When I worked in bakeries and restaurant kitchens and for years after I left commercial kitchens but still baked at home, I had an imaginary bakery. I never wanted the responsibilities of a real bakery owner; I just enjoyed thinking about…
The cake boxes. The business cards by the cash register. The printed paper bags. The labels.
All designed beautifully, as a final expression of craftsmanship and caring to send out the door with the customer.
When I was fanatical about bakeries I sought them out on my travels. From bakeries in Copenhagen, Budapest, New York, Paris, London, San Francisco, Rome, and elsewhere I brought back cards, bags and wrappers too memory-laden and beautiful to throw away.
When I left my pastry-shift job at Mrs. London’s Bake Shop in Saratoga Springs, New York at the end of the racing season in 1983, I took a little sourdough starter and a sheet of labels as souvenirs. Old friends who rolled croissants with me that spring and summer get a Christmas card every year decorated with one of those labels.
I don’t think any more about having a fantasy bakery. But I still like labels.
I’ve sewn “Hand Made by Paula” labels into the shirts I’ve made for Jack for maybe fifteen years. I’ve never sewn one of these into a garment for myself. I would feel silly doing that.
But I find myself wanting that final custom touch in my own garments and have started researching vintage garment and hat labels online for inspiration.
Scrolling through more than 400 records of hats in the collection of the Goldstein Museum of Design that have been photographed, often including their labels, I was struck by how much information and atmosphere can be conveyed in those tiny bits of real estate.
The label that crows, “My hat’s from Harold,” with an image of a hat box, captures the excitement of this purchase.
“Miss” refers to the youthfulness of the purchaser.
But “Madame” suggests the experience and taste of the hat maker.
So say I, at any rate.
What does “Mr.” convey?
I haven’t figured that out yet. But I know I’d like to meet Mr. Arnold, whose “A” is made from two hand-mirrors.
And who wouldn’t want to meet the whimsical stick figure Mr. Martin, elegantly proffering a plumed hat with a deep bow?
These labels represent both the actual artistry of makers and wearers and a lovely make-believe land that mingles elegance, humor and delight.
(Photographs of all hat labels are from the Goldstein Museum of Design.)