Tag Archives: Dior

The torrents of Spring/Summer

Oooh, it’s been a while.

But with summer nearly here, I thought some couture inspiration from the shows back in October last year to be essential viewing…

First, of course, is still-head-designer-less-but-rumour-heavy Christian Dior, for the headwear in the collection is nothing short of magnificent. We are particular fans of the following:

Christian Dior couture Spring/Summer 2011

Nobody does etherial elegance like Dior. Some examples are these elegant but fierce headpieces, using silk and feathers.

Christian Dior couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Christian Dior couture, Spring/Summer 2011

The Chanel show was stunning, despite the sad lack of headwear.

But Givenchy and Jean Paul Gautier more than made up for it, with these beauties – note the nod towards ‘hair-as-hats’ or hair art going on in JPG. Fabulous.

Hair or hat? Jean Paul Gautier couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Jean Paul Gautier couture, Spring/Summer 2011

Definitely hat. Givenchy couture, Spring/Summer 2011

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*Photos by no means my own, courtesy of style.com x

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The First Hat, Vol III

Well, here it is! The final installment of First Hat.

It was a long time coming, but the next session was so exciting.

I hadn’t finished the brim (I forgot the invisible slip stitch half way through, drama. In case you forget, here’s the link). Once the brim was finished – this took a while due to having to check that the fold of the brim was of even width all the way round every few seconds for couture perfection reasons – it was time to block the crown.

Fabric stiffener for cheap thrills

Blocking the crown was slightly different. Firstly, I cut out a piece of very starchy crown fabric and completely drenched it in water (which made it into a sort of gooey cloth). This was then placed on the block and the crown section of the capeline (the bit I cut out in my previous session) slid on top; I blocked both to form as smooth a shape as possible. Once it was dry (had to use a hair dryer!) I got to do my favourite part which is dab the whole crown with fabric stiffener. The smell is divine. It was upon declaring this that I was told a very funny anecdote about Vivienne Westwood participating in a class where they used such strong chemical stiffener that the whole floor of the building they were in (somewhere in Germany) had to be evacuated for health and safety reasons. Not me though, I love the stuff.

The next stage was, perhaps one of the trickiest. We had two things to do: firstly, place the brim over the crown and angle it correctly (the Guru had to do a lot of this as I could not be trusted) and, secondly, to trim the side of the crown that shows underneath the hat and drape silk over it to make it look nice. Both of these steps are easier said than done!

Draping silk chiffon to cover underside of crown

I took great care to bring a nice piece of navy silk chiffon with me for the underside of the crown; however, once this was cut on the bias for draping, it emerged that I had nowhere near enough. A significant amount of Guru expertise was used to drape not one, but three pieces of bias silk chiffon in place without it showing. Although difficult, this was one of my favourite parts of making First Hat. Silk draping is such an elegant art and the Guru and I had a long conversation about the technique and its hero Madame Gres. A simple version of what I was doing can be described as follows: pin the length of silk along the area you want to cover. Create folds that look natural, and continually pin into place (pin underneath the fold), aiming for there not to be a

First Hat on stretcher, final stages

beginning nor an end to the folds. Once you are happy that the folds look completely uncontrived, sew invisible stitches from pin to pin. Make sure the underside of the hat also looks tidy. And, unlike me, do try and use one large piece of bias silk instead of several small ones, as this makes things considerably easier!

Next it was time to measure my head for fit. I was so excited, as the hat was looking near finished. My happiness was short-lived however when, upon measuring my head, the Guru declared it to be slightly larger than average. I HAVE THICK HAIR I said icily, but enough on that. We measured my average-sized head and cut a hatband (or puggaree! but better known as petersham) to the right length. My love for the Guru was restored when she told me all about the signature petersham colours the couture houses use, petersham being the ribbons on the inside of the hat crown that make it more comfortable to wear. Apparently, each house has it’s own signature colour; as my hat was Dior-inspired, I used theirs which is rich brown.

If you look closely, you can see the evil fabric stiffener on the brim...

Once the hat band was cut and sewn into a circle using a simple stitch, I pinned the band to the inside of the hat, ensuring that the ‘hem’ of the band was at the back and that all the fabric and lining was tidy. It was then all sewn together. To iron out any wrinkles, I used a very thick piece of sinamay to place between the hat and an iron. Using the lowest heat possible, I ironed all parts of the hat very gently using my hand as a base (careful when doing this, it can get hot quickly!) to make the hat absolutely perfect. A moment of panic ensued when I got a bit too liberal with the finishing layer of fabric stiffener – you are only supposed to feather dust the finished hat with it but I, high on the chemical fumes, put so much on the poor hat started to look a bit gooey. I nearly burst into tears I was so distraught, but a bit of last minute dabbing saved the day.

So proud of my beautiful First Hat. Here it is on one of its first outings (on my friend Jess’ head, which is decidedly smaller and makes it look a lot better, sigh … )

Ta da! First Hat

The Guru and I were very pleased with the result. As is typical of me, I couldn’t wait to start making the next one. The Guru advised that fabric hats are a good learning curve for couture skills, so that will be my next project with her. But in the break between Guru classes (she has a lot of hats to make!) I decided to something a bit more fanciful. Tune in next time for the (shorter) saga of the First Cloche with the Doyenne of all that is Millinery, Rose Cory.

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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.

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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.

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