The 1960s are generally recognised as the death-knell of the hat as an essential component of everyday attire. In the sixties, a new generation no longer wanted to dress like their mothers, in the bombasted creations of couturiers like Dior and Balenciaga. They wanted something different, something youthful - an entirely new word suddenly used in a fashion context. For the era of the mini and the pill, part and parcel of female sexual liberation was casting off the sartorial shackles of the past. It appears nothing symbolised that more than millinery.
In the sixties, the new hat was hair - endlessly reinvented and reworked to suit the whim of the moment. That was what Miuccia Prada looked to for her Autumn/Winter 2011 collection - a collection that looked simultaneously to the sixties and the twenties for its inspiration. Hence, the Prada army this season marched out in millinery that fused hat with hair, part wig part cloche, a neat combination of those two decades.
Cosmonauts helmets and the wacky space-age haute couture of Pierre Cardin and André Courreges could have been the starting point, but as always Prada pushes decade-play into a different realm. The sixties never looked like this, bug-eyed goggles peeking out from beneath a dandelion head of faux fur. For one, a Parisian couturier - space-age or not - would never dreamed of using anything less than the finest pelts. Even Yves Saint Laurent's controversial and much-lambasted blouson noir of 1960 was executed in crocodile and edged in mink.
Fakery is a Prada trademark - and I don't mean the Chinatown knock-offs of her nylon handbags. In the nineties Prada reinvented the synthetic as a new fashion fabric, and just last season her fox-fur was dyed in every unnatural colour, real masquerading as fake. The fur tufting out of this petite head-covering is fake on two levels - as a fabric it pretends to be fur, and as head-covering it pretends to be hair.
It is also fake in its futuristic pretensions. Prada's helmet pretends to look forward. It contains all the Modernist hallmarks of the future - streamlined form, man-made fabric, the very idea of a helmet conjuring up Jetsons visions of future fashion floating in zero-gravity. But, in actual fact, all of those ideas are pulled from the past - retro-futurism at its very finest. After all, what could be more vintage than a chunkily-buttoned chin-strap. That detail could be from 1860, never mind 1960.