Ladies Who Latte Love Hats!

Ladies Who Latte do indeed love hats!  And they form a very useful, informal focus group at the monthly meetings by  trying on the new hat samples and giving their opinions of each design and  making suggestions.

Ladies Who Latte is a group of independent business women who meet at The Holiday Inn in Winchester to talk about their business, share ideas and support each other.  Everyone has something to contribute  – be it financial or travel advice, health and fitness regimes, fashion and beauty.

Because we all know and understand the challenges we face creating successful enterprises, we can share our experiences and help with solutions.

In my case, these energetic and interesting women enthusiastically try on the new hats, tell me what they like and what adaptations might be good for the sort of events they attend.

I always take a small range of new hats so they can try them on …sometimes they are  surprised that the  one that they think won’t suit them, actually does!  Preconceptions and bad experiences from commercial, one size fits all shopping has often put them off hats altogether!

For the most recent meeting, I wore a navy percher trimmed with deep pink  Peonies and white and navy feathers. as I have an extremely small head, I fixed it to a broad navy  hairband but different fixing suit different people.




They loved the Adapt-A-Hat scheme where clients buy an untrimmed hat and then, depending on their outfit or the occasion, have it trimmed to suit their personal style and, more importantly, their personality.  Already, three of the Ladies are discussing their needs and delight in the

practicality of being able to change the trimming for each event they have planned.

(For further information, please see the previous blog and the page ‘Adapt-an-Ascot-Hat.)

I mentioned the importance of wearing a hat that suits your personality….it really does matter.  some  of the Ladies love the idea of something dramatic and flamboyant, ideal for Ascot, Goodwood, and other

A black and white, large brimmed parasisal hat with sculptured crown. It is trimmed with a striped black and white silk bow, black roses and a curved quill.

race meetings.  Others prefer elegant and classy…that’s what makes bespoke millinery so exciting…designing for the individual.



If you’re interested in joining Ladies Who Latte, we meet the first Tuesday of each month at The Holiday inn, Winchester from 10am to midday.  cost £3 for unlimited tea or coffee!  Or Latte!


Windflower’ – a hat in the making.

March.  Spring awakening with wild flowers providing inspiration for some new hats.  Social events in the planning…beautiful hats will be needed very soon.


Hats for weddings, hats for Ascot, hats for Henley, christenings, parties and special occasions.

When I was little, every spring, we used to go and stay with my aunt in Devon.  The highlight of our holiday  was a visit to a wood where the ground was filled with bluebells and wood anemones …also called Windflowers!  I remember the perfume from this amazing carpet of flowers blowing on the breeze.

‘Windflower’ is a sophisticated versio of these happy memories. 

To begin at the beginning.  First, the block.  I love this shape!  Perching sideways,  it makes an elegant line from the top of the head, past the  cheekbone to end at ear level.    As it measures 9″ x 10″/23cms x 26cms, it obeys the millinery rules for Ascot without being clumsy or difficult to wear.

Then the colours.  ‘Windflower’ is made in black sinamay as a sample but you, the client,  can choose this shape to be made in whatever colour best suits your outfit ….though black is very useful.



And the trimming!   Using two white roses surrounded by  gently waving

ostrich feathers, I have recreated a sense of those flower heads blowing lightly in the wind. (Securely fixed to a silk covered hairband, there’s no risk of this hat blowing away on the day!)



If you like this design but would prefer to have your own ideas or memories used in the design of your perfect hat, come and discuss possibilities over coffee and cake!



Adapt-a-Hat; a new concept for ladies who love hats

“Moon Flower” – A large Regal Blue sinamay hat trimmed with hand-curled sinamay leaves, ostrich and vintage feathers, and pearls.

Special hats for  special occasions are  often  quite expensive!  Sometimes, if you think you’re only going to wear it once, the cost can make you feel grumpy!  Though you want a hat to finish off your outfit, finding one you like at a price you can afford can be difficult.



Now, I introduce – Adapt-a-Hat!

This is how it works.  You choose a basic hat shape  you like and that  fits you well.  You will have a choice of various shapes and colours – black, white, cream, nude and navy – which will  go with any outfit you wear.  The basic hat, like the examples shown here, is complete with a toning hat band and brim binding.


Then the fun begins!  In consultation, you choose the colour and style of trimming. You want flamboyant?  Choose vibrant colours and extravagant detail.

A black and white, large brimmed parasisal hat with sculptured crown. It is trimmed with a striped black and white silk bow, black roses and a curved quill.



