Chapeaux! The Hat Exhibition has been opened

Exhibitions, Travel

On 22 March Princess Beatrix opened an exhibition of her own hats at Palace Het Loo in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. Although expected, she didn’t wear a hat, probably the best in this case as there were already enough hats. The next day ‘Chapeaux! Hats of Queen Beatrix’ opened to the public and will remain open until 27 August 2017. Shown are 111 hats that she wore in the 33 years she was Queen of the Netherlands, 1980-2013. I was too curious after the exhibition to wait for long and visited it on Saturday already. Surprisingly it was rather quiet, at least in the morning, so I could walk around slowly and write down some information. Normally I would have photographed the texts, but as photography and filming at the exhibition is unfortunately forbidden … Saves you from having to wait for people trying to take selfies with a hat on top of their own head, that’s for sure.

Who says royal, says hat, especially when it comes to the older royals. A hat is simply the finishing touch to an outfit, a part of the uniform, as another famous hat wearer, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, once said. They shouldn’t be too extravagant, nor so big that the face can’t be seen clearly. Furthermore a royal must stand out in the crowd immediately, and a hat is quite a good accessoire for that. In Beatrix’ case it was the silhouette of hat and hair style that makes you easily recognise her, even when you just see the shadow.

Queen Beatrix trusted very few milliners to create her hats. Between 1970 and 2003 Harry Scheltens (who died in 2006) designed lots of hats for her. From 1982 also Suzanne Moulijn worked for her. And then you have her dresser Emy Bloemheuvel, who also has some good knowledge about hats. The artistic collaboration between these three led to the creation of outstanding royal hats, that were not only functionable, but also creative, fun, innovative and playful. Especially since 1986 the hats became more and more pieces of art, iconic hats, that were almost sculptural and artistic, just like Beatrix herself. The exhibition doesn’t tell when and by whom the hats have been created. Often hats have been adapted by someone else than the original designer, so even all three people mentioned above could have been working on one hat.

Almost all hats at the exhibition are on the same height as Beatrix’ herself. Luckily for people like me (I am about 1,72m) she is rather short, so standing on my toes I just managed to see the top of the hats sometimes. A few hats were placed lower exactly therefore, as these few hats had a more special top that should be seen. Nice is that from this close distance you notice lots of details you won’t easily see on pictures or in reality, simply because you have more time to look at these details (feathers, bows, flowers) and shapes. Lovely models and colours, although because of the special light the colour sometimes is different than in reality. Lots of recognisable hats worn at Queen’s Day, Prince’s Day, during state visits and other important functions like family christenings, weddings or funerals. I spent more time at the exhibition than I thought, as there are also short videos to look at and interesting texts to read.

I couldn’t leave without having visited the restaurant in the ball room of the palace. Confectioner Maassen from Apeldoorn has created special chocolate cakes for the occasion, which are sweet, but truly delicious. And of course they come in the form of a hat! Unfortunately there is no book about the exhibition and there are no special postcards either.

With thanks to Palace Het Loo for providing some press photos.

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