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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"Hat of the Week": Vintage Treasure and Signature Style

Bottle green fedora with vintage silk faille ribbon.

This hat is a perfect example of why the cost of materials can be more relevant to the price of a hat than the exact amount of labor. This hat took no more effort than a wool hat with cotton/grosgrain petersham ribbon would have. It's all about the supplies.

The supplies ... Oh! These supplies!

They are what make this week's "Hat of the Week" truly special.

The felt is a flat fur felt hood. Nothing too noteworthy there. But the beautiful color — bottle green — isn't really available here in the U.S. There aren't very many millinery suppliers around. Three main ones in the U.S. that I know of, and a smattering of other sources. So for a felt this color, I had to order from Germany! And, yes, that means the cost of the felt was a lot higher than ones I buy domestically. I got only one felt in this color, so this is the one and only (for now) bottle green hat I've made.

This fedora also has semiprecious stones: a jade bead surrounded by green goldstone beads. (Beads and semiprecious stones are a frequent feature in my work.)

Silk ribbon from Columbia Ribbon Co. of Haledon, N.J.
 Columbia Ribbon hatband ribbon

The most rare and stunning part of this hat is the ribbon. I don't know the exact date of this ribbon. It is possibly as old as 1910s, and certainly pre-WWII. It comes from the Columbia Ribbon Company of Haledon, N.J., a silk mill that made hatband ribbons.

I wish they still made ribbons like this nowadays! Everything about it is gorgeous, including the copperplate etching label. My vintage-loving heart is swooning.

What's not so gorgeous is the yellowing paper. The paper separating layers of vintage ribbon looks charming and seems like it would protect the ribbon. But the acids from the paper can cause vintage ribbons to deteriorate, sadly. Fortunately, the amount of ribbon I used on this hat was in excellent condition. I will be removing the rest of the ribbon from the roll for its safety (and also so I can see how much is left).

It is silk faille in a perfect color match (just a shade darker) to the felt. You might not be able to see in the photos, but it has a beautiful fine ribbed texture (i.e. faille) with a satin border. Vintage ribbons of this type typically cost $12-$30 per yard!

My original plan for this hat — and the reason I got this specific color of felt — was to make a hat for myself. The ultimate "me" hat.

... And then, when I was finished, I discovered rather than keep it for myself, what I really wanted was to share it with the world. So, I added it to my shop.

I have a lot of thoughts on signature style, which could take up a full blog post. Some milliners have a very distinct signature style; some don't.

I don't have a signature style per se. But, if I do have anything close to a signature style, this is it. Vintage trims, semiprecious stones, beaded embellishments and ribbon cockades are some of my favorite elements to work with. The felt was blocked on wood hat blocks — but additional shaping of the brim and crown was done by hand.

This hat is 25% off through June 29. No coupon code needed.

Questions about my supplies or process are welcome.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"Hat of the Week": Excited by "Boring" Hats

 Navy 1920s-style Cloche
Navy 1920s-style Cloche
It's Royal Ascot time. While the eyes of the hat-loving world are on amazing, often gravity-defying millinery creations, I'm thinking about ... the exact opposite.

As much as I love fancy hats, my heart truly belongs to casual hats. I'm a vintage gal at heart. It used to be that women wore hats every day, not just for weddings, races and fancy events. There's a charm to everyday hats. A lived-in feel that makes the hat part of the wearer, not just a decoration on top.

This past weekend was the 10th Annual Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York. (I've never been, and I so want to go sometime!) Most people who go dress up in their 1920s best — from authentic vintage to reproductions to costumes.

Evening ensembles with beaded dresses, metallic shoes, dark makeup and fancy headpieces are the most spectacular to look at. But would a 1920s woman, even the most modern flapper wear an evening outfit to a daytime picnic? Probably not. But I think a well-done historically accurate outfit can be just as exciting.

When most people think of flapper fashions, they most often picture what you get if you Google "flapper costume": fringed dresses and a sequined headband with a feather stuck in it. Sad. Flapper fashions were so much more than that. Some of them were comparatively plain, but still fashionable. (And let's not forget that not every woman — not even every stylish young woman — was a flapper.)

There's something about everyday hats that jazzes me up. (Pun intended.) When I saw the most recent Great Gatsby movie, my favorite hat was a barely glimpsed pink cloche on an extra. It was slightly battered looking. It wasn't slick and overly perfect. As a result, it looked like a real hat a woman from that era would wear. It didn't look like a costume.

