labricoleuse: (mee)
Many of you have contacted me with great feedback/interest/enthusiasm (here or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram) about the research and exploration my students and I have been conducting with respect to the esparterie acquisition our graduate program and resident theatre lucked into. I'm so thrilled to report that three of my students this past semester elected to take the techniques learned in the esparterie workshop and produce a completed hat with a willow foundation for their final projects!

This lovely hat is by second year grad Michelle Bentley. The overbrim is the exposed esparto grass side of the esparterie, and the underbrim is covered in a coral and cream brocade. The ornaments are hand-shaped sinamay in a natural color to match the esparterie.

This image shows a few process shots: The block covered in foil (top left), the esparterie roped onto it (top right), the esparterie removed from the block before trimming (bottom left), and a closeup of the trimmed edge (bottom right). Note that when an edge is cut down, the milliner cuts the esparto layer on the edge line, but leaves a seam allowance of about 1/2" on the crinoline layer. Here's why...
Then that crinoline can function as French elastic in covering the wired edge! Strong, smooth, and delicate all at once!

Four views of an esparterie hat by first year grad Danielle Soldat. The crown was blocked on a vintage block, and the brim free-formed in the hand. The hat is covered in a slubby peach gauze on the underbrim and crown, and a pleated organza for the overbrim. Three little vintage velvet flowers finish it off.

This is the sharpened-crayon-shaped crown block Danielle used for her hat.

These are several views of the free-form esparterie hat by Playmakers Repertory Company wardrobe supervisor Ana Walton. The cover fabrics are a copper/black velvet on the top and a black lurex piled fabric on the underside. The hat is trimmed with a pheasant feather and a shaped crow feather

This was the hat back when it was just a piece of willow shaped in the hand, pinned out on a block and supported with curling rods.

Back view of same.

Fantastic work! Still more to come from our final projects though... :D
labricoleuse: (frippery)
It's going to take me several posts to get through the final projects of this semester's millinery students. Today I'm just going to feature images from that of Kim Fraser, a local milliner and continuing education student who will be an artist in residence at Penland School of Craft in January where she will be working on a collection of hat designs.

For most students who are learning theatrical millinery, the final project is intended to be a capstone of the semester, in which they might further explore a technique or medium, or tackle something more challenging than prior projects. A particular period shape might be the inspiration, or something fantastical they've seen in a research archive or on Pinterest.

As a comtemporary fashion milliner, Kim pitched me the idea that she would use the final project to focus on the concept of wool and fur felt scrap as a high-end trim medium. She conducted a lot of visual research in both print and digital archives, and also spent a couple days going through our historical hat collection on-site at the department of dramatic art.

Below, please enjoy a whole host of photos of Kim's decor experiments!

All of these are pinned in place on a beautiful black velour vintage Adolfo hat from our collection.

Which is your favorite?
I love the possibilities of the felt loops of "coiffure" trim hanging down from the headsize opening on the bottom left!

I switched to a grey melousine felt Breton style for these darker ornaments.

Those top two are a huge two-layer felt "feather" with a wire shaft.
The bottom right is a felt "ribbon candy" strip skewered on a dyed and stripped shaft of an ostrich plume

This little hat is made of freeform industrial felt and some wool fiber spheres Kim felted. Cute!
labricoleuse: (design)
I really fell behind in terms of sharing the projects presented by my graduate level millinery students here in the MFA program at UNC. However, now that the semester has ended, i have time to catch up!

This set of projects i'm focusing on today is the fourth project of the semester, which falls after we've covered a whole range of different media and methods for the making of millinery (yes, that's some major alliteration, i know). Basically, in theatre, milliners are occasionally asked to create headdresses or hats which mimic the hairstyles of a given period. Sometimes these creations are very natural looking with actual hair involved, but sometimes they are extremely stylized and conceptual. This is the task i set to my students for this project: to create an interpretation of a hairstyle using millinery techniques. Take a look at what they came up with!

Metallic wig-hats were an actual fad in the 1920s! Second year grad Robin Ankerich created this stylish silvertone number with various metallic fabrics/fibers, tubular horsehair braid, and a bandeau of antique sequinned fabric!

