Category Archives: Inspiration

Beautiful hats, amazing designers, general lust list

Best hats of 2010

As another year comes to a close, everyone is counting the best (and worst) of 2010 and headgear of course, deserves it’s own list! After all, hats and fascinators have had a moment this past year, that I hope continues evermore.

Sooo, without further ado, here are the Top 5 Millinery Moments of 2010 in a snazzy little slideshow. Included are not only the greatest hats of the year (too many of those to choose from!), but the seminal moments in millinery.

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There are only five because I am in a mad rush to finish my New Year’s Eve millinery creation, more of which you will hear about soon… or next year even!

Happy New Year everybody, thank you for reading and see you again soon for more millinery stories!

xx

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Like Cloche-work, Vol I

Soooo, a few weeks ago I had a lesson from the legend that is Rose Cory. For those that don’t know, Rose is a master milliner who has made hats for everyone, and was appointed as the Queen Mother’s milliner for whom she made hats for 20 years. An inimitable Rose Cory design, with the signature upturned brim and feather alongside is alongside. The Guru once told me the story of the side feather on the Queen Mum’s hats. Apparently, when one of her hats was being finished in Rose’s workshop, someone got overenthusiastic with ironing the brim and burned the side of the hat minutes before it was due to be collected. In a panic, Rose placed a large plume over the burn in hope that the error wouldn’t be visible. Representatives from Clarence House took the hat away, and days later informed Rose that the new style was the Queen Mum’s favourite yet. (Somehow I don’t think my errors in hat-making would end up with a Royal seal of approval, but hey ho.)

Queen Elizabeth I, courtesy of Life

Rather than go the Queen Mum direction with my hat, I chose to slip into my favourite decadee, the 1920s. This was a special time in millinery, perhaps one of the most creative eras for headgear ever. So many styles we reproduce today originate in the 20s, and if you, like me, don’t have the figure for a flapper dress (yes, I have CURVES) the elegant headdress will always save the day.

Hoping to use the lesson to make a hat that I can show off on a regular basis, I opted for the cloche. Rose had this amazing book that I went through, and here are some pics I used as inspiration.

 

1920s cloche, from the book 'Authentic French Fashions of the Twenties', edited by Joanne Olian

Cloche-hatted French ladies on a shoot

It was agreed that as I only had limited time with Rose, it was probably best to make a classic cloche without the upturned brim. We started with choosing some fabric; Rose encourages you to only work with 100% natural materials, and the fabric I chose was this one, a French millinery cotton velvet, in my favourite shade of blue. Rose advised that this fabric was authentic millinery fabric, as you can tell from the very narrow width of the material; apparently, that’s how they produced it way back when (in Paris of course).

French millinery velvet

Fabric chosen, we measured my head (I won’t go into how big it is, sigh) and cut a strip on the bias. The key to this is to get as wide a bias strip as possible (within reason) at the length of the head circumference (so the bias line should be the circumference of your head).

Strip cut, I pinned the strip to the block, turned it insided out and machine sewed the seam as neatly as possible (another first for me, very exciting). Turning the now cylindrical piece of fabric back to right-side out, I placed it on the dolly for blocking.

As with all blocking, I placed the seam so that it was neatly diagonal at the back of the head shape, and placed pins in a cross shape pattern at the top, starting at the back (pic to the right).

Blocking the top of a cloche

The bottom of the crown was then blocked, using the usual – rather painful – method of hand-inserting pins. A useful tip for those who find this a bit difficult is: tread carefully. If you find a lot of pins breaking and consequently stabbing your fingers, mind you don’t bleed on your creation, especially if it’s really special or expensive fabric! I bled on my hat, but thankfully it came off straight away. It didn’t stop me stabbing myself repeatedly after though…

So once the bottom of the hat was blocked, I moved back to the top. The idea was to block the top section so that three quarters of the lower part of the fabric was crease free. After filling in the gaps of the initial pins, I steamed the fabric before blocking the rest, like so:

Blocking the top part of the cloche crown

It is important to then dry the fabric completely – I used a hand dryer for this, and held it under for about 3-4 minutes.

Blocking the cap of the crown

Then it was time to create the cap to cover the crown. Using a square bias piece of fabric, I blocked it as smoothly as possible to the top of the block. It was necessary to use alternate steam and drying (as above) several times before the cap was completely smooth. The cap was then sewn onto the rest of the crown, and the final result of Cloche, Vol I is…

Cloche, Vol I

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Ready-to-hat: more from the shows!