Or do you prefer cool and elegant?  Again, no problem!






A large brimmed hat with a rounded crown is made from nude pink sinamay. It is trimmed with an oyster pink silk band, and hand rolled rose with sinamay leaves and pale pink feathers.

From an  extensive range of trimmings, my  creativity and craft, the perfect hat will emerge.  Unique, designed just  for you,  supremely wearable……and, next time, off comes the trimming, a new one is designed and off you go ready to enjoy another social occasion

This, hat loving ladies, is the way you will never wear the ‘same’ outfit twice!

“Anenome” – Ascot style hat in pink and black sinamay with quills, black lace ribbon and hand-crafted leaves.

Ascot hats and Cecil Beaton

Are you ready for Ascot? Are your fingers firmly crossed for sunshine and warm weather with no hat snatching breezes.  Have you got your beautiful, very special hat?

If not, do have a look in the window of Beaudesert in Tisbury!  An interior design and bespoke four-poster bed salon might not be the obvious placeBeaton Fabrics Window to find a hat….but you will.



Andrew Ginger, owner, director and creative genius of Beaudesert and I have been following each other on Twitter for some years; sharing an enthusiasm for stunning fabrics, quirky design and…..French IMG_3859Patisserie!  Perhaps there is a link:  hats and interior design require precision, structure, colour, texture, elegance, style.  Imagine standing in front of the shop windows of a hat shop and a patisserie.  What you would see in both would be tempting objects of desire! Enter…and be drawn into the enticing world of stunning ‘confections’!

The signature fabric of Beaudesert is ‘Beaton Bouquet’ and Andrew asked me to make a display dummy head in that fabric with a hat to accompany 109it for his Ascot window.






‘Anenome’ is that hat!  The challenge was to create an Ascot hat that referenced the colours and pattern of the fabric…and the Cecil Beaton 105ethos… without making a pastiche of his ‘My Fair Lady’ costume designs.

At first, I found myself choosing feathers and silk and chiffon ribbons and nearly created just what I was trying to avoid! I don’t think many women are planning to go to Ascot dressed as an extra from ‘Downton Abbey’ however gorgeous the costumes.

So, I looked again at the floral pattern.  The hat was made in matching 074pink and black with a large brim for impact and balance.  The trim needed to be eye catching, quite flamboyant, feminine and modern…. clean lines and minimum fuss and frou frou.



The fabric, ‘Beaton Bouquet’, shows stylised roses, quite spiky and angular.  I used arrowhead quills and curved, hand rolled leaves to create the idea of the twisting sprays and, to davoid the obvious floppy silk flower,  a rosette of black lace ribbon



Look cool and elegant in black or vibrant in passionate pink, with this hat to complete your outfit, you will stand  tall and smile for the camera!  Ready for your close-up, Madam?

Beaudesert Showroom, The Square,Tisbury, Wiltshire,SP3 6IP



Ingenious ladies’ hat maker required!

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,077 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.





Hats, Hedda Hopper and Hollywood!

Hats were Hedda Hopper’s trademark…the larger and more flamboyant, the better!  A milliner’s dream, she ordered at least 150 designs a year and had a very keen understanding of how to put together her ‘look’.

This noted gossip columnist joined The Los Angeles Times in 1937 and quickly became a woman to be feared as she dug for dirt and  revealed details of the private lives of the stars.

Inspiration for my hat designs comes from so many different sources and 020this week, I’ve been to the cinema twice…both films, by coincidence, featuring Hedda Hopper… in gorgeous 1950s costume.

The first, ‘Trumbo’ was more than a bioflick about the celebrated scriptwriter, Dalton Trumbo.  When I saw the trailer, the injustice of the McCarthy era first caught my attention; then the hats that Helen Mirren wore as the Hedda character.  It’s a slightly uneasy sensation, deploring the Republican witch hunt , empathising with reasonable men and women seeking equality and fairness in society, caught in the horror of trying to  make a living whilst blacklisted …..and hoping the hats would stay on screen long enough to make an impression on  my memory.

The most impressive ones were the formal hats she wore with perfectly tailored suits though a little black and silver cocktail hat with a flourish of curled feathers was delightfully sparkly.

The second film was more agreeable and far less challenging – ‘Hail, Caesar’ was an enjoyable romp through 1950s Hollywood.  It touched, lightly, on similar themes and the Hedda Hopper-like character, Thora Thacker,  played by Tilda Swinton wore even more extravagant hats…and 023was played for laughs.  There was a touch of recognition when I saw one creation.  It reminded me of this one from a Vogue Vintage paper pattern.

