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08-06-2007
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She is definately one of the most, if not the most, inspiring designers of all time for me. I have a cut out doll book of some of her and other 30s designers designs, maybe I'll try have a scanner.

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Originally Posted by Scott View Post
i adore this lady's work so much. whilst everybody talks of Chanel(who was a rival indeed)i think elsa surpassed her when it came to creativity. i have alot of respect for both,equally,but i think think it was she that was much more inspiring. she was a magician.
/\ I absolutely agree and think the critical article makes some good points but actually what the critic is missing is that without her designs being arguably (although I don't think so) saturated by their wit, they wouldn't be such stable building blocks for designers of the future to have taken influence from. Her work was such an open forum of experimentation that designers can use her influence subtly and perhaps with more so-called "elegance" than she, according to the article, lacked.

Although I think thats trough as I am absolutely 100% I have seen a huge collection of quite conventional but phenomenomally cleverly shaped dresses, I'll have to look.

I'm sure people will have heard this before (and sorry if someones posted it within an article, I don't have time to read them all) but theres an anecdote about the famous Salvador Dali-collaborated lobster dress. Apparently on completion, Dali wanted to put mayonaisse on the lobster but Schiaparelli refused as the silk was too beautiful or something. (If she had wanted to make art, surely this wouldn't have been the case)

I also have a little drawing somewhere from a fashion annual of the time or something, will have to find out, with the caption "Why should madame be scared when Schiaparelli isn't?"

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08-06-2007
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Jean Paul Gaultier's take on the skeleton dress...


from his Fall/Winter 06.07 Couture show.

Source: thecelebritycity.com

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11-06-2007
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Forgive me for sounding like I'm reading from a cue card, but viewing this thread makes me realize how much I appreciate her contributions to the world of fashion. Also, those 'shocking pink', striped ankle boots on the previous page match my image of perfection.

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15-06-2007
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here's a pic of her, predating Prada's designer-turban look by decades..
(source: style.com)
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Last edited by eugenius; 15-06-2007 at 09:51 AM.
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15-06-2007
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and the accompanying article from style.com..rather lengthy, but a good read nonetheless..

......


A friend of mine once met the great couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, and the experience was shocking. The Italian-born, Paris-based designer was close to 60 at the time, and my friend an impressionable American girl. They were guests at a dinner party given by Prince Aly Khan at Le Pré Catelan, the grand luxe restaurant in the Bois de Boulogne. My friend has never forgotten the sight of what she thought was one of Schiaparelli's breasts, quite naked. In fact that breast was a trompe l'oeil, a visual trick. The designer was wearing a dress with a fake bare breast made of fabric. This was probably in 1949, when one of that year's collections included an evening gown called Forbidden Fruit, a less radical version of the same conception.