This week's "Hat of the Week" is inspired by the real fashions of the 1920s. It's not 100% historically accurate. It's not based on a specific extant cloche. The trim is vintage, but I'd guess it's from the 1970s. This navy cloche, though, is 100% historically inspired. It's designed to be an everyday hat. And it pairs as well with jeans and a t-shirt as it does with a 1920s-style day dress.

A model shows off the navy "everyday" cloche.
Photo by Ting Shen
This hat is 30% off through June 22. No coupon code needed.

As always, I welcome any questions about my millinery process or inspirations.






Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Hat of the Week": Beading ... and My Dirty Little Secret

Beaded Bridal Headpiece with Veil
It's wedding season. (As someone who got married in gray November, I think every season can be wedding season. But June is a more popular month.) So it seems fitting that a bridal piece be this week's "Hat of the Week."

25% off. No coupon code needed. And back to regular price on Monday.

Best of all, it's ready to ship! So if you're a procrastinator or just planning a wedding in a short time, it's the perfect headpiece. And, hey, weddings are expensive. This hat — even at full price — is not.

This is a silk/cotton fabric with metallic threads on a buckram base. Also has a nylon veil and elastic to hold it in place.

But really, this hat is all about the beads. If you've seen some of my other hats, you might know I have a weakness for beads and beading. I have amassed a collection of many different beads. Sadly, my favorite bead store recently closed. This piece has several styles of beads: freshwater pearls; white, cream and iridescent seed beads; iridescent bugle beads, and vintage micro beads. All were sewn on by hand, a process that took many hours.

 And here's my dirty little secret: I don't charge for my time. Well, not exactly. I do charge for my time somewhat, but I base my prices more on the cost of materials.

It's part of my philosophy of pricing. I do what I think is fair — for me and for customers. I think nicer, higher quality materials should cost more. A simple silk tulle veil should cost more than an elaborately constructed nylon or polyester one. (Personally, I would never pay $100 for a polyester shirt, no matter the brand. But I would perhaps be willing to pay that amount for a silk shirt.) I don't think customers should have to pay more if a material misbehaved or I had to unpick some stitches.

So that's my dirty little secret. Also, I really like beading, so it's not as much "work" as certain other millinery tasks.

I'm newer to bridal millinery than I am to other aspects of hat-making. I never was the wedding-dreams, "bridezilla" type. That's probably why I didn't gravitate toward making bridal headpieces at first. But since I've done it, I can't wait to do more.

In my opinion, bridal work is the ultimate creative challenge as a milliner. It can be simple or elaborate. Usually, it's monochromatic, which forces more thoughtful decisions about texture and proportion. There are so many amazing places bridal hats can go. Check out my Bridal Hats board on Pinterest for some examples of what other milliners are doing with shades of white.

The veil drops to about cheekbone level.
As always, I welcome any questions you might have!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How to Wear a Hat

"I love hats, but I don't look good in them."
"I wish hats would come back in style."
"I just don't have any place to wear a hat."
"Everybody stares at me. I stand out."
"Hats don't fit my lifestyle."
"I can't find a hat that fits my weird head/face."

Remy doesn't like wearing hats.
But he's a dog. What's your excuse?
Other fashion experts and milliners have talked about this before. Here's my take. Here's how to wear a hat:

Decide You Want to Wear a Hat


The key word here is you. Don't worry about what other people are doing. Don't worry that you think hats aren't "in." First of all, they're more in than you think. If every person who says, "I wish hats would come back" actually wore a hat — guess what? — hats would officially be back. People aren't used to seeing hats everywhere, but they still like them. Second of all, unless you're in middle school, what other people think of your hat shouldn't be a concern. When I was in sixth grade, I thought if only I wore the right clothes, I would be popular. It didn't happen. Nobody's going to like you or dislike you because you wear a hat. And if they do, that says far more about them than it does about you.

If you want to wear a hat ... wear a hat! It's a simple as that.

Wear Red Lipstick, Part I (aka Don't Let the Hat Wear You)


Before I was a milliner, I worked as a makeup artist. The first time I ever wore a bright red lipstick, I was taken aback. Who was that person in the mirror? It was strange and uncomfortable ... at first. After about half an hour, I grew to love it! When I had women wanting to try red lipstick, they'd be nervous at first. I told them they just needed a little time to get used to it. Once they did, they could wear that bold lipstick with confidence.

