Magical millinery? Thank Mad Men

By Jan Shure, September 3, 2010
Trilby, Whiteley, £69; tweed jacket, £299 and silk camisole, £169, Tara Jarmon; all Fenwick, W1

Trilby, Whiteley, £69; tweed jacket, £299 and silk camisole, £169, Tara Jarmon; all Fenwick, W1

It is impossible to ignore the influence that the 1950s and early 60s are currently exerting on trends - big skirts, wide, waist-cinching belts, capes, hairbands, below-the-knee pencil skirts, soft blouses, nipped-waist jackets... Miuccia Prada may claim never to have seen Mad Men, but even if that is true (and the entire run has been shown on RAI's Channel 4, so surely she must have sneaked a peek, even if only in un momento debole, and been transfixed by the immaculately groomed Betty Draper and the gloriously curvy Joan Holloway), she has been a key player in taking the trends from half a century ago and translating them into perfectly wearable and desirable pieces for this autumn.

In doing so, she has (together with Mark Jacobs, John Galliano, et al) helped revive a period that, even a year ago, seemed so irredeemably unhip (teenagers hadn't been invented, girls went straight from dressing like, well, little girls to dressing like their mothers) that the notion that the clothing of the era could be cool would have been an offence leading to arrest by the style police.

And nowhere have those influences taken a grip as strongly as in what we will be wearing on our heads for synagogue this yomtov.

The millinery department of a store like Fenwick, Bond Street, where they have just removed the dust covers after a basement-to-roof renovation which has transformed it into a dazzlingly ritzy amalgam of Bergdorf Goodman and Colette, is awash with gorgeously on-trend hats which mainline the 50s and 60s. There are Jackie O pillboxes, stunning little head-hugging feather numbers, tall busby-like fake fur hats which could have been made for Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, and those hard-to-wear, head-hugging hats that sit like super-wide headbands and come to a point above each ear - instantly familiar from 1950s images of a newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth in a Dior New Look-inspired fitted, big-skirted coat.

The prodigiously talented, Knightsbridge-based milliner Gabriela Ligenza has embraced the era - indeed, she was ahead of the curve. Several of her hats which the JC photographed for spring/summer were decidedly of the 1950s and early 60s, and for autumn she has reprised her enchanting saucer hat, this time in leopard print. Her collection also features a witty definitively late 50s/early 60s, turban in rich damson.

Gina Foster, another clever London-based milliner with an exquisite little hat shop on Kensington Church Walk (as well as a website), also has a collection of adorably nostalgic hats and fascinators, many of them particularly appropriate for stylish mothers-of-the-bride (and the brides themselves) as well as for synagogue and special occasions.

Another young milliner is the Royal College of Art-trained Nerida Fraiman, who also specialises in occasion hats. Although - like Foster's designs - some are more suited to weddings, they cover enough of the head to be appropriate for synagogue wear, too. Fraiman, who is Jewish, worked with Philip Treacy for two years. Her hats are available at Harrods, Peter Jones, John Lewis and Selfridges.

If you are beginning to feel a little concerned that the new season's hats may require you to take an evening class in fashion styling or hire a personal stylist, be reassured, there are also lots of hats around for those who prefer a more laid-back approach.

Best news on this front is that this is the season of the trilby. There are the more formal ones, like the patent-trim mushroom one by Whiteley that we photographed, as well as less formal ones which are endlessly versatile, meaning they can be perfectly smart when worn for shul with a little dress by Vanessa Bruno or James Lakeland, and artlessly casual when worn with jeans when it gets icy.

It is also the season of the beret. Almost killed off as a style item by Frank Spencer of Some Mothers do ave em they were rescued from the brink of extinction by Sarah Jessica Parker in SATC, and are currently everywhere.

Perfect when styled up with velvet ribbon (as in the one by Gina Foster, pictured), or with bows or appliqué flowers by Helene Berman, they are the perfect option if you crave simplicity. Wear it SJP-style, pulled down on your forehead, and team with a gorgeous jacket for shul, or with anything you like for chilly winter days.

And if you need help finding a hat to suit you, Fenwick Brent Cross is offering a free, pre-yomtov hat advice service. (Book at 020 8732 8191.)

Last updated: 2:18pm, September 3 2010