Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Una Bell Epoch Mini Top Hat

In a recent blog post about top hats, I included one of my favorite pictures of a female dandy, Una, Lady Troubridge (painted by Romaine Brooks).

I go back to this image again and again, it's an inspiration to me. I included it in the post about top hats, even though she's not wearing a hat, because I love her Lady Tux style and I like to imagine what kind of hat she would put on her head as she walks out the door after her portrait session, dressing up her head like a paper doll. Or maybe what she would wear later that night, going out with friends...

Here's one idea: the 'Una', the latest addition to my 'Belle Epoch' mini top hat range. This one is in midnight blue with black trim. Ribbon pleats circle the crown of the hat, ending in a large bow at the back of the hat.

It's topped with long, springy, curled black pheasant feathers.

The peek-a-boo veiling is a rare, antique silk net woven into a delicate hexagonal pattern, edged with a gorgeous lace border.

The veiling could be worn down over the eyes, or folded up onto the brim.

Today, I'm making up two more of these, one in all-black and another in red with black trim. I might also try one out in brown tones, but the veiling would be different, as I only found this veiling in black and in blue.

This one is available for sale now at ADS Hats on Valencia in San Francisco, and also online at Etsy and Smashing Darling.

Monday, December 20, 2010

New Top Hat Style: the Wellington

I'm working now on finishing samples of several totally new mini top hat shapes. Here's the 'Wellington', it's slightly taller and larger than the 'Belle Epoch' top hat that has been my best seller up till now.

I've been getting lots of feedback from customers who say they like my mini top hats because they are not as wee as other milliner's minis, and fit the head better, so I'm going even a little larger. The 'Wellington' has a lot of surface area for decoration, and also should make a great straw hat for spring / summer.

The 'Wellington' is now available for sale on Etsy. Custom colors, trim, etc. also available upon request, just contact me.

I'm collaborating now with chanteuse Jill Tracy on a hat design for the Wellington that will appear in the merch section of her website.

Lady Tux

Since looking at all those images of top hats for a recent post, I can't stop thinking about lady tuxes. While I love making and wearing ultra-feminine and hyper-decorated hats, my personal taste in clothing tends to run in the Lady Tux direction- not normally feminine women's clothing, and not full man-drag, but somewhere in the middle. I like tend to go for formal, simple clothes with interesting lines but a minimum of pattern or surface decoration, and to save the flash for hats and other accessories. Here are some of my favorite images.

For a lady in menswear, you can't beat Marlene Dietrich.

Marlene outshines Cary Grant in an all-white tux.

Another white tux, on Katherine Hepburn.

Josephine Baker

Anna May Wong

All that Lady Tux action in the movies in the 1930s inspired some intrepid non-Hollywood ladies to try wearing pants for the first time. Here's an original 1933 sewing pattern for a Lady Tux. Copies available for sale at Eva Dress. It's on my 'someday' project list...

The Lady Tux had its Hollywood heyday in the 1930s, but its roots go all the way back to the beginnings of the 'menswear for women' trend that started in the Tudor period, which really gained traction in late 18th century. Before the late 1700s, only lady pirates wore men's clothing (in the Western world, anyway), except for the occasional masculine-ish equestrienne outfit worn only on horseback. But Marie Antoinette, for all that she is remembered for her frilly, flowery, feminine wedding-cake dresses, was also scandalously fond of wearing menswear. Not just women's clothing with 'masculine' details, but full-on breeches.

She even had a short-lived anti-corset phase during her teens (gasp!). In the 1780s, she and her fashionable friends adopted mens hairstyles, and designed dresses, coats and hats modeled on tweedy equestrian English-style menswear.

She spent astounding amounts of money on clothes, and made daring fashion choices throughout her life. Her sartorial indiscretions were the major reason she became more and more unpopular with the French people during her time as Queen, and were one of the precipitating factors of the French Revolution. For more on this fascinating subject, read 'Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution' by Caroline Weber.

Ironically, during and after the French Revolution, women throughout Europe adopted a menswear-inspired wardrobe that was very similar to the butch outfits for which Marie Antoinette had received so much crap just a few years earlier.

The following outfit is from the same timeframe. It's a pivotal image for me, and the earliest really Lady Tux-like outfit I've been able to find evidence of. Before discovering this photo, I was never that into the 18th century fashion-wise, but seeing this made me really interested in learning about the period. It's from a book of photos of costumes from the collection of the Victorian and Albert museum, published in 1908.

Throughout the 19th century, equestrienne wear had a definitely tux-like tone, and masculine details bled into daywear as well.

Ever since then, Lady Tuxes keep popping up in fashion, they're so classic that they're never really out of style.

Yves Saint Laurent started designing tuxedos for ladies, called 'Le Smoking', in the 1960s, and they became a staple of his career.

Dita Von Teese in formalwear, wearing a hat by Stephen Jones, 2008.

Daphne Guiness

Over the last few weeks, I've been working with my custom hat block maker on the design for full size top hat blocks. I should receive the first prototype block around the end of December, and then the rest of the set (so I can do a full range of sizes) a few weeks later. I can't wait, I'm positively squirming with excitement to add these to my range of hats.