‘Dior Hats! From Christian Dior to Stephen Jones’

Seventy years of Haute Couture millinery

Left: Watercolor-enhanced drawing by Christian Dior for the milliner Claude Saint-Cyr, 1937 © Christine Labrune – Right: Starbright straw “bibi” one-off piece made by Stephen Jones after the drawing by Christian Dior, Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019


In his 1954 Little Dictionary of Fashion, Christian Dior wrote: “Without hats there is no civilization.” Today, this famous quote by the French couturier serves as the introduction to Dior Hats! From Christian Dior to Stephen Jones, a feast for the eyes retracing the house of Dior’s seventy-year history of hats through the experience of celebrated British milliner and A Magazine N°12 curator Stephen Jones.

The 240-page tome published by Rizzoli illustrates a new exhibition Dior Hats: The Art of the Hat from Christian Dior to Stephen Jones curated by Florence Müller and Stephen Jones – set to open soon at the Musée Christian Dior in Mr. Dior’s hometown of Granville in Normandy, France. As the only Maison to maintain its own in-house millinery workshops, Dior has a rich and very personal history with hats and hat making. Over the years, the designers who have followed as artistic directors (from Yves Saint Laurent and Marc Bohan to John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri) have all taken inspiration from Mr. Dior’s own love for hats as has Stephen Jones, who has designed Dior millinery in collaboration with the creative directors since 1996.

Small asymmetric cloche in velour felt, Autumn–Winter 1949 Haute Couture collection, Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019.

Rhinestone-studded toque, Autumn–Winter 1990 Haute Couture collection, Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019.

Pleated tulle mask inspired by Peggy Guggenheim, Spring–Summer 2018 Haute Couture collection by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019.

Veiled beret, Autumn–Winter 2019 Haute Couture collection; ‘handkerchief’ veil edged with grosgrain by Maria Grazia Chiuri. Spring–Summer 2018 Haute Couture collection. Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019.

Gelatined silk chiffon hat, Spring–Summer 2009 Haute Couture collection by John Galliano. Dior Héritage collection, Paris. Photograph by Sølve Sundsbø, 2019.

Silk ‘halo of anemones’ hat, Christian Dior–New York, 1964, by Marc Bohan. Photograph by Bert Stern. © Bert Stern/Condé Nast via Getty Images.

Dior Hats! offers unprecedented insight into the quintessential Dior hat styles throughout the years, from Mr. Christian Dior’s very first 1947 collection to today. With written contributions from Florence Müller, Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, Vincent Leret, Dean Rhys Morgan and Alexander Fury, the book tells the stories of Dior from Stephen Jones’ perspective. It contains a multitude of archival images including original Christian Dior sketches – also featured in A Magazine Curated By Stephen Jones – and an exclusive portfolio of new photography by the Norwegian photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

While Christian Dior’s love for hats came at an early age from seeing his mother “always behatted”, Stephen Jones’ calling came while he was still a student at Saint Martin’s School of Art in the punk London of the 1970s. “Hat-making was a dream become reality, and simply very unusual. I knew of many dress designers but no other milliners. Apart from Johnny Rotten in a beret; Her Majesty the Queen, in her crown; and my mother dressed for Ascot, hats were not part of mid-1970s fashion language, and certainly not cool”, he wrote in his ‘Very Personal Introduction’ to the book.

In her own introduction titled ‘A Little History of Hats from 1905 to 1947′, fashion historian Florence Müller places the book’s thematic approach in the context of the early 1900s, when most of the population wore hats. Her words serve as the fitting preamble to Stephen Jones’ own rendering of the Christian Dior hat history, from the birth of the tambourin felt beret to the 1955 tonkinois hat designed to complete the legendary Bar suit. Big hats, one learns in the chapter titled ‘Les Grands’, were often synonymous with dressing up, and gained importance in the hands of Gianfranco Ferré in the early 1990s until becoming defining statements with John Galliano at the dawn of the 2000s.

Christian Dior AW 1948-1949 sketches inside A Magazine N°12 Curated By Stephen Jones (2013)

Christian Dior AW 1947-1948 and AW 1950-1951

Christian Dior SS 1949

Christian Dior AW 1948-1949 and SS 1949

Christian Dior AW 1949-1950

Other main chapters include ‘Les Jardins’, exploring Christian Dior’s early love of flowers to the Lily of the Valley or muguet becoming his House’s symbol, or ‘Les Masculins’, menswear-inspired hats first introduced by Marc Bohan in the 1960s. In one particular chapter titled ‘Les Fêtes’, Stephen Jones retraces Christian Dior’s love for costumes and work for Parisian theatre productions. At the time, his silhouettes were always punctuated by a hat. Today, this love for costume is carried out by Maria Grazia Chiuri, who also incorporated millinery in her designs for the ballet Nuit Blanche at the Teatro Dell’Opera in Rome. Inspired by Mr. Dior’s famous quote, “without the party my dresses have no meaning”, French author Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni tells the story of  ‘Les Catherinettes’, the couture tradition celebrating 25-year-old bachelors and bachelorettes with a green & yellow hat contest that many houses, and Dior in particular, have kept alive over the years.

In these stories, the name of Mizza Bricard, Christian Dior’s friend, muse, and first hat designer, becomes a regular occurence. Her strong influence and captivating persona are decrypted by Dean Rhys Morgan in a dedicated chapter. With words from Vincent Leret, Head of Heritage at Christian Dior Parfums, the book further explores the importance of hats in the making of the Dior beauty advertising visuals, notably with the launch of the first Rouge Dior in the early 1960s. Essentially, Stephen Jones himself summarises the book’s scope: “This book is really not about where Dior hats are coming from, but where they are going to.”

Dior Hats! From Christian Dior to Stephen Jones is now available in a selection of Dior boutiques, bookstores and online here.

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