It’s cold here in London town (you might have heard, a new ice age apparently!) and also one of the busiest times of the year, what with all our work deadlines, millinery and non, and the big C fast approaching. So, what is one to do but turn to all the stunning Fashion Week pictures, for both distraction and winter chic inspiration.

This (rather chilly) milliner’s fingers have been avoiding the frost by working on a million projects at once, a few of which you are about to see and other, more exciting ones, in the pipeline. In the meantime, here are a few items that would easily make it to the top of my Christmas wish list (if I wasn’t already working out how to make them myself!)

Carolina Herrera A/W '10, Ready to wear (thank you Style.com)

First up, and in keeping with this seasons red/camel colour trend, here is an elegant piece from Carolina Herrera. With the right outfit, this hat will rock.

Next, unashamed favouritism goes to my design crush, Christian Dior, for the following three stunners. I am a particular fan of the alternative flatcap and love this brown suede baggy version – genius if you have big hair, and the texture and folds make it look divine to wear. The manly flat top hat is fierce.

Christian Dior A/W '10, Ready to Wear (thank you Style.com)

Flowers soften the mean freezing cold, and the following selections are perfect to cheer up a winter outfit if you aren’t a fan of woolly pompom alternatives.

Christian Dior A/W '10, Ready to Wear (thank you Style.com)

Dolce and Gabbana have come up several versions of this glorious blossom hat. Another favourite, Charles Anastase is renowned for his fairytale creations, and this headpiece would look beautiful indoors and out.

Dolce & Gabbana A/W '10, Ready to Wear

 

Charles Anastase A/W '10, Ready to Wear

In honour of the spectacularly cold weather battering dear Blighty this week, here are some delightful options from John Galiano, who really knows how to steal the show from any old ice age…

And just so that we don’t leave this post with the idea of Ugg boots as hats, here are a few actually useful items from Vivienne Westwood, Karl Lagerfeld and Prada. Loving the beaten fedora and winter headbands. Keep warm peeps! xx

Vivienne Westwood A/W '10, Ready to Wear

Karl Lagerfeld A/W '10, Ready to Wear

Prada A/W '10, Ready to Wear

 

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Pret-a-hat for winter

As promised, some beautiful hat trends in the shops to keep yourself a-head in winter millinery fashion (see what I did there? Terrible, I know).

Although we most often think of headwear in the context of pretty hats and fascinators for weddings and race days in the hotter months, hats are just as relevant if not more so in winter. Take a look at these everyday beauties.

La Cerise Sur Le Chapeau

Eugenia Kim

We’ll start with hats. This season’s take on the fedora goes back to its thirties origins. I particularly like this one by Eugenia Kim, brilliant for day and that bit of gold really helps warm things up.

A lighter weekend version is this beauty from La Cerise Sur Le Chapeau. These guys are particularly amazing as they provide a customize your own hat service, so maybe get it to complement the trusty winter coat? For those into a more fashion vibe, my absolute favourite is as follows, from American Brenda Lynn:

Brenday Lynn, Autumn Winter 2010

Another must-have in winter (and summer and any time really) is the trilby. What a versatile bit of millinery that, you can basically make a trilby to suit any occasion. I can’t wait for First Hat to be finished so that I can embark on a First Trilby project, soooo exciting! Here is one by Anthony Peto with a bit of leopard print to make it more exciting.

Continuing in the thirties theme is unlikely source Stella McCartney with her stunning cloche.

And let’s not forget the best of hair pieces for Autumn/Winter, the added benefit being that these can be work ALL THE TIME, indoors and out, day and night, casual and smart, etc etc etc! LOVE. But you’ll have to wait for the next post.

x

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Winter millinery, the couture way

Christian Dior, Couture A/W 2010

Ooooh, apologies for the lack in First Hat updates! I’ve been busy trying to find the perfect winter hat to actually wear, hoping to cheer myself up now that London is turning all cold and depressing.

And where else to turn for cold weather couture inspiration than the catwalk? It’s the natural habitat of all else fashion, and we’re often so distracted by the stunning clothes (or complete lack of them in some cases) that nobody notices what’s up top.

