Friday, November 14, 2008

Mr. John: Milliner to the Stars

There aren’t very many biopics I’d like to see made, but I just found a character who’d be perfect for one: larger than life, incredibly talented and successful, flamboyant, and yet with a touch of humor, even irony, about himself.

I’m talking (if you haven’t guessed) about Mr. John, one of the glitterati among mid-century U.S. milliners. His accomplishments, in a career spanning almost 60 years, were legendary, yet today he is largely forgotten

Mr. John--John Piocelle, or John P. John as he dubbed himself--led a sophisticated, glamorous life in Hollywood and produced some of today's most sought after vintage hats. He was also noted for work, before their split in 1948, as half of the John-Frederics duo, whose most famous hat was the straw and green velvet bonnet worn by Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Often using pseudonyms, Mr. John designed Garbo’s hat in Mata Hari, Dietrich’s cloche in Shanghai Express, and Monroe’s headdress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Outside of films, Mr. John designed hats for everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Gypsy Rose Lee, from Jaqueline Onassis to Wallace Simpson. Even my mother owned a Mr. John hat, one with a bobbing flower similar to the one in my Etsy shop (pictured above), which she assures me was considered quite fashionable. His hats often showed his sense of humor—a bannana hat with a zipper, a hat for an elephant at the Republican National Convention, an Eiffel tower hat, an airplane hat.

This sounds like enough for a great movie, but his personal life was equally flamboyant. His Central Park West apartment had a white and gold décor he described as “Louis Unrecognisable” and had free-roaming macaws, cockatoos, and parrots. Once he visited a friend wearing a floor-length gold cape and with a bird on his shoulder.

Despite all this flash and glamour, Mr. John was known primarily for his flattering, wearable hats. Even with the bobbing flower, my mother said she always felt great in her Mr. John.

Now for casting that biopic: I'm thinking maybe Robert Downey Jr?


Much of this information came from a fascinating article by Drake Stutesman.


::::Lula Boutique:::: said...

I adore fabulous vintage items like this!! Happy to find your Etsy shop. :)

Kim Bagwill said...

What a great idea for a biopic...and Robert Downey, Jr. just sealed the deal. :)

littlebird said...

Hmm very interesting, RD Jr sounds like a good match to me!

John said...

i just found a mr john
labeled JOHN P. JOHN
caftan and would like to show it to drake stutesman..any one know her e mail ??

Callooh Callay said...

Sounds very cool! I found Framework, the magazine she edits, online--you can probably reach her through that.