Continuing education milliner Kim Fraser used wire frames and a hemp braid of the type one normally uses in a stitched-spiral hat structure to create this fun beenhive!

Second year grad Michelle Bentley created this old-school judge's wig from Jumbo Braid, tubular horsehair, and a nylon mesh.

Continuing education milliner Athene Wright created this interpretation of a traditional Qing Dynasty headdress using buckram, wire, felt, Jumbo Braid, acrylic, and various decor.

Second year grad Erin Torkelson created both of these fun drag wigs from lime-green neoprene foam.

First year grad Danielle Soldat created this flame-goddess-inspired updo from metallic floral ribbon and wire.

Playmakers Repertory Company Wardrobe Supervisor Ana Walton created this fantastic style with, no lie, craft felt and tissue paper. And a feather.

Back view

Such great work, no? Yet to come: final projects....
labricoleuse: (frippery)
I've fallen a bit behind on sharing my students' projects from this semester, but i'm slowly getting back on track! Here are some pix of their wire-frame projects, presented a while ago.

Velvet wire-frame fascinator strung with peacock-colored silk floss
by PlayMakers Repertory Company wardrobe supervisor Ana Walton
Tulle, vintage lace, and feather headdress by continuing education student Kim Fraser

1920s beaded lace and net headpiece by first year grad Danielle Soldat

Drawn bonnet after a design by Madame Sheeta, by second year grad Erin Torkelson

"Barbed wire" crown inspired by a sculptural piece found on Pinterest, by second year grad Michelle Bentley

Lace, tulle, and floral beaded headdress by first year grad Sam Reckford
labricoleuse: (mee)
Millinery class has just presented their second round of projects. Here's a photographic survey of what they created!

Hat at left by second year grad student Erin Torkelson, wool felt with felt flower spray.
Hat at center back by continuing education student Kim Fraser, wool felt with burnt ostrich spray.
Both created on the puzzle block in foreground.

Hat at center back by continuing education student Athene Wright wool felt with velvet and grosgrain trim.
Hat at right by first year grad student Danielle Soldat, wool felt with felt flower and velvet bands.
Both created on the puzzle block in left foreground.

Fur felt trimmed in silver mink by second year grad Michelle Bentley, blocked on the puzzle block shown.

Fur felt bowler with embossed velvet band by first year grad Sam Reckford.

Free-form hand-draped wool felt projects!
At left, by Playmakers Repertory Company wardrobe supervisor Ana Walton;
at right, by second year grad Robin Ankerich.

Beautiful work, y'all! Next up: wire frame projects...

You can also follow along in real-time on Instagram.
labricoleuse: (frippery)
My millinery class recently presented their first round of projects, buckram hat shapes. Here is a selection of a few representative projects...

Clockwise from top left: 1920 buckram sun hat by second year grad Robin Ankerich
Top right: spiral straw on a buckram foundation trimmed in hand-dyed sinamay by continuing education milliner Kim Fraser
Bottom right: 1880s perch topper by second year grad Michelle Bentley
Bottom left: 1940s shape by first year grad Danielle Soldat

Left: pillbox by first year grad Danielle Soldat
Center: pillbox by second year grad Erin Torkelson
Right: pillbox by second year grad Michelle Bentley

Top: fascinator by first year grad Danielle Soldat
Bottom left: fascinator by second year grad Michelle Bentley
Bottom right: fascinator by second year grad Robin Ankerich

Origami crane fascinator by first year grad Samantha Reckford

Complex buckram shape in velvet by second year grad Erin Torkelson,
after the midcentury design below from the estate of renowned West End theatrical milliner Madame Sheeta

Great stuff, amirite? On to blocking projects next! Follow me on Instagram, too!
labricoleuse: (frippery)
Today i've got a great new interview to share, with milliner Maria Curcic of Le Chapeau Rouge.

Photographer: Judy Bandsmer
Model: Emily Mann
Hat, hair, and makeup: Maria Curcic

Q. How long have you been designing hats, and how did you get started?

A. I have been in the arts since the early 80’s, with fashion shows, producing my own shows and so on. My life circled around hats, design, fashion, and architecture. My mother was a seamstress and made a lot of our clothes--she taught me how to sew and the basics of sewing. She always had me in hats at a young age, and I wore them often in our outings in Paris. I really believe growing up in Paris influenced how I saw women accessorize.

