Amanda McFillen

And Her Collection Of Vintage Hats
Judi Bottoni
Amanda McFillen, associate director of museum programs for The Historic New Orleans Collection, proudly shows off her collection of vintage hats that once belonged to Athalie McFillen, her grandmother from Lake Charles, who was quite a fashion maven in her day. Most of the hats are pillboxes, a style invented by milliners in the 1930s that was made famous in the 1960s by Jackie Kennedy, First Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963. Most of the hats came from Muller’s, a noted Lake Charles department store founded in 1882 that closed in 1985.

Amanda McFillen cherishes her collection of vintage hats that were originally owned by Athalie McFillen, her grandmother.

“I love to hear the stories about my grandmother having a lot of style, and I am pleased to now own her interesting collection of amazing hats,” says Amanda, the associate director of museum programs for The Historic New Orleans Collection, where she curates exhibitions and creates and organizes some of the public programming, “Most of her hats are pillboxes, the style of the day, very much like Jackie Kennedy wore in the 1960s.”

How did Amanda have the good fortune to be entrusted with the unique collection of vintage hats? “Over the years, I’ve become the keeper of quite few family heirlooms, such as a teddy bear owned by my paternal great, great grandfather and a mantel clock that once belonged to my maternal great, great grandfather. I think it’s because of my profession my family trusts that I will take good care of family keepsakes.”

It only takes a moment for Amanda to show off her hats and a still preserved hatbox from Muller’s, a noted Lake Charles department store founded in 1882 that was just over a hundred years old when it closed in 1985.

“The hats are wonderful and in great condition,” she continues. “What I like the most about them is the fact my grandmother wore them.” A Lake Charles style maven for many years, she reports that her grandmother sewed many of her own clothes.

Amanda describes her style today as classic, cheerful and fun. “I tend to go for bright colors and bold prints,” she says. “I feel like New Orleans is a place where you can be more playful and expressive with your style.” A resident since 2007, she moved here after finishing her master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Toronto. She was born and raised in Lafayette, and she remembers that as a six year old she loved to read. “The library was my second home and I developed a love for history at a young age,” she recalls. “I did a report in the sixth grade on what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I wrote about wanting to be a museum curator. It seemed like it would be a great job – and it is.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in history from Louisiana State University before traveling to Toronto for her graduate studies. “I also did two wonderful summer internships,” she says. “The first one was at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and then one at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa.

“It was my good fortunate to be hired by The Historic New Orleans Collection after completing graduate school,” she says. “This is a perfect job for me and I enjoy curating exhibitions and working on public programming such as our annual history symposium and the biannual culinary symposium. I also enjoy working on the film series, lectures and book signings. I love helping to bring people into the museum and getting them excited about all we have to offer and coming up with new ways to connect our audience to the exhibitions.”

Amanda proudly says she loves New Orleans. “The culture is so unique and it’s something that you really don’t understand until you live here. You can get a sense of it by visiting, but the longer you live here the more you learn and appreciate the city. I am constantly on a learning curve. There is always more to learn about our city and history, and I hope to inspire others to get to known more about this wonderful city.”

 

 

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