Hedda Hopper’s Hats in Trumbo (2015)

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There’s a lot that’s great about biopic Trumbo (2015), which tells the story of blacklisted (for being a communist) screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in the 1940s and 1950s. Bryan Cranston does a wonderful job portraying the titular character, the script is well written, and there’s a lot of entertaining performances from great actors like John Goodman. But the real star, in my opinion — at least in terms of the costumes — was Hedda Hopper’s (played by the fabulous Helen Mirren) hats.

Hedda Hopper was THE most important gossip columnist in 1940s-50s Hollywood. She was also vehemently anti-communist, and helped to lead the brigade to weed out supposed or real communists in Hollywood, and is the focal baddie in the film Trumbo. She was also known for her fashion sense, in particular her fabulous hats. According to the New York Times:

“Hopper was nothing if not a sartorial extremist, preening in headgear that varied from cabbage rose confections to plumed saucer-like contraptions that seemed poised for flight. So outré were her hats that they were spoofed in the ’40s on the cover of Time, in an illustration portraying her with a telephone, a microphone and a typewriter perched atop her curls” (For Gossip Columnist Hedda Hopper, Flamboyance Was Her Brand).

Hedda Hopper

The real Hedda Hopper.

Hopper’s super-chic fashions are the focal point of Trumbo‘s costumes. Costume designer Daniel Orlandi told LAObserved, “Hats were her gimmick … they got her attention … People would make her outrageous hats, and she would wear them. It got her more publicity. And she was also this kind of malovent [sic], ambitious woman. It was her way of saying, ‘aren’t I funny and cute? And now I’m going to go in for the kill'” (Talking Hats with ‘Trumbo’ Costume Designer). Speaking with the LA Times, Orlandi observed, “The thing about Hedda is how her clothes don’t really go with the hats. It’s not usually an outfit. She had an eccentricity about her and a flamboyance. It was sort of her gimmick, those hats” (‘Trumbo’s costume designer details Dalton’s eccentricities and Hedda’s hats).

The hats were made by costume designer Daniel Orlandi and the chief milliner at Western Costume, Kerry Deco. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Most of Hopper’s frocks were created from vintage fabrics; Orlandi pulled from his own collection of vintage buttons, jewelry, feathers, and flowers for the columnist’s trademark headwear” (How Costume Designers for ‘Trumbo,’ ‘Joy’ Found the Perfect Fit’). The costumes in this film were justifiably nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award last year.

Now, let’s look in-depth at all of Mirren-as-Hopper’s hats in Trumbo!

Trumbo (2015)

First up, Hopper (Helen Mirren, left) attends a Hollywood evening party held in someone’s (very fancy) backyard. She wears this pink brocade number with lots of sparkly trim and an amazing pink turban. (That’s Diane Lane as Trumbo’s wife on the right).

Trumbo (2015)

The turban has a stylized wrap, a standing loop, and pleats around the face.

Trumbo (2015)

Next up is a movie newsreel featuring Hopper.

Trumbo (2015)

It’s hard to see this hat clearly, but it’s certainly not subtle!

Trumbo (2015)

I think what we’re seeing is this hat, which looks like a wired-frame hat made of black netting, covered in roses on top.

Trumbo (2015)

Next up is a Hollywood political event. Hopper’s hat is covered in velvet flowers — I spot roses and pansies — as well as little tufts of color of varying sizes. AND a veil.

Trumbo (2015)

The hat is perched on top/front of her head.

Trumbo (2015)

From the back, you can see a bit of her elegant hairstyle.

Trumbo (2015)

Next, Hopper attends a meeting with a studio head. Side note: the appliqués on her pink blazer are faaaaabulous.

Trumbo (2015)

Her hat is a matching pink wool with a shaped brim.

Trumbo (2015)

The crown is relatively narrow and softly pointed and wrapped in what looks like pink velvet? Then she has a pink and wine striped ribbon around the crown and a big, perky bow on top.

Trumbo (2015)

The velvet on the crown is very drapey. Notice how the ribbon folds over at the back of the crown, and how the brim is shaped to be wider in front/sides than in back.

Trumbo (2015)

Love how the hat is angled.

Trumbo (2015)

Here’s the same ensemble and hat on display at FIDM’s movie costume exhibit. Photo via Hollywood Movie Costumes & Props.