There is an undeniable elegance in the outfits of this period; one could say that the controlled and restrained couture of the decade reflected the restrictive social conventions that were blown away in the 60s explosion of self expression.

So, like a magpie, I try to pick out all the best bits and tuck them away in my sketchbooks and my imagination….a particular shape, high quality crafting skills, the use of different materials.  I won’t be making Hedda’s cocktail hat but I will interpret the shape in a more modern way; I will try out some of the Vintage Vogue patterns but in very different fabrics .  I can learn from the past but I want to design for now and the future.  That means selecting and inventing so that each bespoke client can be the ‘star’ in her own bioflick!

Paper Pattern: Vogue Accessories 7464

I knew I needed a bridal headdress

I’ve spent the last six weeks working with a bride and her mother to design and hand craft a bridal headdress.  A thoroughly delightful and entertaining pair, our collaboration has been a very happy and successful one.

At the final consultation to check that all was well, they agreed, over coffee, to talk about how they felt about the experience.

I began by asking what they had thought at the beginning about commissioning a bespoke headdress.

C.   I knew I needed something to wear on my head and…

M.   …we’d looked in the shops but everything was very ordinary, no style and not at all appropriate for the dress.  I knew of Deborah’s work so we made an appointment.

C.   People aren’t used to having bespoke clothes…or bespoke hats, for that matter… so I was a little nervous before the first consultation.

M.   We thought she’d just make something but Deborah ‘investigated’ C as a person and found out about her and her wishes.

C.   It was slightly embarrassing, talking about myself, but the questions helped me to identify exactly what I wanted.  Once I’d got into it, it was fun!

One of the lovely things about bespoke hat making is the opportunity to meet so many different people.  I enjoy designing hats that are right for my clients and use a series of questions to get to the heart of their wishes.  (It’s my own secret formula ….but I’ll give C’s answers at the end.)

C.   I felt I wouldn’t offend Deborah if I said I didn’t like something.  The wedding is so important, things have got to be comfortable and feel normal…not awkward.  I tried on lots of different styles, picking out details I liked or didn’t and she made notes about my choices.

In this way, we were able to separate the samples into those that pleased and those that didn’t.  This gave me a very clear idea of what C was looking for.  I now  had the basis for her headdress, then came the details.

C.   There was a wide variety of materials to choose from and I loved looking through the boxes and finding my favourite pieces.  I particularly liked the floaty feathers and sparkly bits.

As C said, I have a large stock of fabrics and trimmings and it is useful to begin to select the materials that could be used in the hat or headdress.  We spent about 007an hour experimenting,  rejecting or  deciding exactly  what to use as we began to build up the basis of the headdress and get an idea of how it would look as a finished piece.

C.  Deborah would suggest things to try and show us how it would look…making sure we were happy with everything.  I hadn’t thought of a little veil till she showed me how it would look…and it was perfect!

M.  I looked forward to the consultations and seeing how the ideas developed.  At the end of each meeting, Deborah would tell us exactly what she would do next, send us written details by email and then images of the work she had done.  We felt fully informed and part of the process ..and I had pictures to show  my friends!

 This reassures the client and helps build the excitement – a bespoke hat or headdress IS exciting as it’s a unique expression of the wearer…a very personal work of art.

And now C’s bridal headdress is finished and has gone home with her where she can practise wearing it until she becomes used  to the feel of it on her head.009

C.  The idea of a bespoke hat was daunting -‘What have I got myself into?’ But it was fun.  It’s exactly what I wanted – but even better!  More than I’d hoped for.

M.  We’ve been made to feel very welcome.  I’m proud of  the way my daughter looks; it really suits her, makes her look elegant and the style is perfect for the dress.  I’m looking forward to seeing her in all her glory on the day.  And, it’s good value for the money!

Some answers to the secret formula

Reserved, steely, enigmatic, Chanel, pretty not frou frou, Keira Knightley.




From Hothouse to Hat! (Part 1)

How do you get from the Orchid Festival at Kew Gardens to  a  beautiful and unusual hat?

First, research and a visit, on  a bright but very chilly morning,to  the Princess of Wales Conservatory.

Then, the flowers!079

Countless thousands of orchids forming columns and arches, bowers and canopies as far as the eye could see.  As soon as I saw one perfect colour and pattern and rushed towards it,  I was distracted by yet another exquisite example above, beside or below my line of vision.

