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If the Hat Fits...

May 7, 2012 Archive Insight

If you watched any news over the weekend, you probably saw at least a few images of some spectacular hats - from the beautiful to the extreme. Fancy hats have long been a tradition - meant to bring good luck - at the Kentucky Derby.

You don't have to visit Kentucky to see some really stunning hats: Mrs. Cohen's Millinery in Greenfield Village has its share of beautiful one-of-a-kind headdresses right in Dearborn, Mich.

A fancy hat at Cohen Millinery - Greenfield Village

There's always something new to discover when you visit Mrs. Cohen's Millinery shop.

Master presenter

The store was built in Detroit in the 1880s and was run by Mrs. Elizabeth Cohen. She was a young widow who opened the shop to earn money after her husband’s death. She designed new hats and redecorated old ones. She also shared with her customers news about the latest fashions. She lived with her children on the second floor of the building.

Hats for sale in Mrs. Cohen's Millinery

The hats that are made and displayed now in the shop are representative of those made during the shop's operations in the mid 1890s.

Wall display of hats for sale at Cohen Millinery

The presenter at the shop showed off the lovely hat boxes and the display of hats that are for sale.

In years past, the hats made in the shop were sold at the Greenfield Village Store, but this year for the first time they are displayed and sold right from the millinery shop. Guests may choose a hat at the store where they'll receive a sales slip to take across the street for payment at the Emporium. When they present their receipt at the Mrs. Cohen's shop, they'll receive their hat, packaged in a lovely box.

The presenter adjusts a visitor's hat

The hats range in price from $40-$65. Girls' hats are $40 and women's hats are priced at $45, $55 and $65, depending on the embellishments. All of the hats are hand embellished at the shop by skilled craftswomen.

Although there isn't a record of what Mrs. Cohen charged for hats, an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. catalog lists ready-made trimmed hats ranging in price from $1.50-$5. (Montgomery Ward's prices were often less expensive than other catalogs at the time.)

If you're not purchasing a hat, there are many hats you can try just for fun. There are also some beautiful hats that are only for display.

Boy's hat

There is a display at the shop of boys' hats that were typical for Sunday church-going. The hat this young visitor is wearing is a style that boys wore until they were about 10 years old.

Sorry to say, you're out of luck gentlemen - Mrs. Cohen's shop doesn't sell any hats for boys or men. But, there are some dapper hats for boys to try on for size.

The presenter tells some visitors about the shop - Mrs. Cohen's Millinery, Greenfield Village

Women of all classes (not just those going to the Kentucky Derby!) wore hats when they were outside.  Some women may have only had one or two hats  - one for everyday and one for church or special occasions - while wealthy women may have had many.  Women of even modest means would buy trimmings or have someone like Elizabeth Cohen refresh their hat’s trimmings to fit current fashions.

Trimmed and ready to go

Don't miss a stop at Mrs. Cohen's shop when you're in the neighborhood. You may find the perfect hat that's just your size, and if the hat fits ... buy it!

Kristine Hass is a long-time member and frequent blogger for The Henry Ford.

entrepreneurship, women's history, shopping, Michigan, making, hats, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, fashion, Detroit, design, Cohen Millinery, by Kristine Hass

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