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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Creating Hats for Theatre

Hats on stage can be a nightmare. They shadow the face. They're another costume piece to locate, match and purchase. They can fall off at inopportune times.

For the Stowe Theatre Guild production of "The Pirates of Penzance," I couldn't bear to see the ladies go hatless. From a historical accuracy standpoint, they should have hats. Ladies outside in 1877 absolutely would have worn hats.*

The wonderful thing is that the first hat problem was immediately solvable. Hats from the bustle era were small affairs that were worn tilted forward onto the forehead. Sometimes the angle was so extreme that the hat was almost vertical. (You can see some of my research on my ca. 1877 Pinterest board.)

Four maidens. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)
As for the second obstacle, that was pretty simple, too. Finding/matching hats was no problem with a milliner in the cast. The only question was expense. I knew that the theatre couldn't afford to pay me for my work. I volunteered to create hats for the five girls in the show just for reimbursement of supplies. (And I ended up donating the cost of supplies I used from my personal stash.)

See, I also played Kate in the production, and I wanted hats, darn it!

Aside from that, I thought it would be a fun project where I could do an entirely different style of hat, get more practice working with buckram and do (gasp) theatrical millinery. In traditional/couture millinery, everything is sewn and finished off. In theatrical millinery, it's okay to use fabric glue, glue guns, even staples and to not finish the inside beautifully. It felt so strange to use glue on hats, but in the interest of time and cost, I did. And I would cringe a little to see the wonky, unfinished undersides/insides of the hats. ... But when they were on, you couldn't tell. They looked beautiful onstage.

More about the process of creating hats for theatre in Part Two ...

19th-century style hats. (Photo by Adam Silverman.)

* They probably would have had parasols, too. But I'm not a parasol-maker! Haha!

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