Suffragists Inspire Virtual Hat Exhibition

What’s going on inside the average American voter’s head at this point is an open question. What’s worn on that head, however, is obvious—and might give an inkling of where they stand. This week, the Millinery Guild, a national nonprofit organization of hat makers, launched an online exhibition, Solidarity in Styleinspired by noted suffragists. Members of the group created hats in the traditional suffragist colors of white, purple, and gold to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. As the guild’s exhibition notes point out, however, the legislation was at first tentatively enforced, and many women of color were kept away from the ballot box for decades. So the show includes important figures who fought for women’s empowerment long after 1920. 

FIT alumni swell the ranks of the guild. Here we proudly present eight of them, along with their artful creations.

Milliner: Evetta Petty, Fashion Buying and Merchandising ’79, Harlem’s Heaven Hats
Suffragist: Ella Baker

Petty says, “An activist, organizer, and mentor for five decades, Baker was often seen in a feather-covered pillbox hat. My hat is a fascinator with grosgrain ribbon trim. It is embellished with a flourish of purple coque feathers and a crystal brooch.”






Milliner: Lisa McFadden, alumna
Suffragist: Mary Church Terrell

McFadden says, “Among her many leadership positions, Mary Church Terrell led the women of Howard University’s newly minted African-American sorority,  Delta Sigma Theta, to ensure inclusion and recognition at the historic  1913 Suffrage Parade. This ‘V for Vote’ headpiece created with pipe cleaners and white Chantilly lace sits front and center, like the woman it represents.”




Milliner: Laura (Hill) Del Villaggio, Museum Studies: Costume and Textiles ’98, Millinery Certificate ’99
Suffragist: Adelina Otero-Warren

Del Villaggio says, “Adelina ‘Nina’ Otero-Warren insisted that New Mexico’s suffrage literature be printed in English and Spanish, was the first Latina to run for Congress, and continually championed the rights of her state’s Hispano and Native American communities. Inspired by Nina’s ‘high spirited and independent’ character, I created a 1930s-style sewn cap of sueded neoprene and velvet faux fur that is washable, packable, and perfectly suited for a woman who traveled frequently from her high desert homestead to the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.”


Milliner: Sally Caswell, Millinery Certificate ’08, Sally Caswell Millinery
Suffragist: Lucy Burns

Caswell says, “Lucy Burns was the first woman arrested in the United States for her voting rights activism when she was chalking the sidewalk in front of the White House [in 1917]. She was immediately labeled a militant  by the local press. I wanted to give Lucy a contemporary hat with a badass attitude to complement her militant status. The chalk in the hat band is a reference to her first arrest.”



Milliner: Kathy Anderson, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries ’83, Millinery Certificate ’06, Hats by Kat and Accessories Too
Suffragist:   Dorothy Height

Anderson says, “My hat was totally blocked  in two parts–a crown and brim. I used sinamay straw fabric, rather than a molded hat body.  I knew Ms. Height wore hats, but in my research, I found out she had 250 hats in her collection! This made it even more important that my hat be one Ms. Height would have been proud to wear.”



Milliner: Marie D’Antoni, Millinery Certificate
Suffragist: Ida B. Wells

D’Antoni says, “The more I read about her life, the more I wanted to make a hat she would have loved.”






Milliner: Linda Ashton, Millinery Certificate ’97, Unusual Fine Millinery
Suffragist:  Rose Schneiderman

Ashton says, “Rose was an illustrious  speaker, and used the phrase ‘Bread and Roses’ to explain the true needs of wage workers. People did not just need bread/wages; they also needed roses, art, parks, flowers, and culture. My hat for Rose features wheat, a rose, and vintage ribbon rosettes to show all the ribbons  she would have collected throughout the years of the suffrage movement. All made with vintage items.”




Milliner: Wanda Chambers, Millinery Certificate ’10, Once Upon a Hat (business)
Suffragist inspiration: Shirley Chisholm

Chambers says, “The ruched, satin pillbox hat is my homage. The purple feather crown denotes dignity and the lion’s head symbolizes wisdom.”

Related Posts