02 July 2010

Object #14 Head Sizer for Hat Maker #1

Building art is a synthesis of life in materialised form. We should try to bring in under the same hat not a splintered way of thinking, but all in harmony together.

Alvar Aalto

A French adjustable hat sizer (conformateur) made by Allie Maillard. An object epitomizing the 19th century’s love of well crafted inventiveness and of mechanical complications. Hand made of wood, brass and mother of pearl. The device uses piano key-like levers and pushpins to copy both the head size as well as shape for a milliner or hat maker. The contraption is placed on the head as a hat would be, expanding the ebony keys. The spring around the circumference of the "brim" keeping the parts tight to the head. The underside of the trap door top is lined with cork and can receive a blank piece of paper. When the conformateur is on the client's head the lid is closed and interior pins mark the shape and size of the wearer's head on the piece of paper. Giving the hat maker permanent record of the client's head size and shape for a perfectly fitting hat, that can also be easily filed and saved for future commissions. While invented by Parisian Allie Maillard in the 1840’s these antique contraptions are still sought after and used by high end hat makers to this day.