Trumbo (2015)

Photo via Hollywood Movie Costumes & Props.

Trumbo (2015)

Another newsreel shot. Hopper’s hat is all feathers, all the time!

Trumbo (2015)

I LOVE this one! She’s all navy and white, but the pièce-de-résistance is her small white hat, with turned up brim and gorgeous curved silhouetted crown.

Trumbo (2015)

There’s a pleated navy ribbon around the crown, with a bow on one side.

Trumbo (2015)

It looks like the crown does some interesting folding in back! I wish I could see it better.

Trumbo (2015)

The same ensemble on display at FIDM’s movie costume exhibit. The crown of the hat doesn’t have quite the same shape as it did on screen — too much display/wearing, or was this a replacement hat? Photo via Hollywood Movie Costumes & Props.

Trumbo (2015)

Photo via Hollywood Movie Costumes & Props.

Trumbo (2015)

At a bar, needling Trumbo. This was the main Hopper/Mirren ensemble to be featured in photo stills, and while it’s nice, it’s not as great as many of her others. Nonetheless, that feather spray is faaaaabulous.

Trumbo (2015)

The hat itself is some kind of iridescent braided material and has little tabs on each side to help it perch on top of her head.

Trumbo (2015)

At a power lunch. It’s hard to see clearly, but check out the feather spray!

Trumbo (2015)

This hat is a sequined beret in different shades of pink. You can see the base of the feather spray/trim here, with interesting looped dealiebobs (the technical term).

Trumbo (2015)

Speaking at a Hollywood political meeting. Hard to see exactly what’s going on in her hat, except that it’s sparkly, has lots of floof, and there’s some netting.

Trumbo (2015)

Oooo! A wide-brimmed black hat covered in roses of different hues.

And now, some hats/ensembles that I don’t think made it to screen (unless I missed them when I was screencapping?).

Trumbo (2015)

Love the grey/pink/white stripes!

Trumbo (2015)

The hat looks like it’s wool and has that classic wide, shaped brim.

Trumbo (2015)

I think this is the same hat? Now we can see that it is covered in black flowers with red centers, and black netting. That’s costume designer Daniel Orlandi pictured with the hat. Photo via LAObserved.

Trumbo (2015)

This one is super shaped and fabulous, although it’s hard to see exactly what’s going on beyond black and then pink sparkly bits.

Trumbo (2015)

A bit of feathery fluff, but check out the diamond-shaped black stripped feathers mixed in!

Trumbo (2015)

And from a poster, another pink wool, but this one with a small brim and slouchy crown. It’s trimmed with a spray of pink feathers and some yellow flowers.

 

Have you seen Trumbo? Which of Hedda Hopper’s hats was your favorite?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

5 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    Clearly, Ms Hopper used Fashion to make her appear less powerful and threatening. I read somewhere that she and Louella were the most powerful women in Hollywood. They made, created and broke/destroyed careers.

    Regarding the hats, I’ve just added the movie to my library reserve list. Originally, I was going to give the movie a pass. But thanks to these amazing hats, I probably will love the film. It, the Hollywood Black List, is a favourite era of study. Not only does it involve people like Messieurs Trumbo and Tiompkin, both Hepburn, Tracey and Bacall and Bogart took a stand. Famous writers like Dashiel Hammett and Lillian Hellmann testified before the Committee.

    The hats are timeless. Several remind me of Claire’s in Outlander and others Duchess Kate’s fascinators.

    Reply
  2. mmcquown

    Hedda’s hats were legendary and great grist for the mills of the comedians of the day. I don’t think there was anyone on radio at the time who didn’t take a shot — but a careful one — at those hats. The ladies were known for their vindictiveness. Another film of that genre was “Sweet Smell of Success,” with Burt Lancaster as the columnist who could make of break with a well-placed item in his column.

    Reply
  3. Donna

    I think the striped suit is pretty close to a suit by Edith Head … I remember seeing it in a book on her, but I don’t remember what film it was for.

    Reply
  4. mmcquown

    I could well believe it of some designers. Next to Hedda, the wildest headgear in Hollywood was probably associated with Carmen Miranda, but those were all show pieces.
    Which raises the question: has anyone ever done a book or film on Lily Dache/?
    Inside joke: you’ve heard of the designer Caran Dache? “karandash” is the Russian word for “pencil.”

    Reply

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