Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Sally Victor, 1947
Not on view
During the 1930s, '40s and the early '50s, when hats were considered required accessories for well-dressed women, Sally Victor was among the foremost American milliners. Creative and very successful for almost 40 years, Victor began her prolific millinery career in 1927. She was one of the original members of the Edward C. Blum Design Laboratory, and often used the Brooklyn Museum's varied collections to draw inspiration for her designs. She was so connected with the Design Lab that she participated in several collaborative exhibitions and the museum often used her designs in publicity materials to exemplify how the Lab could benefit designers by providing inspiration. Her work is characterized by a special quirkiness that could often be traced back to interesting sources such as Native American tribes, the artist Henri Matisse or Japanese armor. She also combined traditional hat-making materials such as felt and silk with new synthetic materials in unique ways. According to her May 16, 1977 obituary in the "New York Times," Victor described her mission simply as "designing pretty hats that make women look prettier."
Sally Victor was asked to design hats for the Brooklyn Museum's "Inventions for Victory" exhibition in 1942, which featured products made in response to war shortages. The material used here, braided to imitate hair, is Bubblfil, composed of cellophane-wrapped air bubbles and produced by DuPont until 1943. It was developed to replace kapok, a buoyant material extracted from kapok seed pods and imported from Java. Kapok was used in floats and life preservers but also in situations where a shock absorber would be needed. The hat represents the trend in using industrial materials for decorative purposes, spurred on by wartime. Restrictions on materials encouraged innovation in new products that later became commonplace.