Arts & Culture

It’s the season of the hat on Broadway. Here’s what may turn your head.

The puppet fish headpiece from “Amelie,” for a scene in which the title character’s parents force her pet goldfish to be dumped into a canal.
The puppet fish headpiece from “Amelie,” for a scene in which the title character’s parents force her pet goldfish to be dumped into a canal. NYT

Does anyone still wear a hat? For designers on Broadway this season, the answer was yes, actually, they very much do.

Fascinators, platters, pinwheels, even a fish: Actors’ heads were topped, hooded and tiaraed in costumes both lush and fanciful. How appropriate given the Broadway return of “Sunday in the Park With George” (and its anthem to artistic perseverance, “Finishing the Hat”), not to mention the 20 creations inside Irene Molloy’s millinery shop in “Hello, Dolly!”

Here’s a look at a season of heady headwear.

“Hello, Dolly!”

Bette Midler wears a signature headpiece in the revival’s signature title song, as Dolly Levi descends the staircase to greet the adoring staff at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant. About 30 inches wide and made of wire, beading and burnt ostrich feathers dyed red, the hat was built by Rodney Gordon, a go-to Broadway hat maker.

hello dolly
The headpiece Bette Midler wears during the signature title song in “Hello, Dolly!” With 20 millinery creations, “Hello, Dolly!” was one of many shows this Broadway season topped off by headwear. TONY CENICOLA NYT

Santo Loquasto, the costume designer, said he considered several versions of the piece – one of 93 ladies’ hats in the musical – before the show’s lead producer suggested it might be unwise to toy with the millinery memory of Carol Channing, who originated the role on Broadway in 1964.

“Scott Rudin said that if I changed it radically from what Carol Channing had worn, he felt the gay community would stone me,” said Loquasto, who received a Tony nomination for the show. “I said, ‘I guess you’re right.’”

“Groundhog Day”

Two little top-hat wearing Beanie Babies – a male holding a snowflake and a female with flowers – are attached to these furry creations. Worn by Mr. and Mrs. Cleveland, a perky comedic couple, the hats were inspired by a trip the costume designer Rob Howell took to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, for the yearly sighting of the groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.

“There’s no big thought behind it other than wouldn’t it be fun if….” Howell said.

“War Paint”

Worn by Patti LuPone, this hat has a straw base accented with feathers, ribbons and a brooch. The hat is worn pitched to one side, and a 68-inch drape of cream silk crepe has magnets that attach to LuPone’s dress.

“The idea is that in profile she looks like she’s ready for battle,” said the show’s Tony-nominated costume designer, Catherine Zuber.

In a show filled with quick changes, it helps that LuPone (as the cosmetics magnate Helena Rubinstein) knows her way around headwear.

“Patti is very gifted with using hat pins quickly,” Zuber said.

war paint -vintage straw
The vintage straw platter hat worn by Chistine Ebersole in “War Paint.” TONY CENICOLA NYT

A vintage straw platter hat, worn by Chistine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden, was donated to the Goodman Theater, where the show had its premiere last year, by a “very eccentric socialite in Chicago who bought a new hat every day, according to legend,” Zuber said. The label says: “Marion Valle, 14 East 56th Street, New York.”


“We wanted it to be beautiful and, in a good way, stupid, like: it’s a guy with a fish on his head.”

That’s how the costume designer David Zinn described his inspiration for this puppet headpiece. About 18 inches in length and 18 inches tall, the fish, named Fluffy, was the work of the show’s puppet designer, Amanda Villalobos, for a scene in which the title character’s parents force her pet goldfish to be dumped into a canal.

Worn by actor Paul Whitty for just over a minute of stage time, it’s made mostly of wire and soft foam, with a fitted band on the inside to keep it on the actor’s head. The tail and fins are made of textured plastics and organza in shades of orange. Whitty uses rods to make the fins gesture; hinges make the tail swish.


This has been actor Anthony Chisholm’s hat since 2000, when he wore it to play Fielding, a cabdriver, in this play’s off-Broadway production. It’s from JJ Hat Center, on Fifth Avenue near 32nd Street.

“The Little Foxes”

Jane Greenwood, Tony-nominated for this revival, festooned this hat with metallic-colored feathers, ribbon, tulle, netting and artificial flowers. She asked the hat maker Arnold Levine to make it as dramatic as its entrance, worn in the final act by Laura Linney or Cynthia Nixon as the conniving Regina Giddens.

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The hat with metallic-colored feathers, ribbon, tulle, netting and artificial flowers from “The Little Foxes.” TONY CENICOLA NYT

“I said I wanted it to look like she’s coming in full sail, almost like a ship,” she said.

“In Transit”

What goes with a dress made out of Metrocards? A turnstile, according to the costume designer Clint Ramos. Worn during a fantasy fashion show it’s “about glamorizing the whole MTA milieu,” Ramos said.


In Paula Vogel’s play about the Yiddish theater, the curled payot are clipped on each side of a wide-brimmed, felted fur hat, purchased from a Jewish hat maker in Brooklyn, according to Emily Rebholz, the show’s costume designer.


For the musical about the youngest Romanov princess, Linda Cho created this onion-domed piece based on the Russian kokoshnik, a traditional folk headdress. Pearls drape over the face like a curtain, and a veil cascades behind. Embedded in the piece are decorative fabrics and jewels, jewels and more jewels.

“There’s a place called Earrings Plaza, a wholesaler near Koreatown,” said Cho, who is nominated for a Tony for her costumes. “All the jewelry there is between $1 and $5 so I bought a ton of it and we sewed.”

“Come From Away”

This sunny yellow nor'easter rain hat, common headwear for fishermen along the eastern coast of Canada, cost about $15 on Amazon, according to the costume designer Toni-Leslie James.