Curator's Corner PDF Print

Curator's  Corner

In this portion of our website, a curator from NSMLV will highlight new and/or interesting pieces from his or her collection.

Star Milliners in American Fashion - Part 1
by Karan Feder
NSMLV Guest Curator of Costume & Textiles

Milliners are artisans who design and construct headwear; their wares are known as millinery. There was a time in America when it was considered vulgar to leave the house bareheaded. It was a time when hats were vital to the well-dressed woman's wardrobe and those personalities engaged in the business of hat design were admired and celebrated like the motion picture stars of the period.

Hattie Carnegie and Tatiana du Plessix are two star milliners of the early and middle 20th century. Both women were immigrants who settled in America's fashion capital New York City. The designers' bold, made-to-order hat collections were purchased by connoisseurs and promoted by consumer fashion magazines. Their glamorous personal lives were fair game for headlines and their aficionada looked to the designers for style tips and fashion advice. America's fascination with millinery has since waned with star milliners a charm of the past.

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Hattie Carnegie
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Tatiana du Plessix


The costume & textile collection at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas, includes wonderful extant examples from both designers. In this post, we'll take a look at the museum's cartwheel hat from star milliner Miss Hattie Carnegie.


Star Milliner Hattie Carnegie

Hattie Carnegie was a prominent name in American fashion throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s. She was a savvy entrepreneur and invented the model of a "head-to-hem" retail boutique. Her custom salon was established in New York City in the early 20th century and, initially, the store featured Carnegie's collection of made-to-order "gowns and millinery." Later, the designer would offer perfume, cosmetics, handbags, gloves, lingerie, jewelry and even a line of fine Hattie Carnegie chocolates.

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Fashion designer Hattie Carnegie is Life magazine's "Designer of the Year" from 1942 through 1947.
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Hattie Carnegie brand label features a graphic image of the designer’s iconic perfume bottle.

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Hattie Carnegie art deco “head bottle” perfume is fashioned after herself, circa 1937


Carnegie's recurring Vogue magazine column “Vogue Points from Hattie Carnegie” featured style tips and fashion forecasts and served to consistently promote her lifestyle fashion brand.


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A 1938 Vogue magazine cover features a Hattie Carnegie for I. Magnin design.

The illustration depicts a modern spring pant ensemble topped off with a blonde straw cartwheel hat.

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Advertisement in Vogue magazine for the swanky Hattie Carnegie designer salon in New York City, circa 1959.


The museum's jet-color, cartwheel hat features a set-back crown; satin band with bowknot and a large concentrically tiered brim with a 22" diameter. The Hattie Carnegie cartwheel hat is dated circa 1944-1949.

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Hattie Carnegie cartwheel hat, side view
Circa 1944-1949
Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Gift of University of Nevada Barrick Museum

The cartwheel hat comes by its name literally; from above, the hat resembles a cart's wheel.

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Straw cartwheel hat, circa 1950s.
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Hattie Carnegie cartwheel hat, front view
Circa 1944-1949
Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas
Gift of University of Nevada Barrick Museum

The cartwheel-style hat is a very feminine and flattering shape on most women and, as a result, never completely disappears from the fashion runways.

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Illustrated Lilly Daché fashion ad featuring her "Cotton-trimmed cart-wheels" from Vogue magazine, circa 1939
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Miss Audrey Hepburn models a Lilly Daché cartwheel hat, circa 1957

The cartwheel style is often used in film costume design. The hat's oversized brim-shape serves to feature and frame the face, hence the hat's alternative names portrait and picture hat.


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Miss Katherine Hepburn in the 1942 film Woman of the Year sports a gorgeous cartwheel hat.
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Actress Rita Hayworth wears a straw cartwheel in the film You'll Never Get Rich, 1941

The Hattie Carnegie cartwheel hat and hat box are currently on exhibit at the Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas.


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Our Hattie Carnegie cartwheel was donated with its "Carnegie Blue" hat box.