About

Lilly Daché was a milliner and fashion designer.

Lilly Dache was born in 1896 in Begles, Gironde, France. While still a teenager, Dache was apprenticed to a Bordeaux milliner. Several years later she moved to Paris and worked for Caroline Rebux and Suzanne Talbot.

When she was 16 Lilly was sent off to live with an uncle in Atlantic City, USA. She became a millinery saleswoman in Macy's Department store in New York for a few months, and then started working for the Bonnet Shop. When she saved up enough money, she bought out the owner and established it as her own salon. After that, she was very successful financially.

At the end of the 20's when hats were still "de rigueur", she erected the Lilly Dache Building on East 56th Street, New York. Working with Travis Banton in Hollywood, she also designed hats for movies, such as the Towering fruit-bedecked Carmen Miranda turbans.

In 1931, Lilly married Jean Despres and they had a daughter named Suzanne. Suzanne grew up to have her own design studio with help and encouragement from her mother. Their mutual love and successful supportive professional lives and collaboration endeared them to those around them.

Her major contributions to milinery were draped turbans, brimmed hats molded to the head, half hats, visored caps for war workers, colored snoods, and romantic massed-flower shapes. By 1949, she was designing dresses to go with her hats, as well as lingerie, loungewear, gloves, hosiery, and a wired strapless bra. Both the designer Halston and the hair stylist Kenneth worked for her before going into business for themselves.

Lilly Dache was considered the top milliner in New York, when hats were considered more important than dresses. She attracted a vast movie star clientele which included Betty Grable and Marlene Dietrich. One of her achievements was the discovery and encouragement of the fashion designer Halston, who went on to be so successful in the 60's and 70's.

Shortly after World War II, she added dresses, accessories and perfumes to her millinery line. Known for her sometimes outrageously flamboyant style, Dache was famous for draped turbans, close-fitting brimmed Cloche hats, Snoods and Caps. For almost three decades, she was the foremost milliner in the USA.

Lilly was awarded the Coty Fashion Award in 1943.

In 1946, Lilly Dache wrote a best-selling book called "Talking Through my Hats". She wrote another in 1956, called "The Glamour Book".

Lilly Dache continued to create ready-to-wear millinery collections throughout the 1950's and 1960's.

Lilly retired in 1968, and her New York millinery business was taken over by her daughter Suzanne Daché. Her husband had been with Coty for 50 years, rising from stock boy to vice-president. He was a founder of the Fragrance Foundation and the Toilet Goods Association. He was one of the first members of the New YorkAthletic Club when it opened and a lifelong member of the Metropolitan Club. Jean Despres' father was a mathematics professor at the Sorbonne. In 1968 he was retiring. So Lilly decided to retire too.

They spent 20 years between their New York and Paris homes and she stopped wearing hats. Lilly remained active in fashion, interior design and art until her death, designing men's casual Golf apparel, as well as the interior of her homes in France and Florida. She created sculptures and macrame and encouraged American fashion designers like Geoffrey Beene in France. A busy retirement.

She died in 1989 at the age of 93 in Louveciennes, France.

In the year 2000/2002, the city of New York decided to honour 24 American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along the pavement of 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the "FASHION WALK OF FAME." Lilly Dache was one of those honoured.

The Look

Lilly Daché was the archetypal flamboyant immigrant beloved of Americans and so often taken to their hearts. Daché's heyday coincided with a period in fashion history, the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, during which one's hat—one always wore a hat—was often more important than one's frock. Great heights of chic and absurdity were achieved by the milliners of the day: tiny doll's hats perched over one eye, two-tone "Persian" turbans stuck with jewelled daggers, pom-poms of mink or marabout; Daché's hats were amongst the most outrageous of all. Her "complexion veil" was tinted green across the eyes, and blush-rose across the cheeks. For Beatrice Lillie, she made a "hands-across-the-sea" hat, with two clasped hands on the front, for the actress to wear both in England and America. At her New York headquarters, Daché created a setting for herself which now seems the essence of kitsch glamor.

Who Wears It

Marlene Dietrich, Carole Lombard, Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Gertrude Lawrence

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