Bill Cunningham Hats Sold for Record $20,000

Bill Cunningham's Vintage Hat Designs to Go on Sale This Week (Updated)

Bill Cunningham Hats Sold for Record $20,000

>> Long before Bill Cunningham became a legendary street-style photographer, he designed hats for a living — and some of his millinery is going on sale this week.

Vintage fashion dealer Katy Kane will be selling the hats on 1stdibs.com starting Wednesday, April 18. Kane purchased the '40s- and '50s-era toppers, sold under the label William J, from Cunningham's friend Alison Schacter.

The documentary Bill Cunningham New York focuses briefly on Cunningham's history as a hatmaker, but Cunningham himself talks about the hats in great detail in a video for The New York Times. Some of his work was practical, but much of it was outlandish — and Cunningham explained that's because he approached millinery like art.

"The hat thing was really, as I say, it was like sculpture," he said. "It's the most wonderful, freeing, relaxing experience. I had a lot of fun, even if I didn't make money. But I did pay my bills."

Cunningham will be the honoree at the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence Gala this year, which takes place on the 23rd. Take a look at some examples of his feathery, artful work — as photographed by Cunningham himself — in the gallery.

Update: An unnamed buyer purchased the entirety of Cunningham's hat collection for $20,000, according to WWD. A spokeswoman for 1stdibs said the buyer is a friend of Cunningham's who wants to donate the hats to New York City Art Museum.
Photo Courtesy Zeitgeist Films

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