Lilly Dache

B. 1904

D. December 31, 1989

Birthplace: Beigles, France

Awards: Neiman-Marcus Award, 1940

Coty American Fashion Critics' Special Award, 1943

Lilly Dache was born in 1904 in Beigles, France, the daughter of a farmer. At fourteen, she dropped out of high school and apprenticed in her aunt's millinery shop. One year later, she apprenticed to Reboux, one of the most exclusive milliners in Paris. In 1924 Dache immigrated to the United States where she lived the classic American rags-to-riches fairy tale.

Dache's first position in America was as a designer for Darlington's in Philadelphia. However, she soon moved to New York to work in millinery sales for Macy's, where she was fired for her poor English. Dache's next position, also in millinery sales, was for the Bonnet Shop, the store which held the key to her future. In 1924, after only a few months at the Bonnet Shop, Dache bought the store from the owner.

Dache, a strong, dramatic woman, worked diligently to establish herself as one of the top milliners in New York. The height of her career was during the Great Depression and World War II when her outrageous designs could enliven a woman's otherwise difficult life. She popularized draped turbans, molded brims, half hats, and snoods or hairnets. Her imaginative designs landed her contracts with Travis Banton to design hats for

Hollywood movies starring Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda, and Betty Grable in the 1940s.

In 1949 Dache began to expand her business to include other product lines such as dresses, coats, and accessories. She also introduced the fragrances Drifting and Dashing. In the mid-1950s she expanded her millinery lines to include two ready-to-wear labels: Mlle. Lilly and Dachettes. She also discovered Halston in Chicago and persuaded him to work for her in New York, where he was soon named codesigner, and allowed him to show his own collection alongside Dache's.

During the late 1950s social norms were relaxing. A woman no longer had to don a hat to be considered properly dressed. Dache again expanded her business, this time by opening a beauty salon and by adding cosmetics to her product offerings. However, Dache's heart was not in this new venture. The woman, who at the height of her career produced 9,000 hats per year, closed her doors in 1968. See also: Halston.

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