Monthly Archives: September 2010

Millinery guru wanted

So, being a nerd at heart, I started the hunt for a suitable teacher. To be a couture milliner it would be best to be taught by someone that specializes in couture millinery, or even better, an actual couture milliner, right?

To the internet for more hard-core researching. Who would a couture milliner be? Obviously, we have Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, hat-maker to the Queen herself Rachel Trevor-Morgan and another favourite Louise Mariette, of most expensive hat fame.

By the way, my heart sank when I read that Lady Gaga was to APPLY for an apprenticeship with the legend that is Philip Treacy. I mean, if Lady GAGA is going to be a milliner, what hope for the rest of us? The lady clearly has flair and is her own advertiser, etc etc.

Anyway, I digress. I looked and looked and despite the fact that there is no set-in-stone method for training as a milliner I finally found the Guru. I think the main tip for anyone searching for a millinery teacher would be to just find a milliner willing to teach you, whose methods you respect and whose work you admire (find out who makes the hats of the designers you like; always a good start). You don’t have to have the same style, or aspire to work the way they do, just focus on whether or not they actually have the skills you would like to learn.

My Guru is exactly that; an example of what I’d like to learn. This lady, is cool (and happens to be from the same part of London as me, which somehow made it seem like it was meant to be). She has a purist couture background that I couldn’t resist, so I booked my class and thus found myself trying to pick a ‘fashion’ outfit on a Saturday morning before heading to her trendy studio space to learn how to make hats for a living.

The Guru in person was everything I thought she would be and more. Effortlessly glamorous with an own-brand headband in her hair and sleek Chanel glasses perched on her nose, she was elegant enough not to laugh when I showed her my attempt at a ‘couture’ flower, before sharing a few tips and chatting through the beginnings of millinery.

So, brace yourself for the saga of… The First Hat, parts I, II and III. Inspired by the above Dior 1950s New Look hat. But in navy, because that’s always better.

x

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Filed under Couture, Inspiration

Blossoming art

Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen

So, during my tinternet searchathon, it occured to me that this new habit of mine might actually end up being proper expensive. Semi-private tuition by a master of millinery can’t come cheap, can it? And not to mention all those top-quality materials I love to visualize…

In an attempt to save myself some hard-earned cash, I decided to tread slowly into the learning process.

I invested in a few couture tutorials online, to see how I would fare at a beginner’s level. I went for the higher-end tutorial, not a ready-to-make kit, and chose a couture flower (how hard could it be?!) as my first challenge.

There were a lot of skills involved in the making of this flower (most of which only harmed me), including cutting fabric on the bias, curling the flower ‘petals’ (without an egg iron, a contraption that I later discovered is used to shape fabric in a round way, rather than cook eggs without creases), folding and shaping the petals together and, the most important attribute for a milliner… patience.

The couture fabric flower that you are about to admire, took me a whopping 6 hours to make. Yes, 6 hours of painstakingly cutting the fabric and trimming off the ends, curling and re-curling (because curling manually with a wire is not easy) and trying to stitch neatly and wondering why the silk keeps fraying.

Couture Flower I

Another valuable lesson. Do not believe everything the fabric/haberdashery/supposed experts tell you in store. The silk I went crazy on (ambitiously buying 10! different colours – for 10 different flowers, ha!), was cheap even though I was told it was the best in store.

Cheap = low thread count = fabric losely woven = fraying. As soon as you cut it, it’s frays galore and as roses are meant to have lucious thick petals, the effect was more watercolour rose than real. There is a way around this, I have since been told (by the Guru, but more on her later); either spray the cheap silk in fabric stiffener, or dunk it in gelatine. Gelatine works best, and is probably more fun to do (I will be experimenting shortly, so watch this space).

I loved the flowers I made though; especially in creative colours. For my birthday, I decorated the hat below, a genuine Panama, with a cluster of couture rose, and feather-made bird, butterfly and feathers to a really satifisfying effect.

Not quite the intro image, but just you wait.

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Filed under Background info, Couture, Materials, Skills