As I looked up from my painting the other day there was an old movie, one that I can’t even recall at this moment. On the screen there was a man, I think it was Tyrone Power, in a movie from the late 1930′s to 1940′s, wearing a hat of a sort on his head that caught my eye. It wasn’t really a hat but was worn like one, looking like some sort of Victorian device for either measuring the head for a hat or for torturing the wearer. Or both.
It really piqued my interest and I did a quick search and, lo and behold, there it was on my computer screen. It was called a comformateur and was a French device used by hat milliners to get exact measurements of the head so that they might make a hat fit perfectly. The slats or fingers that make up the side of the device all conformed to the head and as they moved in or out they would push corresponding pins upward. These pins would puncture a sheet of paper placed in the top of this device, the perforations forming an image much like a connect-the-dots drawing, leaving an exact outline in miniature of the head. The hatmaker then has a permanent record of the shape of his client’s head.
These conformateurs date back to the 1820′s and are very collectible by hatmakers and by collectors of Victorian oddities.
I don’t know why this caught my eye or why I’m sharing this today. I just am really interested in these types of inventions, these contraptions that obviously required a lot of effort to design and build. They show such ingenuity and complexity in their design, especially for purposes that seem so obscure in the present day.
Actually, I’m thinking it might just be cool to wear one around as my everyday hat. Maybe at my next opening. Would that make me a non-conformateur?