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 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