“I have never been shy of appearing in public in the most fantastic and personal get-up,” Schiaparelli wrote in Shocking Life, her autobiography. In the early thirties, she had the hairdresser Antoine make a curled silver wig especially for her to wear while skiing. In the late twenties and thirties, when her career was at its height, she was seen at all the most fashionable Parisian gatherings. She adored costume balls and once came dressed as a carrot. She created a sensation, at various times, with great puffs of monkey fur or ruffs of heron feathers; gloves with appliquééd fingernails or iguana-like ruffles; and hilarious hats that dove noseward, sprouted skyward, or shrank to doll size in a continuous stream of wit and invention. She alone was brave enough to wear the most notorious of all the hats she conjured up—the headpiece shaped like a lamb chop.
That lamb chop and the not-naked breast reflected the lasting influence of Dada and Surrealism, which she had first encountered during World War I, when she was living in Greenwich Village. Man Ray photographed her early on, leaning her cheek (with its beauty spots configured like the constellation Ursa Major, or Great Bear) against a hand and an arm that were not her own but a plaster cast of a hand and an arm. In the world of the Surrealists, the familiar became strange and dreamlike. The breast was not a breast, the hand was not a hand—any more than Magritte's painting of his pipe was a pipe, Oppenheim's fur-covered cup and saucer was a teacup, or Dalí's “lobster telephone” was either a phone or a lobster.
“She was bigger than life in the way she saw things and expressed things,” says her granddaughter, the actress Marisa Berenson. “She was full of ideas. She had tremendous imagination and fantasy about everything, including her own life. Most great artists have that.” Balenciaga said she was the only true artist in the couture; Yves Saint Laurent adored and admired her and likened her to a barbarian empress. Coco Chanel, her rival, tried to dismiss her as “that Italian artist who is making clothes,” but Schiaparelli was content not to be seen as a mere dressmaker. She said she might have been a writer or a sculptor. She was also a brilliant and painterly colorist, creating not just the magenta-like shocking Pink with which her name is associated but subtle, striking combinations. It is often said, too, that she used black as a color. From her youth on, she drew strength from being part of a community of artists. She felt understood by them, she said, and supported “beyond the crude and boring reality of merely making a dress to sell.”
Her career rose meteorically from 1927, when she designed a black-and-white sweater with a bowknot design, to the collections just before World War II, a series of masterly, pyrotechnic variations on the theme of the circus, Botticelli springtime, the Zodiac, the commedia dell'arte, and music. Her perfect pitch when it came to dressing women in a fast-changing era (tailored and invulnerable by day, sensual and assertive by night), combined with promotional and marketing genius, meant that she succeeded in spite of the Depression. She grew rich enough to collect paintings by friends and give work to artists who might otherwise have struggled. She commissioned Giacometti to design the ashtrays for her Place Vendôme salon, which, like her homes, was designed by Jean-Michel Frank. She bought paintings by Vertès and Christian Bérard, and they did artwork to promote her clothes and her perfumes. Her collaborators were of a very high order: Jean Cocteau sketched designs, including a profile of a woman's face on one shoulder of a jacket, with long golden hair flowing down the sleeve. Like many magnificent embroideries, this was executed for her by the house of Lesage. Jean Schlumberger made jewelry, and Léonor Fini, an artist known for her erotica, modeled the bottle for the perfume Shocking after Mae West's curvaceous figure.
The outrageous Salvador Dalí worked with Schiaparelli on the phallic-symbolical hat shaped like a high-heeled shoe; the jacket pockets shaped like bureau drawers or with embroidered lips that resembled labia; and the print of flayed flesh, after his painting Necrophiliac Springtime. Another of his lobster designs turned up, startlingly, on the skirt of an otherwise romantic white organza evening gown. This was one of eighteen Schiaparellis bought by Mrs. Simpson just before she married the duke of Windsor. Cecil Beaton photographed her in the dress for Vogue, saying the effect would soften her public image. Waggish ornamental details were a psychic safety valve in darkening times and a source of great publicity. (Early on the designer had hired a creative American publicity agent called Hortense MacDonald.) But they were really a minor part of the Schiaparelli genius. She was often called a carpenter or an architect of clothes. A New Yorker profile of 1932 said there was an “unEuropean modernity” about her style, and “a special applicability to a background of square-shouldered skyscrapers.” Dalí once favorably compared Bettina Bergery, another of the American women in the inner circle at the Place Vendôme, to a praying mantis. There was something sharp and angular about the ideal Schiaparelli clotheshorse, a type well known at the time as the “Schiaparelli lady.” If her shoulder blades and her hipbones stuck out, so much the better.

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part 2..