Q. You work with a wide range of materials--felt, feathers, fabrics, straw, etc. Do you have a favorite and why?

A. My favorite materials are silks, satins and felt mostly, but really, my work is about wearable art. My pieces tend to reflect my knowledge of materials to create wearable forms. My work is multi-dimensional, so [I appreciate] materials that can be applied to these methods of millinery.

Q. Who are your influences in hat design?

A. I really loved the work of Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Louis Mariette to name a few. I love their whimsical styles and their dedicated life passion.

Q. Tell me about your store in Calgary, Le Chapeau Rouge, and how you shifted to wholesale.

A. I opened in 1994, knowing there was nothing like it at all in Calgary, or much in Canada [at all] for that matter. I was designing hats for a friend’s store in 1990, and she encouraged me to open my own store. I really wanted to push fashion-forward hats to women who wanted something that was not run-of-the-mill or mass-produced. Most of my clients wanted me to create something I would wear.

My store stocked many European designers such as Louise MacDonald and many others…I also carried a great line of men’s hats from Germany. Around that time, men were not even seen in hats other than baseball caps; the same went for women.

I had some great lines of my own which I produced for various retailers across Canada while running a store full time--thus began the wholesale aspect of my business.

Currently, I still sell wholesale (more of my unique art pieces) to boutiques as well as retail on eBay:

I create custom designs with clients around the world. With easy access to the internet, these days it’s easy to sell abroad.

Q. Do you design seasonal style collections, or strictly one-of-a-kind pieces?

A. I design both seasonal and one-of-a-kind works.

Q. When it comes to designing, do you construct your hats based on concepts and drawings, or do you work sculpturally, letting the media determine the form?

A. A bit of both. I sometimes love to manipulate the materials, then I sketch out the idea and move forward with the concept. Sometimes it’s the other way around--I draw the hat, then look for the materials. Either way, both processes are rewarding!

Q. What's your favorite tool or piece of equipment in your millinery workroom?

A. My vintage blocks.

Q. What advice would you give readers considering a career in contemporary millinery?

A. Learn the basics of sewing, materials and how they work together. If you are serious about this trade, take a credited course in fashion/millinery design. Taking a few workshops here and there, that does not make you a milliner. Millinery takes time, creativity, and patience to master.

I studied Interior Design and majored in drawing in art school prior to millinery, so I am very familiar with various fibres, drafting, color theory and so on.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me about your work, Maria! You can keep up with Maria's millinery on her Facebook page and website, and she's also shared a link to a video as well:
labricoleuse: (top hats!)
First up, a reminder that there are two more days to enter the giveaway for millinery trims! February 2nd is the last day you can enter, and i'll announce winners ASAP. But for now, hats and more hats...

So, per my post the other day about the donation of hatboxes and hats that our loan supervisor brought by my office, here are a few images of the hats that were in those fantastic packages!

Glamorous flat felt 1940s hat by Vogue Hats--this is the one that was in that black floral box.

Side view of same. The trim is a metallic-beaded cord and a seed-bead shield/crest.
The hat is made from three pieces of flat felt seamed and tucked to create this shape.

Mink tilt "golf cap"

Glamorous mink earflap toque. Everyone wants this one in this current weather!

Ivory melusine cloche with wide wool felt band and tortoiseshell buckle.
labricoleuse: (design)
This semester, i'm teaching my graduate level millinery class, and today my students presented their first round of projects--buckram forms!

Here are some of the highlights... (plus also a bonus pair of super-awesome Alexander McQueen-inspired platform shoes!)

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
I recently came into possession of a fairly sizable collection of hat blocks from an estate sale. The blocks have an interesting story behind them, as well as being interesting in and of themselves.

The original description of the lot mentioned some blocks from Empire Hat Block Company, a blockmaker based in NYC in the early part of the 20th century. Being not only a maker of hats but also a scholar of hatmaking history, I have come across references to Empire in many sources and seen their surviving blocks in many a hatmaking workshop. I don't have exact dates for them, but I have seen their advertisements in old hatters' publications as early as 1914 and as late as 1967.

