Hat and muff, 1915. Silk taffeta, lace, silk, fur. Gift of the von Stade family, 1982-4.651ab
Theatre and movies exerted a strong influence on fashion. This bridesmaid set features a woman’s broad-brimmed hat in a form thought to resemble those shown in portraits by Thomas Gainsborough, the English artist (1727–88). This popular 18th century style was brought back into fashion by Lucile (1863–1935), British couturière, who designed the costumes made famous by English actress Lily Elsie in her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehar’s operetta, The Merry Widow, in 1907.
Lucile is also widely credited with training the first professional fashion models (called mannequins) as well as staging the first runway or “catwalk” style shows. These affairs were theatrically inspired, invitation-only, tea-time presentations, complete with a stage, curtains, mood-setting lighting, music from a string band, souvenir gifts, and programs.
The fur trim and inclusion of a muff suggests this ensemble was used as bridesmaid’s attire for a winter wedding.