The Mad Hatter – Thaarup hat c1955
Written by Corinne Ball | February 29th, 2016
Curator Amy writes about a stylish hat in our collection
This hat was designed by the Danish-born Aage Thaarup (1906–1987), who moved to London in the 1930s. Thaarup was one of the most successful milliners of his age and his clientele included royalty, society ladies and Hollywood actresses. His fashion shows were memorable, and events such as his surrealist-inspired show in New York in 1936 earned him the title “The Mad Hatter”.
After working in Copenhagen, London, Berlin and Paris, with little career progression or monetary reward, he made the bold move to travel to India. Thaarupp describes the period as “the days when India and Money were synonymous”. He made his name by creating a travelling hat circus, following the society crowd; ensuring ladies had glamourous new hats for each party.
During his career Queen Elizabeth II, the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were all customers. He was granted an official Royal Warrant in 1961. He designed the Queen’s going-away hat for her marriage to Prince Philip and the tricone hat she wore when riding at the Trooping of the Colours. For official engagements, he had to design models that stayed on, co-ordinated with the Queen’s outfits and revealed her face to onlookers and the world’s press.
This hat was worn by Mrs Bruce Roberts, when hats were regarded as the finishing touch to every outfit. A wide choice was available, from large picture hats to tiny, feathered creations that perched on the head, secured only with a hat pin. This hat is made from black felt decorated with black braid and gold sequins. It would have been perfect for cocktail parties and evening events.
We do not know where this hat was purchased but Thaarup’s designs could be bought from Myers Emporium in Adelaide. The designer visited the city several times in the early 1950s. His arrival on 30th January 1954, was much anticipated as ladies vied for the opportunity to purchase one of his designs in time for the Royal visit.
In his reminiscences published in 1956, Thaarup states he learned early in his career “it is always dangerous to sell the wrong hat to a customer”. Seeing this hat today, we can only imagine how fabulous it must have looked on the owner.