Here are some of the highlights from the Autumn/Winter 2010-11 shows. We will, of course, be focusing on couture for this post,and first up we have candy-wrapper chic by Christian Dior.

The veil effect of the effective flower ‘wrappers’ is genius, as is the undone updo hair that almost looks like it is the basis of the headgear itself.

 

 

 

 

 

The chic turban seen at Jean Paul Gaultier (as opposed to the one on the crazy lady stalking her old hang-outs on the King’s Road) is very much de riguer, particularly when teemed with interesting shoulders and tailored, 40s mid-length hemlines. Deep dark jewel colours are also a must, and red lipstick will seal that air of mystery into one glorious Avendonesque snapshot. Alors, some of my favourites, keep an eye out for the cornflower blue ensemble which has me weak at the knees:

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Come back in a few days for more winter millinery excitement, including ready-to-wear (yes! things we can actually buy, yay!) and, of course, the latest from the First Hat.

x

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The First Hat, volume I

The following will describe perhaps what has been one of my happiest days in London.

It was a very exciting Saturday morning when, as everyone else lay in the very rare London sunshine planning their next BBQ, I found myself donning a pretty dress and hopping on the scooter all the way to Bloomsbury to learn how to make a couture hat.

First Hat inspiration, Dior circa 1956

My new teacher had emailed a list of things I needed to get, and it turned out I had a choice between making a straw hat, a felt hat, or a fabric hat. I went for straw as I was inspired by the summery weather and bought a straw parisisal capeline in navy from McCullock & Wallis.

Now, I knew from my emails with the Guru that I would be blocking my hat – that was, after all, what I was there to learn. However, several shop assistants I spoke to seemed to think that that would be terribly hard to do as my first project, which was of course completely untrue.

Also, a note for when you are buying materials as a novice. I noticed a huge fold on the capeline, but as it was the last one in navy, I had to purchase it; I did ask if the fold would be a problem, and was told that no, blocking would take care of that. As it happens, it didn’t, so beware: massive folds or creases in less than top-quality straw permanently damage the fibres and even after blocking you will still have a faint line where the fold used to be.

Best Dior book by far

Sooo, to the Guru’s studio for the First Lesson. I was in heaven upon walking in. Minimalist desks, lovely bits of fabric casually peeping out of glamorous hat boxes, and dozes of intriguing blocks and tools everywhere. But first, to identify the First Hat. What did I want to make, the Guru asked? No idea, I replied, and a discussion of designers and eras I liked ensued, aided strongly by amazingly expensive fashion books and stunning pictures. The Guru and I clicked, and very soon after I was donning an apron (standard millinery dress) and the First Hat was being born.

The first skill I learned was an introduction to blocking. Blocking is the process by which you shape the material used to make your hat. Experienced milliners will know how to design their own block according to the hat they want to make, but at a beginner’s level, I improvised with some of the shapes my Guru already had in house. I went for a wide brim, with rounded crown, with an inverted attachment and an improvised angle, ala 1950s New Look (see previous post and left).

Couture hats are made in two parts: brim and crown. I started with the brim, and to start blocking, I covered the brim block with plastic (we used dry cleaning bags); the plastic was attached by four pins in a cross pattern. Then I drenched the capeline in water and, finding the X-shaped seam in the crown, placed it correctly on the block. The Gury blocked four pins into the wood as guides for me to practice blocking on.

One of my first negative thoughts about millinery (the first of only two so far!), was that it was unexpectedly painful! Blocking a hat is basically stretching fabric over a piece of wood and pining it into perfect, smooth shape using your bare hands. Yes, shoving very hard needles into a block of wood just by the strength of your arms (mine are not that strong, so I was very worried my career as a milliner would be over before it even starte


First Hat, Volume I: Parisisal brim blocked

d). I soon got the hang of it though, as there is a special technique you use: with a thimble on your middle finger, pick up the pin upside down. Insert into wood using both your thumb, index inger and the side of your middle finger. No other way works as well, according to the Guru. Thus, the beginnings of the First Hat looked something like this (right).

After blocking all the way round the brim, I bunched up the crown fabric and blocked the top part of the brim that would later join the two parts of the hat together. Once blocked, the hat was left to dry over night, and that was my first lesson over with!

More on the First Hat coming soon, including how not to use fabric stiffener, some basic millinery sewing skills and much more! x

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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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