Saturday, August 12, 2006

Millinery: Summer Cocktails

The idea of cocktail parties interests me, not so much because of the idea of martinis, but the idea that a party can be given for lots of people, where a drink and maybe three or four one bite size items are available for eating. This is easy on the hostess, and easy on the guests.

My understanding is people drop by after work, mingle and chat for about an hour, and leave while the evening is still young. And the function of a cocktail hat is to add a witty eye catching detail to one's attire.

The cocktail hat is by definition small, only covering one's crown, no brims to bash into people in a crowded setting. Plus it is an evening need for brims to shield your face from the heartless wrinkle and cancer inducing solar glare.

I got this dress, a linen print, for a song at Ross. Perfect for a summer cocktail party. And certainly not for work, or church, what with that tell-tale martini glass in the print. (At least that is my cultural standard, maybe some more progressive houses of worship would think that motif is just fine!)

My first outing in this dress was to an afternoon fashion show. None of my hats quite delivered the feel I wanted, big brim looked beachy, small brim looked uptight. About an hour before I was to leave, I decided to make a cocktail hat for it.

This is what the "one hour" version looked like.
I later changed the pink velvet edge to a white silk dupioni edge to match the center.

This hat is so easy to make: Cut two buckram circles. I used a saucer as a pattern. Steam the buckram together at weave right angles (that keeps the shape from curling). Put a bit of a bump in the middle, like the back of the saucer, using a steamy iron. Stitch millinery wire to the edge of the buckram. Overlay the buckram with a circle of light batting and fabric on the back and front.

Cover the edge with bias.

Double the measure around the circle, and cut wire with an additional two inches. Shove the wire into velvet cording, or some other tube, configured like a figure eight.

Fold the eight in half, so the top and bottom circle sit on top of each other. Stitch one of the circles to the back of the fabric circle, and the other part "end" slides into the beginning of the eight.

The eight shape clamps the hat to one's head. Do a try on before cutting the wire and cover tube to make sure you have enough length to cover the back of your head comfortably.

All kinds of ideas work with this design. Here's a link to a whole page of hats using this shape.

An easy cocktail if only more people would realize how easy it is to give a cocktail party...and invite me! Posted by Picasa

Millinery: Blocks

I'm excited... Hatshapers came out with a block to make a cute flower shaped hat (click on the flower word to see one blocked up in light blue felt.)

Mine arrived a few days ago, this black item pictured that looks like a weird ice cream cone. I can't wait to give it a try with a parasisol straw, probably in light blue.

Millinery shops used to create shapes for each season, in different head sizes. Blocks take up a lot of room, so usually they got rid of the trendy wooden shapes each season. A few survived, tucked away in store rooms and attics. Now they are on eBay and going for hundreds of dollars. Many are beautiful in their own right as wooden sculpture.

I currently own a high crown and low crown (both with slightly rounded tops) blocks , and a set in crown (last picture.) These are made of a plastic/Styrofoam something, so pins can be stuck in to hold the straw or felt hood or capeline. I got them from Judith M. Millinery supplies. She has some gorgeous wooden blocks too.

The wooden one was bought on ebay. It makes a juliette type hat. Not a real popular look right now. The groove is where a piece of cording goes to give a hem line, where the facing of hat folds back.

I have one other wooden block, a high in front, lower in back crown, and of course, three glass bowl shapes that I use, attaching the felt or straw to the edge using spring clothes pins!

Not a very exciting post...but I'm still excited about my flower block!

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Millinery: Anael Rose "The Philosophy"

The Philosophy

Women have been hiding out for a long time, even dressing to hide as if to say, don't notice me, let me blend. We have developed the ability of blending into our surroundings and being unnoticed. This was a powerful gift at one time. This ability has allowed us to observe and gain the ability to know what would happen next. It has also allowed us to feel safe. Blending also has taught us the art of oneness. Women understand camouflage.

But new times require new strategies, it is time to drop our camouflage and take our power as women. Anais Nin said "There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom".

