17 May 2008

Hats off to Madame Eva

THE A B C OF MILLINERY by Madame Eva Ritcher 1951

This is a smallish hardback in green boards that must once have had a dustjacket and, by the look of the smudged-out number at the base of the spine, was probably in a library of some sort. Madame Eva Ritcher. That's a name to conjure with and I hope the hats in here do her justice.

First thing on a random opening is in the list of illustrations. "Plate 21 Pulling the first piece of sparterie round the block." This is a streetfighting milliner.

Leaf through: There's lots of photos. Some portraits of ladies in hats. They do do Madame Ritcher justice. It's a bit like a Royal Ascot flicker book. There are some how-to photos as well, and a lot of line drawings. There is also a faint purple library stamp on a couple of pages - L.C.C. South East London Technical College.

The front bits
tell me that this was published in 1950, reprinted in 1951 (Festival of Britain year). The portrait photos are by Lenare who was photographer to the toffs of the time. There is an introduction by Elizabeth Bowen.

Looking into it. For novelist Elizabeth Bowen (whose work has been described in her own words as being about those 'who live life with the lid on') there was an 'intense importance' attached to millinery, the art of which was no less than an 'enchanted mystery'.

The book is for the 'laywoman' and the reader whose 'fingers have itched to attempt millinery'. Apparently, Madame Ritcher is adept at making a woman 'hat-conscious'. But Elizabeth Bowen has a warning: 'Hat-consciousness in a vacuum - that is to say, without a good hat to wear - could be a frustrated, unhappy state.' With Madame Ritcher's guidance, that is an agony her readers will be able to avoid.

Apart from some homely advice to work with the best materials you can afford and not to attempt advanced techniques before you have mastered the basics, Madame Ritcher's own voice is strangely absent from this book. I had hoped to find some plummy tones or some withering comments about bad taste, but this is actually a well-organised and thorough how-to book. And it's probably still pretty useful to any hat-makers out there today.

1 comment:

Cristina - madhatter wannabe said...

Thank you for telling us about this book!