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Celebrating the life and style of artist Georgia O’Keeffe—and her legendary Stetson

By Paul Underwood

Photography by Ansel Adams, Todd Webb, and Philippe Halsman

The sun in Santa Fe burns bright and hot, the city’s 7,000-plus feet of elevation thinning the air, leaving the landscape somehow both washed out and luminous. Few artists have captured the ensuing majesty like Georgia O’Keeffe, who depicted its flora and fauna with unmatched vibrancy during the nearly six decades she spent in and around the city, including at her two homes in Northern New Mexico—one in Abiquiú and the other located on the famous Ghost Ranch.

Not only does the Land of Enchantment live vividly in her work, but it’s also reflected in her impeccable sense of style, which we’re celebrating as part of Women’s History Month. The centerpiece of her austere, often-monochrome wardrobe: a black, flat-crowned Stetson, which she was often photographed with over the years.

A gaucho hat, the Stetson connected her to the region’s cowhands, who helped popularize the style, which originated in Central and South America. She often wore it with a bandana or scarf wrapped underneath for added protection from the sun, wind, and dust, embodying O’Keeffe’s sensibility: equally eye-catching and practical.

She favored flats, eschewed most jewelry, and rarely wore makeup, the better to showcase a face described as “beautiful yet severe” by one art critic, captured in photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Philippe Halsman, Todd Webb, and her husband, Alfred Stieglitz.

Top: Georgia O’Keeffe on her patio wearing her iconic black felt Stetson,
Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1963. Photograph by Todd Webb.
© Todd Webb Archive

Historical records show she picked the hat up from a local shop, Moore’s, a longtime staple of Santa Fe’s renowned Plaza until its closure in 1989.

Aficionados can now see it on display as part of Georgia O’Keeffe: Making a Life, an exhibition of art and objects at her namesake museum in Santa Fe, running through Spring 2024. It’s exhibited alongside carefully curated books, garments, photography, and assorted personal items from her lifetime, which spanned nearly a century.

Photo 1: Georgia O’Keeffe and Orville Cox, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona, 1937. Photograph by Ansel Adams, Courtesy of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
© The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust
Photo 2 (SWIPE): Georgia O’Keeffe’s black, wide-brimmed Stetson was a favorite of hers. She wore it often, including on many camping and rafting trips out west. Both were among her beloved pastimes. Photograph by Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, 2023.
 © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

At the museum, you’ll see how the hat has been carefully preserved, thanks to conservation work including hole repair and added stitching for stabilization. Fans will also note the original John B. Stetson stamp on the interior headband. True to form, O’Keeffe kept the hat much as she found it at Moore’s, never adding adornments or hatbands.

Much like its wearer, her Stetson remains a true original.

Portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe, outside her Ghost Ranch home,
Abiquiu, New Mexico, 1948. Photograph by Philippe Halsman.
© Philippe Halsman/Magnum Photos