Thursday, December 8, 2011

Midi Range: The 'Marlene' Top Hat

Here is another shape for my new 'midi' size- not as small as a mini hat, but just smaller than a full size hat. While it looks closer to a full size hat when worn, it perches jauntily on the head so you can also have a hairdo, and sizing is not an issue. They're one-size-fits-all, and more flattering to most of us than the minis, which can sometimes appear to be a bit too small in proportion to the face.

As you may have noticed, I generally name my blocks (and the resulting hat shape). I also sometimes name individual styles made with those blocks, for those that have particularly distinctive trim. For example, the 'Una' style (big bow in back, ruffled hat band and curly feathers with antique silk lace veiling) is made with a 'Belle Epoch' mini top hat block, but I make other styles with the same block as well.

The following hats were made using the same midi size block, which I call the 'Marlene', after Dietrich, who often rakishly wore a top hat and lady tux.

The block is modeled on a classic 1900-era top hat shape, called a D'Orsay, that had a gently belled crown and an curly brim.

The first style I'm calling 'Viola'. Here's one in lush leopard print long-napped fur felt, with a large bow and hand-curled feathers. These Ringneck Pheasant feathers are overdyed to match the felt, leaving the feathers' natural markings and iridescence still showing through.

And here's a 'Viola' in basic black.  It could be made in lots of colors. Have an idea for a custom color? Let me know.

The 'Marlene' hats have actually been in the works for a while now, but I had an especially difficult time settling on a trim, as I wanted something that would compliment the shape of the hat without obscuring it on one hand, or being too plain on the other. After weeks and weeks of fussing, inspiration for the trim finally came unexpectedly from my hat block maker...

Guy Morse Brown Hat Blocks makes spectacular blocks. I can't say enough good things about them, or about Owen Morse Brown, the current owner and head block maker there. He's an incredibly talented woodworker, and makes fine musical instruments in addition to hat blocks. He recently sent me the following amazing photos of a viol he made for one of his instrument clients.

I especially love the scrolls on some of his other work, like this one.

See more of Owen's work as a luthier here.

The 'Viola' is now available for sale in my Etsy shop.

And here's a sneak peek at the first finished sample from a line of over-the-top hats I've been dreaming up. These will definitely fall into the 'More Is More' category, and are going to include beaded and button-covered hats, rhinestone-encrusted hats, etc. I'm even planning to make a small coral reef from manipulated fabric and ribbon... Most of them will have themes.

Made from long-napped felt shaped with the 'Marlene' block, this top hat style is inspired by and named for Maman Brigitte, a New Orleans Voodoo loa.  It's draped with several feet of distressed vintage silk veiling wound around the hat and tied into a large bow on the back; the loops of the bow are supported by long antique hat pins that stick up from the back of the hat. Two hand-curled Lady Amherst Pheasant tail feathers are tucked behind the bow. On the front, it's also got hat pins that I made specially for this style, using bone skull beads and fish vertebrae, small spotted and striped feathers, and a small horsehair whip. A spray of wispy black peacock hurl feathers, and a wishbone tied with a red ribbon bow, completes the design.

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