And the same thing is true of hats. If you walk down the street ashamed of your fashion choices and feel insecure, if you think "Oh, everybody's staring at me because I'm wearing a hat!" then it isn't going to go well. "Why is she wearing a hat?" people might think, not because hats are odd but because you show your discomfort.

On the flip side, if you walk down the street pleased with your headwear and think "Heck yeah! I'm rocking this hat!" then you will feel great. You might get loads of compliments. ... And I guarantee you that at least one person will be thinking, "She can really pull off wearing a hat! I wish I could do that."

If you need to, wear a hat around your house to get used to it. Take lots of looks at your self in the mirror. Let wearing a hat feel cool and exciting, not embarrassing. And when you take it out in public, the #1 rule is this: You wear the hat. Don't let the hat wear you.

Wear Red Lipstick, Part II (aka When Style Does Matter)


emerald green '40s halo hat
You might want to pull out the
red lipstick and vintage hairstyle
for this 1940s-style hat.
If you grab a certain style of hat and just plop it onto your head, you might look kind of silly. Some kinds of hats require a certain type of outfit and/or hairstyle and/or makeup. Perching hats (such as the "doll hats" or "toy hats" of the 1940s) might look ridiculous with long, loose unstyled hair and jeans and a t-shirt. A pillbox stuck onto the back of your head will seem silly and out of place with no thought about makeup or clothes or hairstyle. Some hats require you to pay attention to the rest of your style. I advise starting with the hat and then figuring out the hair, makeup and outfit to match. And maybe wear that bold red lipstick for a truly vintage look.

But, the good news is there are plenty of modern "beginner" hat styles. Everyday, casual styles. Or, as I like to call them: jeans-and-a-t-shirt hats

Anybody who thinks they don't have a place to wear a hat is just plain wrong. Sure, you might not have an event that requires a wide-brimmed Kentucky Derby-style hat. Not everybody has a place to wear a sequined cocktail hat. But there are absolutely hats you can wear as easily as a ball cap.

The first hats I wore were probably newsboys and flat caps. From there, it wasn't much of a leap to wear fedoras/trilbies and cloches. A simple cloche or jaunty fedora can easily be worn with jeans and a t-shirt. 

You Can Be a "Hat Person"


"I don't look good in hats." "I'm just not a hat person." "I can't find a hat that looks good on me." "Hats always look silly on me." Milliners hear these all the time. 

And, sorry, but you're wrong.

"Saying you don't look good in hats is like saying you don't look good in shoes." I don't know who first said that. Sometimes it's expanded to include "You just haven't found the right hat yet."

An everyday fedora can go with
everything, even jeans and a t-shirt.
Another observation I love came from a fellow milliner. What would you do if you lived in the 1940s? You would find a hat that suited you because everyone wore hats. Period.

Obviously, not every hat is going to look good on every person. One of my favorite hat styles is the '40s style fedora that is a bit smaller than head-size, so it perches on top of the head. One of my favorite people is a woman who is 6' tall and has a 24.5" head size. If she wore this style of hat, it would probably look like she just has a too-small hat, rather than looking like the style. If you have a long, thin face, a high-crowned, wide-brim hat might not be the best match for you.

So experiment. See what you like. See what looks good. And milliners are not just hat makers. We're also hat stylists. I can help match you up with the best style for you. I can make a custom hat to suit your style. If you have an extra large or extra small head size, I can make a hat to your measurements. And if I'm not the right milliner to make the bespoke hat, I will refer you to another milliner who is.

* ~ * ~ *

As always, questions are welcome.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Hat of the Week": Vintage Trims and Liars on eBay

Olive Straw Cloche
This week's "Hat of the Week" is an olive toyo straw cloche. As usual, the sale is until next Monday with no coupon code needed. Not as usual, this hat is the biggest discount I've yet offered: 40%. But it will go back to full price as of Monday.

And this week I want to talk about supplies, supplies-hoarding and vintage trims.

What's "new" on this hat? The body (made of toyo straw), the head size ribbon, the brand label and thread. Everything else, all of the trims are vintage.

I started buying and collecting vintage trims only about 3 years ago, and I have learned a lot in the process.