They started out just after the turn of the century in a space up on W 111th, but by the 20s they operated from a workshop facility on E 22nd large enough to take up two street numbers (312-314). The business seems to have been a partnership between two blockmakers, Joseph Buxbaum and Samuel Gussoff, though how many block-carvers they might have employed in their heyday, i don't know. They manufactured loads of styles for both men's and ladies' hats.

So, anyhow, when i read about an estate sale lot of hat blocks which included styles made by Empire, i knew that if nothing else, those blocks would probably be worth having. I had no clear idea how many blocks were in the lot, or really what they all looked like. There were some photos so i could tell there were brims and crowns, and I knew they ranged from 22 to 22 1/2 in size, and that was about what i knew when i bought them.

The box that came was enormous, so big it took two of us to carry it from the reception area to my car. I couldn't wait, i unpacked it right in the back of my car, and this is what i found inside:
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
I mentioned in my prior post that one of my projects this summer is to do a retail line of millinery for the new boutique The School for Style, which opens May 25th (Saturday!) and will feature a range of fashion and home goods made by independent artists. In addition to the fascinators, i'm also doing a couple of styles of full-size hats. Today's images are of a series of five visored cloches.

When i teach millinery class, i give the students a handout from a 1920s fashion magazine called "Five Ways to Trim the Same Hat," which shows exactly that: the same base shape with five drastically different kinds of trim on it. We talk about how when you look at a hat design, you look first at what the base shape is, then what the trim is on that shape. I've always loved this concept of millinery design and so i decided to run with this idea for these hats i'm sharing today, all of which have the exact same base shape--a spiral-stitched strip straw cloche-y visored cap.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
This summer, one of my friends and favorite collaborators, Anne Kennedy, is opening a pop-up boutique in Williamstown, MA. Williamstown is not only Anne's home, but also home to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, where she frequently designs costumes. Anne's shop, The School for Style, opens May 25th and will feature a range of fashion and home goods made by independent artists.

When she asked me whether i'd be interested in creating a line of hat designs for the shop, i jumped at the chance! I've always had a vague interest in doing some retail millinery, but honestly, all i really want to do is make hats--i don't want to deal with everything else that goes along with launching a retail business or even an Etsy shop. But for Anne's shop? It sounded perfect! Come up with some cute hats, send them to her, and let her and her staff deal with actually selling them.

I can't make the hats at my studio at work--because the theatre is in residence on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill, we're prohibited from using university facilities for personal moneymaking ventures. Luckily, I've done enough contract millinery that i do have a room in my house set up as a millinery studio, for freelance work and such. This week has been about reminding myself all the things i know from reading historical millinery texts--"You don't need a hat steamer! Use your tea kettle."

In thinking about this retail line, I considered who the customers of this boutique were likely to be: fairly well-off summer vacationers there for the theatre festival, and students from Williams College. I knew i would need to come up with styles that would appeal to different age groups, styles one might wear to a night at the theatre as well as styles one might wear to a bar-b-que or a picnic.

My first batch wound up being a collection of fascinators aimed at theatregoers.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
I have some exciting stuff in the works for the summer, one of which will be the launch of my very first retail millinery collection!

A good friend and colleague is opening a pop-up shop in a resort town this summer--a funky boutique of unique, one-of-a-kind or limited-edition handmade fashion and decor. She asked whether i'd be interested in doing some hats for her, and I said of course! People often ask why I don't make hats for retail and sell them on Etsy or open my own millinery boutique or something, and the answer is basically that i love making hats but i don't love everything else that goes along with retail. Dealing with customer service, returns and exchanges, keeping the books of a retail establishment, all the overhead that goes along with a physical shop (or all the correspondence turnaround that goes along with a web-store). I'm just not good at it.

But, my friend's pop-up is a perfect way for me to do a retail collection, since all i have to do is make the hats and send them to her, and she deals with everything else! Eventually i'm thinking if this goes well, i could do the same sort of collection for other retailers of that sort--short runs of half-dozens and so forth.

For this first run, i have a market research question that i'm hoping the La Bricoleuse readership is willing to help me with.

