Vintage late 1950s into early 60s flower toque from Irene of New York covers a slightly domed wire-and-net body with crisp white curls of “grass”, multicolored roses (pink, aqua, cream, and lilac), and grey leaves. The ultimate spring bonnet, it evokes a fanciful bird’s nest, in which flowers instead of chicks are hatching.
Born in Brooklyn, high-end milliner Irene Stone began making hats in the late 1940s. Her chief designer Bob Greene eventually became her son-in-law, and continued to work with her long after his wife had died. Reviewed each season alongside milliners such as Emme, Lilly Dache, and Mr. John, Irene’s hats were available into the early 1980s in top department stores like Henri Bendel, Bonwit Teller, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Though the (shallower) crown depth to this toque suggests that it may pre-date Irene’s c. 1959 shift to much taller hats, her exclamation to a 1962 interviewer (“Flowers, of course, or no Spring!") fits it to a T. She was particularly known for the exuberant and imaginative floral designs in her spring collections; photo #8 shows two flowered toques from 1960 and 1962, alongside a 1957 photo of actress Kim Novak choosing her Easter hat in Irene of New York’s millinery salon.
This charming example of her work measures 22” around the inner band of cream velvet, and stands 5” tall. It is in very good condition, with what looks like glue discoloration on the top of the aqua rose, and one or two of the “leaves” bent out of shape.
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