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Costume

1930s (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Like many designers, Oliver Messel was fascinated by costume and crafts. He collected items not particularly because he was researching for a specific production, but simply because they took his fancy.

This hat was possibly worn by Messel's mother, or, more likely, his sister. Why he kept it is unknown, but many society families kept costumes for use in private theatricals or charades and notes on some of the non-theatrical Messel costumes indicate that he too had a 'dressing up' box in which useful items were kept.

Oliver Messel (1904-1978) was Britain's leading theatre designer from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, working in every aspect of entertainment - ballet, drama, film, musical, opera and revue - as well as in interior decoration and textile design. His lavish, painterly and romantic designs informed by period styles, were perfectly in tune with his times and earned him an international reputation. By 1960, however, Messel's style had become unfashionable, having no sympathy with the new 'kitchen sink' school of theatre. He increasingly concentrated on his non-theatrical painting and designing and eventually retired to the Caribbean, where he began a new career designing and building highly idiosyncratic luxury villas.


Object details

Categories
Object type
Materials and techniques
staw, satin ribbon, cotton and velvet flowers, paper, wire
Brief description
Red straw hat trimmed with pink flowers, foliage and red ribbons, 1930s. Oliver Messel Collection
Physical description
Hat of fine red straw with narrow brim and low crown, depressed at the centre. At the front are sprays of pink cotton and magenta velvet, with green cotton stems and green paper wired leaves. Around the rest of the hat is a swathe of red satin ribbon, finishing to either side of the sprays with red satin ribbon loops. Inside the crown is a band of petersham to which is fixed a band of dark brown satin.
Marks and inscriptions
court milliner slo 8828 / rose rose / 30, lowndes st. belgrave sq. S.W.1. (trade label)
Credit line
Acquired with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Art Fund and the Friends of the V&A
Object history
This hat belongs to Messel's collection of costume artefacts, which he acquired mostly out of interest in dress and crafts, not because he was necessarily researching a for a particular production. It might have been worn by his mother or, more likely, his sister, before being assigned to the 'dressing up' box.
Lord Snowdon, Oliver Messel's nephew, inherited Messel's theatre designs and other designs and artefacts. The designs were briefly stored in a disused chapel in Kensington Palace before being housed at the V&A from 1981 on indefinite loan. The V&A Theatre Museum purchased the Oliver Messel collection from Lord Snowdon in 2005.
Summary
Like many designers, Oliver Messel was fascinated by costume and crafts. He collected items not particularly because he was researching for a specific production, but simply because they took his fancy.

This hat was possibly worn by Messel's mother, or, more likely, his sister. Why he kept it is unknown, but many society families kept costumes for use in private theatricals or charades and notes on some of the non-theatrical Messel costumes indicate that he too had a 'dressing up' box in which useful items were kept.

Oliver Messel (1904-1978) was Britain's leading theatre designer from the early 1930s to the mid 1950s, working in every aspect of entertainment - ballet, drama, film, musical, opera and revue - as well as in interior decoration and textile design. His lavish, painterly and romantic designs informed by period styles, were perfectly in tune with his times and earned him an international reputation. By 1960, however, Messel's style had become unfashionable, having no sympathy with the new 'kitchen sink' school of theatre. He increasingly concentrated on his non-theatrical painting and designing and eventually retired to the Caribbean, where he began a new career designing and building highly idiosyncratic luxury villas.
Other number
ROT 8890 - TM Rotation Number
Collection
Accession number
S.554-2006

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Record createdMarch 7, 2007
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