[Poll #1908304]

Thank you so much for the input, and once we're closer to the opening of the shop, i'll be sure to share the deets on what hats i'm making and where you can find them!
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
A collaborative project on this show between myself and Candy McClernan was this fun pink feathered "bob" for the character of Rosie, one of the Kit Kat Girls, who is played by Maren Searle. These kinds of close-fitting hairstyle-esque hats were popular in the nightclubs of the time, and are made from hackle pads.

For this project, we didn't have a rendering to work from on the hat; instead we had a research image provided by designer Jen Caprio:
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
As soon as i saw Jen Caprio's designs for the show, one of the elements that leapt out at me as a major craftwork endeavor was the Kit Kat Girl costumes for the "Mein Herr" number. Her design incorporated drapes of pearls, numerous iron crosses, and the aesthetically singular spiked German helmet called a Pickelhaube.

I'm a huge fan of words and vocabulary, and i prefer finding out the proper name for an item instead of making up some shorthand like "Kaiser helmet" or whatever. I also studied German for several years and was an exchange student in Berlin in high school, so this show has been a wonderful excuse to expand my Deutsche Vokabeln, as it were. For example, die Rotsamtstiefeln is German for "the red velvet boots!"

But i digress.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (supershakespeare)
So, this might seem completely off-topic, but in fact it is not. Bear with me here!

It's perhaps a little-known fact that in addition to writing this blog, I also write loads of other stuff--fiction, essays, poetry, first and foremost for my own amusement but also for publication. I've had essays in journals and literary magazines, poetry and short stories in anthologies, and so forth. To this date i think my most widely circulated short story was a piece featured in the Tachyon Press anthology Steampunk, entitled "Reflected Light."

Thanks to that story, in fact, an editor named Scott Harrison contacted me to ask whether i'd be interested in writing a piece for a new anthology he was assembling, in which authors would take classic 19th century literature and fairytales as a jumping-off point for their stories, which would reinterpret or extrapolate upon or "reload" the original into a steampunk/anachrotechnological universe. The anthology was to be called Resurrection Engines, and would be released by the UK publisher Snowbooks.

I chose Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island as my inspiration work (I love pirates!), and sat down to reread the original, looking for inspiration. You may not recall--I didn't--that the fearsome pirate Long John Silver was married to a nameless woman of color. She's mentioned only twice in Stevenson's book, in passing, but i couldn't stop thinking about her. Who was she?

My piece tells her story, or an alternate-universe version of her story. Celie works as a hatmaker out of a shop on the shores of St. Clement, crafting top-quality hats for the seafaring men whose ships make berth there, including a young master's mate, John Argent. Pirates, sea monsters, and a diabolical conformateur converge to push Celie and John toward a destiny doomed by the sinister Black Spot.

(See, i told you this was relevant! Hatmaking! A conformateur!)

Snowbooks released the anthology at the first of the year, and I've got a copy to give away! If this sort of fiction sounds like it is up your alley, or if you are just intrigued by the prospect of a story with pirates and hatmakers in it, leave a comment here or on the La Bricoleuse Facebook page. A week from today, I'll draw a winner at random and send you the book.


Cover image courtesy of Snowbooks
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
I've been so busy with the beginning of the semester and two repertory shows in production in the shop, that i have not posted anything in a while. I've got a bit of time today though to share this fun straw hat project I've been working on for Raisin in the Sun at Playmakers Repertory.

In the play, a little boy named Travis gives his mother a hat to garden in, and the hat is supposed to be inappropriate  in a sweetly awkward way, something a child would choose and think was fantastic, but not a hat an adult would buy for digging in the dirt. Our costume designer, Jan Chambers, found this antique hat that she loved:Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
My newest-minted batch of milliners has just presented their final round of projects, and i can't deal with how awesome they are.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (top hats!)
We're almost done with the semester and my millinery graduate students have presented a few more of their projects, including two more drawn bonnets. Check out these cool hats!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (frippery)
Second-year Candy McClernan came to the program with extensive millinery experience already, so she has spent this semester doing an independent study of "Millinery II" topics--things outside the realm of my typical millinery class. Here are some iamges of pieces of trim she created for a project in which she researched and practiced traditional featherwork techniques. Read more... )

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