Schiaparelli was tiny—barely five feet tall—and her clothes looked best on petite, slender, dark-haired women like herself. Dilys Blum, curator of the splendid retrospective of Schiaparelli at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, says the female characters dressed by Schiaparelli in plays and movies were often divorcees, “man-eaters,” and women expressing a newfound independence: “women who knew what they wanted and went after it.” And they were more likely to have transformed themselves into women of style than to have been born beauties. In addition to the moles on her cheek, Schiaparelli had a long, strong-featured face, with heavy-lidded eyes. She believed herself to be plain, if not ugly. Like her, the private clients who exemplified her “hard chic” look were often jolies laides. If they turned heads at the Ritz or people stood on chairs to see them at Longchamps, it was because they had willed it. Through diet, discipline, and attention to self-presentation, the lady mastered fate.
Elsa Luisa Maria Schiaparelli was born in Rome in 1890, into a world of enormous privilege that she ran from because it suffocated her. Even being christened Elsa, she was to say, was a disappointment that represented “the beginning of her struggle.” Later she invited her friends—even Marisa and her sister, Berinthia, when they were tiny—to call her by the androgynous “Schiap” (pronounced Skap). She was a late child of her parents—a mother from a family of extroverted, adventurous, and superstitious Neapolitan nobility, and a father from a line of distinguished Piedmontese scholars and intellectuals. (Schiap herself was described as the most intelligent woman who ever designed clothes.) She was born in the Palazzo Corsini, a grand Renaissance pile that had sheltered Erasmus, Michelangelo, and Queen Christina of Sweden at various times.
Her father, Celestino, was the director of the Lincei Library and a friend of King Victor Emmanuel, with whom he shared a passion for numismatics. He was a formidable scholar who translated from ancient Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit texts. He took his young daughter on a trip to Tunisia once. Years later, as a successful, thoroughly modern female entrepreneur, she would buy a house there, in Hammamet. Her uncle Giovanni was a world-renowned astronomer who created a furor by discovering on the surface of Mars the canali, or channels, that were thought to be proof of intelligent life. He was kindly enough to tell his small, thin, odd-looking little niece that her Great Bear birthmarks would bring her good luck. She reproduced the constellation on the chairs in her salon, on embroideries and prints, and on a diamond brooch she often wore.
Her mother, aunt, and much older sister were all considered great beauties, and her mother pointedly told Elsa that she was not. She sensed that her parents' world was rigid and repressed. (Her father didn't want her mother to attend court functions, because ladies there wore low-necked gowns.) Schiap was, Marisa says, “a rebellious spirit.” She wrote and published a book of poetry, of which her father disapproved. A CBS reporter once asked her where she had got the energy to do all she had done. “Goat's milk!” she shot back. (“She never drank goat's milk in her life!” Marisa says with a laugh.) Schiap left stuffy, provincial old Rome like a self-ignited rocket, going briefly to Paris and then to London. While there she attended a lecture on Theosophy, delivered in French by Count Wilhelm Wendt de Kerlor. He was a young man with good looks, great appeal to women, a long lineage in the Breton and Polish aristocracy, and psychic gifts (he foresaw the sinking of the Titanic), but no money. No sooner had he met Schiap than they became engaged. Her elderly parents rushed across Europe to prevent the wedding, but they were too late. When she and her new husband came back from the registry office, Schiap said, no fewer than seven mirrors in the house had cracked.
It was 1914, and all the youths of London except the bridegroom were in army uniform. The young count and countess, living on her small dowry, fled first to Nice and then, in 1916, to New York. On the crossing they met Gabrielle, the wife of the Dadaist artist Francis Picabia, but even without the Picabias' introductions they would probably have found themselves in the artistic community of Greenwich Village, a hotbed of radical ideas. They lived in the Brevoort Hotel and fell in with the circle around Marcel Duchamp and Alfred Stieglitz, through whom they met photographers like de Meyer, Steichen, and Man Ray. Unfortunately it seemed that the Village ethos of free love turned the head of the handsome Theosophist. It may have been his affair with Isadora Duncan that proved the last straw. The couple were already separated when Schiap gave birth to her only child—a daughter christened Maria Luisa Yvonne Radha but always known as Gogo. In later life Schiap never spoke about the wayward count. “That was a taboo subject with us,” says Marisa, who grew up seeing a lot of her grandmother and shared her town house in the rue de Berri in the last years of her life. “She had tremendous dignity and didn't like to share her emotions. She never talked about personal things or her private life. There was a lot that people didn't know, even those closest to her. I don't even think my mother had intimate conversations with her.” Her biographer, Palmer White, said that Schiap's self-mastery was so complete that she never smiled except when she had “time, commercial need, or in the company of her daughter and granddaughters.”
When Schiap found herself in a foreign land, nearly penniless, she pulled herself together, took a tiny flat in Patchin Place, and found odd jobs to support herself and her child. She sent her baby away to be taken care of in the countryside. When, in Shocking Life, she wrote as much as she wished to be known about her life, she put her more daring revelations in the third person. “Sorrow and loss [Schiap] readily accepts,” she wrote. “But she does not know how to deal with happiness. . . . If she is charming, she can also be the most hateful person in the world.” If she viewed herself with such detachment, it is perhaps not surprising that Gogo (whom she adored) would be kept at arm's length. When, after going to Cuba as companion to a wealthy but untalented Polish soprano, she returned to New York, she found that little Gogo wasn't walking properly. It turned out she had infantile paralysis. Ahead for the child would be many years of casts, crutches, expensive and painful treatments, and lengthy separations from her mother. “My mother didn't have an easy childhood,” Marisa says. In 1922 Schiap leaped at a chance to go to Paris and make a fresh start there. “Poverty forced me to work,” she said. “Paris gave me a liking for it, and courage.” Paul Poiret took a shine to her and gave her clothes to wear at the Ritz or the artists' hangout le Boeuf sur le Toit. Her life in America—which lasted longer than she later admitted because she had lopped six years off her official age—gave her an easy rapport with the expatriate Americans who dominated Parisian social life before the stock-market crash of 1929. Schiaparelli's genius—a deep-rooted European sensibility and cultural reference, combined with a zest for America's active lifestyle and love of novelty and speed—was exactly right for her times. She loved to be in motion herself. (CBS asked her how much of each year she spent at home in the rue de Berri. “Quite enough,” she said.) Whenever the modern world expressed itself, in the construction of the Empire State Building, the launch of Pan Am's first transatlantic clippers or of the liner the S.S. Normandie, the event inspired her collections. “If you define fashion as time moving (and that is what it is),” she wrote, “then you are not fully alive unless you are moving with it.” When the women aviators Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart made their pioneering solo flights, they flew as Schiaparelli ladies from head to toe, even to their hats and evening gowns. Johnson stepped out of her plane in a special divided skirt and a blouse made from a fabric printed with a design of Schiaparelli's own press clippings.

