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"William" (Not "William J") hat

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by katwoman, Aug 5, 2022.

  1. katwoman

    katwoman VFG Member

    Hi all!

    I have a hat-collector client with a hat labeled "William" as opposed to the well known "William J" (of which she owns several). I don't have a photo of the label, but according to her, the font used is exactly the same as the one used on "William J," and the hat itself is consistent with William J styles.

    She is curious as to whether Bill Cunningham ever designed under the name "William" instead of "William J." I have neither seen nor heard of this but didn't want to give a definitive answer until I checked with other experts.

    Is it possible that this is an early prototype of Cunningham's work? Curious whether anyone has ever come across this label before.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member


    Bill never used the "William" label. I have had a number of hats with the "William" label. I would have to see it, but I am almost sure her label is William Silverman, a prominent milliner in New York and a contemporary of Cunningham.

    I have also come across a few "William New York" labels (also not Bill C). I have a proto type, as you call it, of Bill's early work, hand signed, and he would sometimes hand sign his name on the label using a black fountain pen.

    Here is a label from one of my hats. Is this her label also? The cursive is slightly similar to Bill's hand writing, but not really all that close (to my eyes).

    william silverman william ny hat label.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
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  3. katwoman

    katwoman VFG Member

    Oh MY! A hand-signed Bill Cunningham?! What a lucky girl YOU are, Barbara!

    I am deeply grateful for your response. I will send her a shot of the label you attached and will see if it's a match for hers; I appreciate your expertise and for kindly taking the time to reply.

    Thank you: I'll let you know her response!
  4. katwoman

    katwoman VFG Member

    William J 1.jpg William J 2.jpg William J 3.jpg

    Barbara (and forum):

    My fault: I misunderstood my client. She did NOT have a plain "William" label, but a real honest-to-God early William J, complete with the hand-signed label. The hat is fully hand made, and she is wondering its value. I am at a loss due to its rarity. Any thoughts?
  5. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    Here is Bill's signature. Hmmmm. Her label looks absolutely nothing like his hand writing, but that's all I can say. One question. Is the inside grosgrain headsize ribbon hand sewn or machine sewn in place? Can she take a photo and show us? And is that even a "J" at the end? Does not look like J to me. The hat is rather plain, and I am not seeing anything indicative of Bill's style either. How are the trims attached?

    william j label.jpg
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
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  6. katwoman

    katwoman VFG Member

    CSI: Millinery!!

    Attached are photos of the hat, which has been fully hand-stitched except for the middle interior seam (shown). I have also included an excerpt from Cunningham's 2018 memoir stating he hand-painted his signature on pinked linen, which is what has been used on her hat:

    “We couldn’t afford labels for the hats, so I would spend my spare time gracefully painting the name William J. over three square inches of linen, clipped with pinking shears.” (Bill Cunningham, Fashion Climbing: A Memoir, 2018, pg. 46).

    As I have not seen ANY hand-signed William J labels, I am stumped... . Is it possible that he used different fabric labels in the early days?

    Handstitchingofbrimtrim.jpg Handstitchingofsweatband.jpg Stitchingoftrim_2.jpg Stitchingoftrim.jpg
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  7. Rue_de_la_Paix

    Rue_de_la_Paix VFG Member

    CSI: Millinery is right! :)

    Very interesting that the hand writings are so very different. Perhaps his signature changed over time to something more artistic. Still, this one is a real mystery!

    My hat was made for, and personally signed, then given to the wife of Ray Solowinski who was Bill's associate and oft times partner, as both Ray and his wife Brynne were very close friends of Bill. Brynne and I were also very close later in her life and I dated her son and we are still good friends. She gave me the hat as a gift. I had met Bill (and Richard Avedon) at her home but at the time (1980s?) I was not aware who Bill was (duh, right?) and so barely spoke to him. Which was fine by him as he was quite shy. Anyway that's my William J hat story!
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
  8. katwoman

    katwoman VFG Member

    Holy, holy, holy cow. I am speechless. What a provenance!

    I sincerely appreciate your input, Barbara. Though I am now more stumped than ever, I'm delighted to have seen your label--straight from the horse's mouth, as it were--for my own education.

    One last question: do you have any idea when the hat was gifted to Brynne? In other words, what is the age of the hat?

    Thank you so much!

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