These last few weeks, I’ve been working on a very particular bespoke hat.
Most often, a client comes to see me and having tried on a range of samples and discussed preferences and variations, she comes to a decision about the shape and size and I begin work using the blocks available.
Recently, though, I accepted a challenge! A commission to make a wedding hat for a client who had a very clear idea of the hat she wanted. My task was to interpret her design to the best of my ability….and complete the work within three weeks!
She wanted a hat with a domed crown and a very large brim made in a shade of blue that matched her dress.
The first part of the challenge was to find fabric of the right colour…This was really difficult but one of my regular suppliers had a good match and a swatch was ordered so the client could check it went with her dress. When the go-ahead was given and the material arrived, I faced the next, major challenge.
This was to block a brim as wide as she wanted. Now, as a bespoke milliner, I have a range of blocks but it would be impossible to have every shape and size so some ingenuity and problem solving was required. My biggest brim block wasn’t big enough so I had to find a large piece of chipboard to use as an extension.
Steaming the sinamay allowed me to stretch it over the block and out to the edges of the board…I needed a circumference of 150 cms.
During our consultations, the client and I had drawn out the desired shape on grease proof paper and spent a hilarious time trying on the paper brim, trimming it little by little until the size and shape was exactly as she wanted! Sometimes, one needs a more unusual approach to hat making! Once the brim was dry, I could cut out the shape and attach it to the crown.
(Blocking the crown was easy! Itjust needed to be cut down to size!)
Then came the pretty bit. The client was happy to listen to suggestions for attractive and distinctive decoration. I had noticed, on the client’s dress, an interesting motif; something like a starburst or dandelion clock and that formed the basis for the trimming.
Rummaging in my box of feathers, I found some white ‘sectional ostrich’ feathers that splayed out beautifully to reflect the pattern on the dress and some vintage dark blue feathers with bugle beads on the ends to provide contrast. With some hand made, curled leaves in two toning shades of blue, I created a unique finish to the hat…one which complemented her outfit and was as cool and elegant as my client.
It was quite a demanding commission…especially working within the time constraints but now it is finished and the client happy and looking forward to the wedding, I am proud to have fulfilled her design brief and created a very lovely hat.