Millinery these days is a rather forgotten part of the fashion scene, not every woman wears a hat and when they do, it is only for special occasions. Not too long ago they were once an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe. Famous milliners are far and few between, and except for Stephen Jones and Phillip Treacy, not many of us would be able to name any other milliners of note. It is also surprising that some of the biggest names in fashion such as Chanel and Halston both started off as milliners. In fact Halson started off his career with today’s milliner featured.
The most pre-eminent and famous milliner in the America’s from the 1930s through to the late 1960s was not even an American. Lilly Dache originally from France immigrated to America around 1924. Apparently arriving with very little money (hey don’t most immigrants), she embarked on a career which would see her become the most famous milliner in the America’s and if not the world for her time.
Her major contributions to millinery were draped turbans, brimmed hats molded to the head, half hats, visored caps for war workers, colored snoods, and romantic massed-flower shapes. By 1949, she was designing dresses to go with her hats, as well as lingerie, loungewear, gloves, hosiery, perfumes, cosmetics and a wired strapless bra.
Using her name as inspiration one of her fragrances was named Dashing and a later line of pret a porter hats marketed towards the young called Dachettes.
If anything a hat by Dache was distinctive. Never one to shy away from creating an impact, her hats were dramatic and were the final accessory to a woman’s wardrobe. Ideally, she believed that each hat should be custom fit for the woman and the occasion- It needed to enhance the wearer’s physical features, so size, style, and fit were important; but the hat also needed to show off each woman s personality and inner beauty.
Daché is reported to have said, "Glamour is what makes a man ask for your telephone number. But it also is what makes a woman ask for the name of your dressmaker."
Like Helena Rubinstein in later years Daché would often conduct business from her bed, "dictating letters, buying supplies, designing, and interviewing employees while wrapped in a leopard-skin rug." Occasionally meetings were held in her bathroom, where Daché would give orders from a deep bubble bath.
At her Salon in New York brunette clients were guided to a fitting room decorated in shimmering silver while blonde clients were ushered into a dressing room of gleaming gold. Wholesalers were treated to a circular room swathed in tufted pink satin. Bells adorned Daché's leopard-skin slippers, perhaps "to warn her girls of her approach, a job later undertaken by her armful of jingling bangles."
Daché retired in 1968, and her New York millinery business was taken over by her daughter Suzanne Daché.
"I like beautiful shoes in gay colors, with thick platforms and high heels. I like splashy jewelry that clinks when I walk, and I like my earrings big. I am Lilly Daché, milliner de luxe."