photos and stories from the Powerhouse Museum
Love in a palace was the name given to the hat shown in this photograph by its creator, celebrity milliner Mr John of New York. The photograph is one of seven promotional photographic prints for Mr John’s Coronation of Spring and Summer Collection of 1953. Other photographs of hats from this collection have been posted previously on Photo of the Day.
Modelling Mr John’s ermine and jewel cap is the woman known as Countess Betsy von Furstenberg. A German-born American radio, television, film, and Broadway actress, her career included roles on Broadway and on television in the mid 1950s, including on As the world turns and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Although described in the caption attached to the photograph as a countess, according to Wikipedia, Betsy von Furstenberg is, in fact, a Freiin (baroness) by birth rather than a countess.
John P. John, (1902-1993) was born John Pico Harberger in Munich and emigrated to the USA in 1919. He later studied medicine at University of Lucerne, and art at the Sorbonne and l’École des Beaux Arts in Paris. After being apprenticed to his mother, dressmaker Madame Laurel, he formed a partnership with Frederick Hirst, John-Frederics, in 1929. He started his own millinery company, Mr. John, Inc., in New York in 1948.
According to the New York Times, in the 1940s and 1950s, the name Mr. John was as famous in the world of hats as Christian Dior was in the realm of haute couture. His designs attracted attention from Hollywood and he worked with costume designers including Gilbert Adrian, Walter Plunkett, and Cecil Beaton. He designed Greta Garbo’s hat in Mata Hari, Marlene Dietrich’s cloche in Shanghai Express, Marilyn Monroe’s headdress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the headwear for Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. His clients outside of the film world included Eleanor Roosevelt, Gypsy Rose Lee, Jacqueline Onassis and Wallis Simpson. Mr John received the Coty American Fashion Critics award in 1943, the Neiman Marcus award in 1950 and the Millinery Institute of America award, 1956.
The prints from the Mr John studio were acquired with the archive of Madame Louise Lamoureux, who ran a Sydney fashion house specialising in embroidery and hand beading, including samples of overseas materials and styles. Some objects from the archive of Louise Lamoureux can be viewed on the Powerhouse Museum online collection index.
Post by Kathy Hackett, Photo Librarian
Powerhouse Museum Collection: A9467-11/17/4
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