Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Christiane Merritt on “Hat”


Mannequin with a hat in the shape of a shoe.

This is entry #48 in our 100 Philosophers, 100 Artworks, 100 Words Series.

Philosopher: Christiane Merritt, Washington University in St. Louis

Artwork: Hat, Elsa Schiaparelli in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, winter 1937-38. Black wool felt.

Words: Some bizarre pamphlets appeared in church when I was 10 or 12, exhorting us (women) to dress modestly, like the Blessed Virgin. “Do you think Mary wore slacks?” Well, no, but you wouldn’t have caught Jesus in jeans, either.

Schiaparelli gives a topsy-turvy argument in millinery. The shoe hat always makes me return to questions that pamphlet inadvertently raised. What does it mean to dress appropriately? Where did the rules come from and why do we follow them? Who gets to wear what, and when, and where, and why? And can I just put a shoe on my head already?

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