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part 3

....


The need to guard a secret, private self seems to have come naturally to this complex character—just as naturally as attracting attention with her fake breast or the lamb chop on her head. The shy, secret self was buried ever deeper as she worked consciously at becoming an international celebrity. (She expressed her admiration for Garbo because of the way she guarded her privacy.) She could draw on the talents of her artist friends and on the skilled seamstresses, cutters, and finishers then still working in the tens of thousands in the couture industry. But she was ahead of many in understanding that success as a designer was not just about design or craft but about promoting herself as a brand name.
She and what is recognizably the modern fashion world grew up together. She created the first designer boutique and worked with fabric houses on innovative synthetics. (Diana Vreeland sent one of her dresses to the dry cleaner's and was devastated when it dissolved completely in the solvents.) The great photographers Schiap had first met in New York were all working for the increasingly powerful Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, whose editors wore and wrote up her clothes from the days of her first sweater. The house of Schiaparelli worked closely with them and with American department-store buyers and manufacturers. America produced enthusiastic copies of her couture. Sometimes these were of high quality, made with permission and under financial arrangement. Sometimes the copies of her work were cut-price rip-offs that she tolerated with equanimity, knowing there were more ideas where those came from. When her hat design called the “mad cap,” a great favorite of the young Katharine Hepburn, was reproduced in the millions, she simply ordered her staff to stop selling the originals.
She was Italian, a naturalized French citizen, but a large part of her house's income would derive from America. (She had a shop in London but closed it in part because her titled clients would never pay their bills.) She became adept at getting her name out without having to pay for advertising. The bold loops and curves of her signature appeared everywhere; she endorsed everything from Pond's cold cream and Selby arch-preserver shoes to Sealy mattresses and Oneida silverware. She sold licenses for shoes, hosiery, fabrics, and Formfit lingerie. (After her death in 1973, the signature, picked out in gold, would be written on her tombstone.)
The greatest flowering of her creativity was at the very end of the thirties, when fashionable Paris whirled in a faster and faster round of parties. That world ended abruptly with the German Occupation. Chanel closed her couture house and became the mistress of a German officer. Schiaparelli kept her house open with a skeleton staff but was persuaded to leave and ended by spending the war years in America. In 1940 she embarked on a lecture tour to promote the supremacy of Paris fashion. She was so famous that approximately 25,000 people turned out to hear her in St. Paul. In Texas, Neiman Marcus greeted the arrival of her airplane with an Eiffel Tower of shocking Pink roses. For this tour she developed what became her famous “twelve commandments for women,” including the paradoxical injunction that they should take a man along when choosing clothes because men understood simplicity better. She was living in ways unimaginable to her grandmother or her mother. But like many outstandingly liberated women of her generation, she had mixed feelings about feminism.
She never remarried. “Many men admire strong women,” she wrote from the vantage point of her 60s. “But they do not love them. Some women have achieved a combination of strength and tenderness, but most of those who have walked alone have lost their happiness.” Her daughter, Gogo, married twice: first, during the war, to the American Robert Lawrence “Berri” Berenson, and secondly to a titled Italian. Marisa and Berinthia, known as “Berry,” were born in 1947 and 1948. Berry grew up to become a photographer and an actor, and she married the actor Anthony Perkins, who subsequently died of AIDS. The couple had two sons, Osgood and Elvis. Berry Berenson Perkins died on September 11, 2001, a passenger on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center.
After the war Schiap returned to Paris and tried to take up the reins of the couture house, but her time had passed. The clients and the skilled labor had scattered, and fabric was hard to find. Then came Dior with his flower-shaped New Look, which she, ever the modernist, dismissed as retrograde. In order to avoid bankruptcy, she was obliged to close her house in 1954—the year, ironically enough, that Chanel began her triumphant return. Marisa Berenson says her grandmother was too proud to lament. But the old rebel grew gradually more conservative. She was not at all supportive of her granddaughters' careers. “She had a strong, hard personality,” Marisa says. “She was a challenging grandmother. She was horrified and upset with me all the time. She wanted me to marry someone from a good family and settle down. She looked at me when I was going out in miniskirts and outrageous outfits and said, “'You're not going out like that?'”
There is a photograph of Marisa and Berinthia when they were little girls in white dresses in the dining room of their grandmother's grand, fantastically luxurious house. They are standing beside a large birdcage. It was an empire piece, priceless and fragile. “We loved that birdcage. We weren't allowed to touch it much,” Marisa says. Indeed the children are not playing with it, exactly, but encountering it—reverently, pensively, almost fearfully, as if dreaming. Schiaparelli was fascinated by cages. She had Frank build one in the Place Vendme to display her perfume line. Of all the paintings in her collection, she particularly treasured a Picasso. It depicted a cage with two birds—a white dove, dismally imprisoned, and a raven-like black bird, angrily fighting its way up and out. She saw in this picture a portrait of herself. In the photograph of the birdcage, the angelic-looking little Berry is standing by the opened door with the bird she has removed from its perch. She is holding it upside down, with its claws in the air, and apparently puzzling over the discovery that it is not a real one. "Simply Shocking" by Kennedy Fraser has been edited for Style.com; the complete story appears in the October 2003 issue of Vogue.

