Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review - Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat


Patricia Underwood: The Way You Wear Your Hat

By: Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle
Publisher: Rizzoli
Publication Date: April 2015
ISBN: 978-0847844784
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: June 21, 2015

I’ll be the first one to admit it – I like hats, but I’m certainly not knowledgeable about various styles, histories, and the role of hats in the evolution of fashion. But after reading this beautiful book about Patricia Underwood, THE milliner who set the standard for all others to follow, I have a new love and appreciation for hats and the fun, and yes, important, role they play in creating the perfect ensemble.

The book opens with a forward by Isaac Mizrahi, in which the famed designer gives us a peek into the life of Patricia Underwood. He talks about how Underwood turned an often overlooked accessory into an important part of any outfit. Truly, the hat, under Underwood’s skillful eye, became the part that ‘finished’ an ensemble. And Underwood believed that a hat couldn’t be just pretty, it had to “look good and function.”

An interesting biography by Doria de la Chapelle accompanied by photos of Underwood, her family, business partners as well as early models sporting Underwood creations follows. We read about the milliner’s early challenges, entering a field that, at the time, seemed to be dying out. After all, who in the early 70s was thinking about hats? This was a time when “A hat was about the last thing a girl thought to wear with her long peasant dresses and shag haircut.” (pg. 28) Underwood certainly had her work cut out for her!

Not one to give up, Underwood’s hats gradually found their way into iconic New York fashion stores such as Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, and the milliner’s hard work began to pay off. Unlike so many of her competitors, Underwood’s hats were “...both an artistic and a functional endeavor, a balance that demands the combination of fine materials and flawless construction.” (pg. 25)

The bulk of this visual treat of a book is Underwood’s portfolio – page after page of beautiful images of models showcasing the many creations of Patricia Underwood. Some are in color, others in black and white, and there’s no doubt you will find many within these pages that you absolutely love. At the back of the book is a ‘hats off’ tribute to some of those people who ran the business that is Patricia Underwood, along with a four page history/explanation of Underwood’s favorite hats. Overall, I have to say that this book was the most fun to review in a very long time – what a great way to spend time – ogling beautiful hats and learning the history behind them. Thank you, Ms. Underwood, for creating such gorgeous hats that those of us out in the ‘real world’ can enjoy!

Quill says: Stunning, gorgeous, informative – this is far more than a coffee table book to decorate your favorite room. There’s no doubt that after reading this book, you’ll have a new appreciation for the role of ‘The Hat’ in that perfect outfit.