Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau: a charming story on passion, loneliness of the artist and hope for the revival of generosity

Andrea Beaty, Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau. Pictures by David Roberts

Published 2014 by Abrams Books for Young Readers, 32p


What is a fashion icon if not an eccentric artist?

The unconventional British fashion editor Isabella Blow tragically died in 2007 but she is still invoked as one of the most imaginative persons when talking about wearing hats. She became a muse for Philip Treacy, a milliner who created hats that Isabella wore gracefully and ingeniously.

These hats and also the surrealistic creations of Elsa Schiaparelli who had worked with Salvador Dali to change the boundaries between fashion and art became the source of inspiration for Andrea Beaty and David Roberts who created Madame Chapeau, the world’s finest hatmaker.


Like the lady herself, all her hats were refined/ – brilliantly singular, one of a kind!/ Each feather; each bauble, each bead, and each bow – / painstakingly chosen by Madame Chapeau.



Her passion, her talent and her devotion made each person feel special, no matter young or old. But as most artists, Madame Chapeau had to respond celebrity with loneliness. Even for her birthday she used to dine alone:

Just one night a year – on her birthday, no less – / the lady unpacked her most elegant dress,/ the one with the frills and the frou-frou upon it./ And last but not least chose her best birthday bonnet./ She strolled through the streets in her elegant gown/ to dine – all alone – at the best pace in town.

Unfortunately, this year a crow stole her bonnet, offending Madame Chapeau and generating the collapsing of her routine. In her rush to take back her hat, Madame Chapeau enjoys the generosity of the Parisians who offer her their own hats. A little girl seems to have the perfect solution and the most unexpected birthday present.

“It looks rather odd” said the Lady Chapeau./

“This hat has no baubles. No beads. And no bow!/ It’s stretchy… it’s cozy… it’s easy to squish./ It’s knitted with love and your best birthday wish!”

The story is an example of individual completeness. Artistic and human. The creativity of an artist is fueled by talent and moments of solitude but also by his or her connection with the world. So, never again did Madame Chapeau dine alone.

with the girl

Complement Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau with Schumann the Shoeman, a tender story on the effect of industrialization and the nostalgia for old practices.


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