– Mary Shustack

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