Thursday, March 27, 2008

Helmet Hair

Do you know Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust?

One of my favorite characters in it is Mrs. Rattery, “the shameless blonde” (surprisingly played by the very dark Anjelica Huston in the film), who literally swoops into the book via her self-piloted twin-seated airplane.

She’s the rare American in Waugh’s aristocratic English world, and she brings to the novel a touch of “can-do” attitude (she flies her own plane, helps carpenters about the estate), a sobering dose of fortune (she represents the randomness of good and bad luck), and a happy measure of fashion.

For as any good pilot would, Mrs. Rattery wears a leather flying cap, which happens to be one of my favorite hat models. Although this style of hat does wreak havoc on one’s hair (I’d like to have one custom made with a hole for my top-knot), it is, I think, very, very chic in a rugged, adventuresome way.

Consider the flying cap pictured above: It’s one that was made for Amelia Earhart, and one that Amelia gave to her dear female friend as a souvenir. (It was recently auctioned off for some $16,000.) Imagine how smart it would look with a long Cossack coat, equally long hair flowing from beneath those leather flaps.

I think the trick to making this cap work is to mix it with a feminine but strong piece. Then the two balance each other nicely and engage in a dialogue, rather than a cage match.

In New York there’s a tiny hat shop by the old Joel Name location, right at the street (Houston) that separates the Village from SoHo. I found two leather flying caps there—one black, the other brown, and was sorely tempted, but thought them a tad too military. (I’ll keep looking for one that has a more civilian vibe.)

I also love the idea of a helmet hat—if done right. Some boiled wool helmets can venture too far into elf territory, and I for one don’t want to look like one of Santa’s helpers when out and about.
But done right, the effect can be that of a medieval maiden warrior, again with a winning balance of femininity and strength. Here are a couple of hats by Angelika Klose that come—ahem—close to my style. I’d want some more subtle colors, though, and might add a strong (that word again!) sparkly brooch for effect.

I’ve also written about hats here, if you want to take a peek.


Anonymous said...

I've never read A Handful of Dust. Sounds good. I understand your attraction to this look. I especially like your image of wearing a long Cossack coat "with equally long hair flowing from beneath..." and your wanting one with a hole on top for your top knot! Speaking of hair are you still loving your Bergdorf Blonde? I hope that doesn't ruin anything for you, your Natalie Barney was so much more sophisticated a model.

miss cavendish said...

Ha! Bergdorf (dark golden) Blonde indeed. I used to enjoy Plum Sykes' witty columns in Vogue, but her fiction is pure product-placement fluff. Give me Waugh any day!

enc said...

A cool idea. My fine hair would welcome such a thing. I'd have to cut it all off into a precision bob, though, to support the look.

I like it!

Thumbelina Fashionista said...

I could never pull off a hat like that successfully, but I admire those who can. There's a feminine fierceness in it.

Tessa Pugh said...

Am in the midst of an Evelyn Waugh read-a-thon at the moment. I just found in a collection of short stories the alternate ending for "A Handful of Dust." It's just what you think it would be.
ta-ta, Tessa

riz said...

Dying to read Waugh! If I ever start a book club you have to join! (Well you don't have to, but i am so smitten with your taste for literature + art)

Mary-Laure said...

Hola from Uruguay!

I love hats and have to say this helmet is terrific.
I only read Vile Bodies by Waugh and didn't really love it much - I much preferred the works of his best friend, Nancy Mitford. However I'm always eager to give an author a second chance to I'll try the novel you recommend.
Literature is my no.1 obsession so I love getting good book recommendations. Thanks!

Iheartfashion said...

LOVE the hats! I used to fly planes and always longed to wear an old-fashioned Amelia Earhart-style leather aviator helmet.