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16-06-2007
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1939 Shocking pink silk satin evening jecket with pale lavender, black and green vertical stripes. The front and sleeves are embroidered in silk and colored metallic thread in a trompe l'oeil morning glory design. 12 pink plastic and blue metal buttons, pink China silk lining. Label: Schiaparelli 21 Place Vendome, Paris, Hiver 1939-1940, and an inked linen tape under label "F1100."


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1940s Opera Coat. The fabric is heavily faded (but not fragile or split) though you can see the original color in the pleats. It has amazing patterns: suns, florals, lions. There is rose-colored cording with overwoven braided metallic cord details. There are 4 fabric covered buttons with gold-tone metal frames down the front (though two buttons are off the coat). It is lined in a purple fabric. The lining has some tiny holes; cannot be seen while worn. The fabric has spots, faded areas, stains and holes by the sleeve area. The coat has side pockets. The measurements are: Bust is 34". Waist is 26". Sleeve length is 24 1/2". Length is 59 1/2". Shoulder to shoulder is 13". It has a Schiaparelli couture label.


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Photo of Marlene Dietrich wearing the identical Schiaparelli coat, supposedly from the black & white movie Shanghai Express.


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07-07-2007
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1937 - This evening ensemble consists of an long evening coat and a stole entirely made of plaited gilt braid. The evening coat is slightly fitted at the waist and has wide sleeves, tapering at cuffs. The stole in the shape of a short cape, tapering slightly at the ends.

The evening coat is a stunning example of designer Elsa Schiaparelli's experimenting with unusual fabrics and substances, never before connected with women's clothes. Schiaparelli viewed clothing as a type of architecture and believed it should have a strict neatness, with angles replacing feminine curves. This ensemble shows how Schiaparelli excelled in conjuring striking eveningwear with modern, forceful lines and a stylised simplicity.


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1939 - This long evening coat made of red grosgrain was designed by Elsa Schiaparelli for her 1939 Summer collection. It is floor length with a straight front and wide self-faced edges, and has a narrow band collar and wide straight sleeves and padded shoulders. The back of the coat is fitted as far as the waist where it becomes a wide inverted pleat extending into a train. A button, with a small mother of pearl flower centre, is stitched at the top of the pleat. Half way down the train is a 'fleur de lys'-shaped loop, which when attached to the button, holds the train up to give a bustle effect.

This coat is an example of the historicism which prevailed in fashion at the end of the 1930s, when fashion designers reinterprated the shapes of the leg-of-mutton shoulders and bustles of the 1880s. For Schiaparelli, cut was of paramount importance and her silhouettes were frequently described as having a strict neatness with angles replacing feminine curves. This evening coat, almost like a cardinal's robe, displays modern and forceful lines and a stylised simplicity. It is a striking example of Schiaparelli's calculated and balanced extravagance.




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09-07-2007
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A couple of years ago I bought this cardigan in a vintage shop. The label says 'Schiaparelli' and the saleswoman said it was an original piece from the 50's. It has small crystals which you can't see very well in the pic because I'm a bad photographer and they turned out dark. Does anybody recognize this particular label? I just hope it's the real thing
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12-07-2007
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Schiaparelli Evening Jacket

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19-07-2007
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That piece in #70 is absolutely gorgeous!

Thanks for posting!

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21-07-2007
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This ingenious hat can be worn 4 different ways with or without rim and with or without bow.












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