Clockwise: "Faïence" by Lucien Lelong, 1946 (Maryhill Museum of Art); Donna Limerick wears a replica of her mother Mae Reeves' hat designs (Photo: Sharon Farmer); Silk scarves by Hermès (Photo: Samantha Viksnins)
Save when you purchase the Lunchtime with a Curator summer series!
Join curator Elizabeth Lay, a regular lecturer on the topics of fashion, textiles, and American furniture, for an image-rich lunchtime lecture series focusing on decorative arts and design topics.
The “Showstopper” Hats of Mae’s Millinery Shop
One of the many extraordinary exhibits in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is Mae’s Millinery Shop. Lifted nearly complete from its original home in Philadelphia, it is now recognized as a historical treasure. Mrs. Reeves was known for her stunning “showstopper” hats that were popular with women of all backgrounds, from schoolteachers to socialites like Mrs. du Pont, and performance stars Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. For 56 years, it was the place to discover your very best hat and a place for the community to gather. As a member of the NAACP, Mae Reeves’ storefront served as a location for important political conversations of the day as well as a lolling place.
Mae’s daughter, Donna Limerick, joins Lay in a discussion of her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit, her memories of working in the shop dressed in a black dress, pearls, and heels while she waited on customers, and shares cherished family photographs. She also talks about her experience working with the curators at NMAAHC to create the exhibition dedicated to her mother and her shop. And, of course, there will be lots of “showstopper” hat images to view and enjoy.
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