Meet the Collector Who Has a Hat for Every Occasion

InLiquid’s Everyone is a Collector campaign has some shade to throw and it’s not the kind you think! In fact, hat collector Ellen Bischoff has many hats in different shades, shapes, and purposes, all ranging from different eras. The best part of collecting is seen in her hats: they also are beautiful in their display at her home.

What is it that you collect? 

Vintage hats, etcetera, etcetera…

Tell us everything about this collection!

I have been collecting vintage hats for about 15 years. Most of them come from the 50s and 60s, but I have a few that are older, like a beaded fringe skullcap from the 1920s. They used to be really ubiquitous, and women didn’t really go anywhere without one. I think they are charming, and I still wear a lot of them with quirky outfits.

Bischoff’s hat collection (among many others!)

What attracted you to this? What do you like most about it?

They make me feel pretty and feminine, but even just displayed on the wall they give me joy. I have about 30 out on display, and probably another 70 in protective boxes. The workmanship that went into them is impressive given how effortless they look. By repairing damaged ones, I have learned a lot about how they are constructed. I use that now when I create headdresses for performance art costumes.

Which one is your favorite? 

My favorite hat is the only one that broke my no more than $20 rule. I found it in a resale shop in San Francisco, and I went back for it the next day after initially deciding it was too expensive. It has hand-dyed petals of silk that surround your face and look like fall foliage. All of my friends want that one when I die.

When did you start your collection? 

The very first hat I acquired is still one of my favorites. It was lying forlornly in the discard pile at my favorite thrift store. They let me have it for 25 cents. The flowers were kind of smashed on it, so I took it home, spritzed it with some water, and fluffed it up again. I started wearing it all the time and getting lots of compliments, so I started looking for more. Now that people know I collect them, I receive some as gifts from friend’s grandmothers. But most come from flea markets or thrift stores and I fix the ones that just need a little TLC to be beautiful again.

What else do you enjoy collecting? 

I also collect tiles from my travels, Beleek Irish porcelain, vintage perfume bottles, insects, and anything shaped like the letter E.

What inspires you most about having your collection in your home? 

It is the very first thing that people see when they enter my house. The hats are integrated with some of the other things I collect, and the whole thing assaults your eyes with color and texture. It says a lot about who I am as a person and as an artist. My husband and I also throw a Friendsgiving potluck every year, and we incorporate a cavalcade of hats where everyone tries them on to take silly pictures. It’s always a big hit.

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