Sunday, April 22, 2018

Bumblebees, Baseballs & Bes-Ben

I love textile and fashion exhibits. Over the past several years, I've been to see collections at the Met; the Fashion Institute of Technology; the Chicago History Museum; and of course, the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields.
I was drawn to the yellow bumblebee hat on display at the IMA like a bee to honey, as it's so similar to my own Bes-Ben bee hat. I paired my vintage piece of wearable art with Burberry heels accented with crystal bee brooches.
The new Bes-Ben millinery exhibit at the IMA, however, is particularly close to my heart. I love hats and have an affinity for whimsical pieces of wearable art, so I've been looking forward to it for months. When I stumbled onto an original Bes-Ben bumblebee hat at a vintage fair in Chicago a few months ago, I new it was the perfect piece to wear for the museum's special Member preview of the exhibit.
A relatively sedate black military-inspired dress lets the hat make its own statement.
What I didn't expect, though, was to see a very similar style in the museum's collection! The bumblebee on "licorice" hats were apparently an iconic Bes-Ben design. I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty cool to be standing there looking at a museum piece that was so similar to the hat I was wearing!
A bumblebee brooch from Amazon serves as a "barrette" and echoes the theme of the hat.
This exhibition is also special to me because it features a bespoke piece that my husband and I donated to the museum. It's a small cocktail hat covered in tiny baseballs. A little wierd? Perhaps. But, less so when you consider that it was custom-made in the late 1950s for the wife of hall of fame Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck.
I've looked but haven't been able to find a photograph of this bespoke hat's original owner Mary Frances Ackerman, wife of Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, wearing this unique piece. If only camera phones and social media had existed in the 1950s and 60s...
 My only regret is that I didn't take an opportunity to wear this little gem myself before it became part of the museum's permanent collection, never to touch a human head again. Even so, it's exciting to see it on display, and to know that we've helped preserve a little piece of millinery history.
The baseball hat's original owner, Mary Frances Ackerman, with her husband, hall of fame Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck. Mary Frances was a PR woman for the Ice Capades, and was dubbed "the world's most beautiful press agent," according to this colorful article in the Washington Post.
Believe it or not, baseballs and bumblebees aren't the most unusual themes in the collection. Over the course of five decades, Bes-Ben founder and designer Benjamin Green-Field became known as the "Mad Hatter of Chicago" in recognition of his avant-garde, whimsical creations, which were wildly popular in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s with celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, and Judy Garland. Bespoke Bes-Ben pieces in the 1950s cost up to $1000, and were recognized as more than just hats, but as coveted pieces of art. If you're in Indianapolis between now and January 6, 2018, don't miss the opportunity to see this most unusual array of surreal wearable art! Get details here.
Fashion is what you buy; Style is what you do with it!

I'm linked up with Hat Attack!


  1. What a fabulous bumblebee hat; it is such a compliment to all of the hats on display at IMA. I would very much enjoy seeing that. Thank you for sharing with Hat Attack!

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