Royal milliners on the big screen: Frederick Fox

Diana Rigg demonstrating advanced hat insouciance in Evil under the Sun


Walking around Buckingham Palace’s excellent ‘Fashioning a Reign’ exhibition of the Queen’s wardrobe, I was particularly struck by the variety of hats on show.  A long display case arranged chronologically, charts the evolution of the Queen’s style with changing fashions and changes to the Royal Warrant holders over the decades.  There are some really stunning hats on show but my personal favourites were some of the earliest examples, made by Aage Thaarup in the 1940s and 50s and those from the 1980s made by Frederick Fox.

Aage Thaarup was a Danish milliner, working in London from the 1930s to the 70s.  A talent for styling rather than formal millinery training was the foundation of his success.  He supplied hats to the Queen Mother and then to the Queen herself in the 40s and 50s, gaining his royal warrant from the Queen until 1961.

Frederick Fox was an Australian who had begun designing hats from his early childhood before becoming established as a couture milliner after his move to the UK in 1958.  His Royal Warrant followed in 1974 and became one the queen’s longest-serving milliners, supplying around 350 hats for the queen as well as for numerous other members of the royal family, including Diana, Princess of Wales. 20160806_220327

 Both milliners produced hats for films and their very glamorous and sometimes flamboyant styles really appealed to me.  It also sent me back to watch, again, the 1982 film of Agatha Christie’s ‘Evil under the Sun’ for which Fox designed the hats.  Though I’d never thought of it before as being a ‘fashion’ film, it is a movie that displays some amazing 1930s style and virtually no scene in which hats don’t take a starring role.

F20160806_204232ox shows himself to be the master of a swooping-brimmed capeline, a jauntily-angled trilby, and a super-glam beach turban.  There is also a beautiful range of men’s straw hats on show, with James Mason elegant in a classic boater, Denis Quilley in a dashing panama and Peter Ustinov matching Poirot’s Edwardian spats with a chronologically-appropriate up-turned brim style Panama typical of that age.  A great visual treat for all sorts of reasons.

Costume designer for the film, Anthony Powell 20160806_204803won a well-deserved Oscar in 1979 for his work on ‘Death on the Nile’ but inexplicably not for this film too.  If his work and name looks familiar, then it may be because he is the cousin of Sandy Powell, who recently delivered the incredibly beautiful wardobes for the film Carol.


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