Vintage supplies come in two main forms. New old stock — also called NOS or deadstock — is old/vintage/antique but has never been used (therefore "new"). Reclaimed or rescued vintage components were used for another project, perhaps a dress or a hat, and later removed.

You would assume that NOS is in better condition than reclaimed. That's not always the case. "New" vintage materials can have damage from moths, dust, mold, etc. They can have foxing (the brown spots you see on old paper). Ribbons on the roll used to be sold with paper in between each layer. That might seem like a good thing, but the acid from the paper can cause the ribbon to weaken or deteriorate. That's especially important to know for listings where the ribbon hasn't been unrolled to check its condition or verify yardage.

Three types of vintage trim.
This week's hat has three types of vintage trim, so I thought it would be a good week to talk about vintage supplies.

First up, the band: I'm pretty sure this trim was reclaimed, because it had stray threads along the edges that indicated it had been sewn onto something else. (I bought this from ShopOlga on Etsy.) It was a pretty short piece, just 25". Some of the pale parts were a little dingy, so I gave it a wash before using it. And there are a couple of flaws in the weave, which I think are due to weaving errors (though possibly age).

It's a fascinating geometric pattern. The seller listed it as 1920s to 1930s, which I have no reason to doubt.

So here's the first caveat about vintage or antique trims: Lots of sellers try to suck you in by labeling something as older than it is. Sometimes there are clues such as "antique-colored" or "vintage style." And sometimes they'll straight-up lie. That's why it's good to take advantage of buyer protection on eBay or Etsy.

Part of the reason I know this ribbon is genuine vintage is because it has a high metal content. That means the bronze threads are actually metal! Modern metallic ribbons are just metal-colored, not made with metal. And you can tell (same as with steel beads vs. glass beads) just by the feel. Real metal is heavy. 
My favorite part of this hat is the pompom. I bought this set of five NOS pompoms on Etsy a couple years ago. The one at top left had a couple of spots I wasn't able to get out, so I used that one on a personal hat. The others are just beautiful and fabulous and fun! They don't make supplies like this anymore. It is fluffy and soft.

Finally, the ribbon used to bind the brim and make a small bow under the pompom. On the positive side, it matches the metal trim perfectly, and the texture is a perfect complement to the paper straw. On the downside, here was an example of a seller being quite inaccurate in a description. I refuse to pass the deception along, so I don't call it silk, rayon, satin or millinery ribbon. It is genuinely vintage and came on the original roll. 

I bought this trim more than two years ago. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have purchased it. I have become much better at identifying ribbon styles and quality from listing photos rather than just believing the description. Or I might have returned it for being "not as described." It was labeled as: 160" NOS Antique Silk Satin Rayon Copper/Gold Millinery Ribbon Spool. It was 160" of NOS ribbon on a spool. The color wasn't copper, but it was what I was expecting from the photos. Antique? Maybe. More likely vintage. (Vintage items are 20 years old or older. Antique means at least 100 years old.)

I don't know whether the seller was just ignorant and using certain words because she thought they rightly applied or whether she intentionally lied to make her item sound better. (In any case, I am the one who made the choice not to return it, so I can't blame her totally.)

This is not a satin ribbon. Satin does not mean shiny fabric, contrary to what many people think. It is a certain type of weave. This ribbon is a twill weave. It is also not a millinery ribbon, and that's probably the most misleading part of the description. This was most likely originally used and sold as gift wrap ribbon or floral ribbon or for other disposable purposes. It feels thin and stiff and papery. It's a lovely brim binding on a straw hat. But it couldn't stand on its own as a trim around the crown.

I don't know what this ribbon is made out of. It might be rayon. It probably isn't silk. Oh, silk! I love real silk, but that's one of the number one things to watch out for in vintage trim auctions/sales. Sellers love to list things as silk, even if they're not silk. Sometimes they'll call an item "silk" in the title and then later just call it "silky." Sometimes they'll say "silk ... made of polyester," which is baffling to me. And then sometimes they'll just sell it as 100% silk, when it's not. (I bought a vintage silk dress on eBay and returned it when it turned out to be acetate.)

As with most of my trims, I bought this bronze ribbon without any specific project in mind. So the inaccuracy didn't derail any grand plans I had for it. And I ended up finding a perfect use for it: accenting the edge of this hat! Despite my grumbling about the inaccuracy of the description, I kept it and discovered a lovely way to use it.

Questions about vintage supplies or my process in making this hat are welcome!