When you wear a hat it is medicine for the soul. The hat is the expression of who we are as women in every moment! The hat is your dreams of who you can be. It facilitates the different parts of who you are. With the wave of a hat, voila, you are mysterious, no you are sexy, now proper, now playful.

You can not hide in a hat. You will be noticed-especially by men. To men you become a lady when you don a hat. One which they rush to open doors for. To women you become an inspiration, reminding them that they have a closet full of hats that they have not had the courage to wear.
When you wear a hat you now become the dream that started when the hat was conceived. The original energy that was put into the hat doesn't die, it only changes forms and owners. The dream doesn't die, it is passed on, sometimes from generation to generation. And when you see women in a hat in the next car on the freeway the dream grows and we as women acknowledge each others growth. It is the symbol of the feminine which is so needed for us and our earth to heal. So let's share this gift with as many as we wish to share such a vision.
For I tell you, this is how you will "GO AHEAD AND BLOOM".

(this was copied from a site in 2002,
It is no longer posted, but the th Anael rOSE collection is part of Hats by Leko at

I order supplies from her to make hats.)
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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Millinery: WWLD?

WWLD...What Would Lucy Do?

Lucy being Lucille Ball, naturally. Now there's a key to solving many vexing enigmas: Merely imagine how Lucy would handle the situation, and follow her lead.

Things might get a tad crazy, but fun is bound to be had.

I learned about WWLD from a gal I'll call Jane. She was a vivacious red head, with a figure like a Barbie doll, and a bank account that made just about anything possible. Jane was a judge's widow. WWLD was her mantra. And at the time that I first met her, she was 80 years old.

It was she that popped for a dozen hats in New Orleans, taking in the millinery shops at a gallop that left us younger women breathless. That's what happens when you don't work out for two hours every morning like Jane does.

In New Orleans, Jane requested that veils be added to all the hats she purchased. Not that she need to hide anything. She was just fully aware of the effect that veils have on the opposite sex.

At eighty, she was still interested in that effect.

(Photo of my daughter Laura, another vivacious red head. For her, WWLD is What Would Laura Do. And IF you follow her version of WWLD, you WILL be in for some excitement.)

This hat is just the kind of hat Jane would wear to a Country Club event. Or to a party in the "Old Money" part of town. Just to liven things up a bit.

Myself, I haven't have many opportunities to wear this hat. I made it to wear to a Kentucky Derby party at the local race track, stitching dollars amongst the roses, just for the event. The dollars were removed soon afterwards.

Now once in a while I get in a blue mood, and as generations of hat wearing women can attest, millinery therapy can be quicker fix than a trip to the psychologist.

I was in exactly such a mood one day, when I decided I would wear this very hat to our local mall, mid week, mid morning. It cracked me up to see shoppers studiously keep their eyes forward as they passed me by. My mood was already lifting when I felt a hand on my shoulder.

Turning, I peered through my veil into the face of an elderly man. His face was a study of mixed emotions that puzzled me.

"I love your hat", he said.
Then he added plaintively, "Why don't women wear hats anymore?"
He stopped and stepped back just a bit.
Then he leaned forward, putting his face closer to mine.
"My wife used to wear hats with veils. She was so beautiful. She died a few years ago. I still miss her".

I got a lump in my throat. His eyes looked a bit misty.
"You sure look pretty. I'm glad to see a woman wearing a hat with a veil again".

I managed to murmur something of appreciation for the compliment and my condolences. We went on our separate ways, but his words haunted me for days.

The Houston Hat Net was gathering for an event a few weeks later. And as is our usual fashion, we shared experiences. Jane was standing next to me as I shared my encounter. Everyone was clearly touched by this tender story.

Jane, however, had a WWLD moment. Without missing a beat, she swooped up her handbag, and fixed me with a sharp look.

"Did you give him MY name and phone number?" she asked.

"Ah, um, noooo...I didn't have your number on me" I replied weakly.

Jane fished into her hand bag.

"Here. Here's my card. Take a bunch. Now the next time you run into a widower who admires your hat, for heaven sakes, GIVE HIM MY CARD!" Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 06, 2006

White Linen Night

Last night the Ladies of the Houston Hat Net attended "White Linen Night in the Heights". It was our second White Linen Night, but the first ever in Houston. "The Heights" being an old suburb of Houston established eons ago.