Sketchbook in hand with ipad under my arm and 084trying not to block the paths, I drew and snapped everything.  As soon as I decided that the primrose yellow and pale mauve orchid was my favourite, I spotted another that was fuschia purple and shocking pink …or white with violet speckles…or shades of and flame red tangerine…

I was delirious with colour,  stunned by the spectacle and overdosing on creative energy.  So many ideas to work on at home especially as I want to make a hat that captures the essence of the flowers rather than making a conventional hat and just trimming it with sprays of artificial orchids.

Next, the hard part! Experimenting with techniques 113and ways of looking at the flowers to find unusual and pleasing shapes, then selecting and  re-assembling them from different viewpoints to celebrate their unique qualities.

This is as far as I’ve got…three bespoke hats  to be finished by the end of March means I can work on the design in 3D using paper cut-outs but won’t be able to transform the ‘pattern’ into a beautiful and exotic hat till April in time for Ascot.

So watch out for Part 2

Orchid Festival – Kew Royal Gardens till 6th March.

‘ Hello! I need a hat but…

          ‘Hello!  I need a hat but…
          …I hate wearing them’
          …I never wear one’
          …They don’t suit me’

…I’ve got to wear one’

These are often the first things about hat wearing that my clients tell me and I understand. If your only experience is of trying to find something ‘that’ll do’ in a chain or department store, the experience can sometimes not be a happy one.

All commercial, mass produced hats are made to fit a standard head size of 22.5 inches or 57cms. If your head doesn’t measure that, it won’t fit your head and you’re at a disadvantage.

The hat will wobble, it won’t sit right, you’ll have to carry your head at an awkward angle to keep it in place. Of course you won’t be happy even if you like the style.
Once, in a very reputable store, I saw a tall, slender, elegant woman trying on a very extravagant hat. Nothing wrong with it….except it was too large. 003She was, in fact, a hat on legs…not a confident woman expressing her personality and style.

There are some simple rules:
The brim should never be wider than your shoulders.
Wear asymmetric hats on the right.
Try on a variety of styles. Which one makes you smile? (Not shriek with laughter!) That’s the one!

This is where the milliner and the bespoke hat comes in.

You won’t hate a hat you’ve designed in collaboration with the milliner. You won’t hate a hat that focuses on what you like. You will enjoy wearing a hat that fits…
…and suits your personality…
…and goes with the style of your outfit…
…and makes you feel happy and confident!

So, don’t hate hats; remember you’re an individual not a general purpose customer.


Oh, what to wear?

Oh, what to wear for a special occasion?

My hat making and my social life often form a demanding partnership requiring careful planning of my outfits.

Having done extensive research of the S/S 16 catwalk shows, the common themes are, as always, conflicting!  Sequins, ruffles, delicate pastel fabrics or bold, vibrant prints, Boho, Victorian, 1950’s Mediterranean holiday styles. What’s a girl to do?

As always, it’s a case of choosing which look suits you, your personality and the special events you will be attending.

Chanel suit and quilted bags

The three designers I look at most are Chanel, Armani and Dior…possibly seduced by their exquisite ad campaigns… locations, brilliant photographers, gorgeous frocks….

I love the elegant lines of the first two designers  (their colours suit my complexion, )  the  pearls, the look that is perfect for more formal occasions.

Dior, I love!  Just so pretty with tulle and chiffon, roses, flowers and scallop shaping to hems and necklines.

Now, like  most women, I won’t (unfortunately)  be taking a taxi to the London, Paris or Milan boutiques 0f these ‘Names’… I’ll be looking in the stores for a dilution of the season’s style, returning, perhaps, to home dressmaking and picking out the features that suit me best…..a tweed jacket with a sparkly thread running though it over a plain tailored dress with a little sequinned clutch bag….very Chanel ….and I can make an approximation of that myself.  Brightly patterned cotton dresses either featuring large flowers or geometrics with a scalloped neckline – not the Prom dress style,  it wouldn’t suit my shape (the classic English pear; )  or scoop neckline with a tulle choker and off centre jewel worn with a lace dress.

And would I wear a hat?  Most certainly but I would need to match millinery style and shape to the outfit and the occasion…a chic little button or classic brimmed hat for the Chanel inspired look, an asymetic fine straw with the cotton dresses ideal for an informal outdoor event, relaxed wedding or arts festival like Festival Number 6 at Portmeirion or an innovative creation worthy of Ascot for the ’50’s lace.

‘A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous. ‘  Coco Chanel

‘Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.’  Coco Chanel