Now "White Linen Night" has a long history in New Orleans. The first weekend in August, when it just can't get any hotter or steamier, all the art galleries in New Orleans present new shows, and stay open for the public to come join in the fun. There is food, drinks, music, and socializing, and white linen is THE dress code. Anything else would just be too, too hot.

Of course this is actually just a suggestion, as you can see from this picture taken in New Orleans at my first White Linen Night, 2002. I'm the third from the right, behind the blue hat. My millinery guru Kate, she who is living oh-so-continental in Switzerland right now is second from the left.

More of us were on the trip, but some just didn't have energy to trudge through the stifling heat and crowd that evening. After all, we had "shopped till we dropped", touring ALL the fabulous millinery shops in New Orleans. Behind the scene tours! We bought hats, some bought many, many hats (one woman, not pictured, bought twelve, each hat between $200 and $400. I just bought one, a pistachio colored wide brim straw.)

New Orleans wasn't sure if they were ready to resume the tradition this year, so Houston picked up the slack. Later " 'Nawlins " decided they would have their night after all, but by then it was too late to stop the event from happening here.

It was a blast. I was the only "veteran" attending, and this time B. went too.
He is such a good sport, keeping a watchful eyes on us stylish ladies as we wandered through galleries and antique shops, trying on hats at vintage clothing stores and sampling all the finger foods and drinks at each shop.

I did mention that it was hot? I wore the same dress as my first trip, but with a different hat. It wasn't so great, just a white traveling hat and I made a leaf out of white ribbon and "stuff" for trim, to match my dress. DESTROYED my house in the process, I always decide to do a hat at the last minute and don't clean as I go. Part creative energy, part fun, part just stupid, really.

Fearless current leader Gayle arrived in a long white layered cotton skirt, hankerchief points hemmed, white crochet lace gloves, and a very large and wonderful black and white hat. She has such stage presence and natural aplomb and elegance. It's simply is no wonder at all that of all the hundreds of people attending White Linen Night in the Heights, she would get pulled over by the FASHION REPORTERS of the Houston Chronicle, and asked to pose on the spot for Fashion Street Scene, a regularly occuring section of the paper highlighting the cutting edge fashionistas at Houston events.

How fun is that?

And I got two hats, a straw visor, and a Panama Straw. Good enough for me! Posted by Picasa

Millinery: Leave well enough alone?

Sometimes I really don't know what I am doing.
I knew that this is a very old straw visor, based on the straw braid, and the fabric used in the bow trim.

I knew it would be best to dust the ribbon and straw with a fine paint brush. All the light colors in the back bow, (shot #3) is actually dust.

And I knew to use a vacuum to delicately get deeper dust out (a tactic that will remove smoke smell from hats and other porous items, by the way)

And I knew steam should revive the bows, and lift the creases out.

I decided to pack the bows with tissue while I steamed them to help get rid of the creases.

I also got rid of the character.

(picture one is before, two is after)


The ribbon is a taffeta, and is the darkest shade of denim. There is slight fading. Maybe I can take the ribbon off, make the hat a bit larger, for a better fit, and flip the ribbon over and try for the prior look.

Or maybe I should just leave well enough alone.

The hat has no label, so no designer offense could be taken if I tried something different. The hat is a tad too small to wear (notice how it sits high on Joan's head), and the straw is just darling, so I could make it fit me if I re-did it completely.

Wish my friends who would give me their opinion.
Please? What do you think?

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Millinery: Before and After

This John Fredrick's "Charmer" labeled Panama straw hat was purchased by me last night at White Linen Night.
It cost $12, and had a lot of bumps and dents.

As the "before" and "after" pictures show, a tea kettle and a little steam, and this old hat is looking good again.

I just can't resist revitalizing a sound Panama straw. Maybe I can get a tax free business together: Panama Straw Rescue Society.

Isn't that a wild hat band? Knitted fabric. I can't figure out the era though. Any one know out there? Posted by Picasa