July 25, 2009

Graham Smith and the Woolmark Company collection

These amazing pictures belong to the Woolmark Company collection at VADS.

My attention was immediately caught by the side tabs on the “helmets” to hold sunglasses in place and avoid having to squeeze the temples of the glasses inside the hat, isn’t it just great?!  The first picture in particular looks very compelling and could fool people as being a modern picture of retro style clothing.

I also find amazing the sculptural quality of the “bowl” hat that defies gravity, sitting on a chignon, and the wonderful quality of the clothes in the way they are cut and assembled.

All three hats were made by legend milliner Graham Smith. You can learn more about him if you follow this link.

The International Wool Secretariat, now The Woolmark Company, was established in 1937 to undertake research and the global promotion of wool. To that end, they built up a large library of promotional photographs and accompanying press releases which they generously donated to the London College of Fashion in the 1980’s when they relocated and were short of space.

Credit for the pictures:  © London College of Fashion/The Woolmark Company

Top:  Coat in white brushed wool. Hat in white kid. Manufacturer: Dumas & Maury, 1965. Designer Clive (Evans).
Helmet: Graham Smith, Sunglasses: Oliver Goldsmith

Middle: Coat in white wool with curving seams. Hat in white straw. 1966.
Fabric Manufacturer: Moreau
Designer: Clive (Evans)
Model: Ann Milling
Hat: Graham Smith

Bottom: Tunic suit in ivory whipcord. 1965.
Designer: Clive (Evans)
Hat: Graham Smith, Sunglasses: Oliver Goldsmith

Be sure to explore the VADS website, it’s full of jewels. A search under the heading “hat” will deliver you hours of fun.

July 20, 2009

Accessorize! Web exhibition from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

ACCESSORIZE! 250 OBJECTS OF FASHION & DESIRE. I saw this book at a bookshop and fell in love right away. It’s a publication of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (ISBN 9789086890453 , 19.95 euros, 272 pages, 250 illustrations, bilingual English/Dutch). When I got home and looked at it closer I realized that the book is the companion to the Rijksmuseum online exhibition about accessories, an exhibition that has been there, without me knowing, since 2008! Both the book and the website have been designed by Joost van Grinsven and Cristina Garcia Martin.

Because it’s an online exhibition it doesn’t matter if you’re at the other end of the world, you can see it, and I recommend it highly: Accessorize 250 Objects of Fashion & Desire.

The book is sorted by colour, with gorgeous pictures of hats, umbrellas, parasols, fans, shoes, gloves, handbags, combs and more, it’s both in Dutch and English.

The same items that are on the book can be seen online, with the advantage that they can be sorted, not only by colour, but also by category, material, period and topic. The images can be zoomed in a lot too. The only thing that I miss is a 360º view… but I know it’s asking too much!

The Rijksmuseum has four Schiaparelli hats in their collection. The lady who bought and donated the Schiaparelli hats said (I quote from the web) “Hats by Elsa Schiaparelli were not meant to give a woman style or make her more elegant; her clients already had that! Schiaparelli hats were designed to attract attention. Her often unorthodox models were always so beautifully made that they never made the wearer look ridiculous”.

I recommend that you view out the exhibition from top to bottom and click also on the little film icons to watch the extra items, but if you want to go directly to hat business these are the links for you:

-Link to the hats part of the exhibition: click here.

-Link to the feathered hats animation: click here.

I was lucky to see some of hats from the Rijksmuseum collection in person back in 1998 during an exhibition entitled “Chapeau, Chapeaux!, hoeden van 1650-1960”, of which I have the catalogue that was issued (and the poster hangs in my living room). These are three hats that were on that exhibit, one of which is on the online one:

This text is from the online shop of the Rijksmuseum describing the book:

Right now, so it seems, accessories are almost more important than clothes. Unique to this day and age? Far from it. For centuries men and women have used accessories to embellish their outfits. For it’s that one designer bag, those handmade shoes or that unique scarf that makes the difference between trendy, rich, original, stylish-and not. It’s true today and it was true in the past. The Rijksmuseum has a collection of exceptional accessories from different eras and different countries-from brightly-coloured fans to gold-rimmed spectacles, from lavishly embroidered gloves to couture hats with extravagant feathers-and almost all limited editions, for that was the way it was. A source of inspiration to one person, an object of desire to another, but always a delight to behold.

July 12, 2009

Sewing my label with a cross stitch, old style

Filed under: millinery techniques and cheats,Sewing label with cross stitch — Cristina de Prada @ 5:15 pm

I was curious how a label would look if stitched the old fashion way, with a cross stitch, so I gave it a try.

I love the result with contrasting thread and although the process is time consuming it looks wonderful.

I’ve seen this way of stitching the label referenced in two books: First in How to Make hats by Ruby Carnahan, and then in How to make hats; a method of self-instruction by Rosalind Weiss.

But although I have searched the web, I have not found any picture of a vintage hat label sewn this way. If you have one let me know, I would love to see it.

How do you sew your label on?

Update July 20 2009:

 Since I wrote this post I have come across this picture of a J. Suzanne Talbot (Paris) label at the Rijksmuseum website. The label is sewn in place with tiny stitches. What I find amazing is that the gros grain is sewn with such huge visible stitches…

July 10, 2009

Another French millinery book review: Secrets d’ateliers LES CHAPEAUX

Filed under: Hat book and magazine reviews — Cristina de Prada @ 10:50 pm

Dirk has asked me if I have heard of this book, and the answer is yes, I bought it a couple of years ago when I was in France, and for a change it was nice to see what I was buying before buying it. I guess this kind of answers his question: yes, it’s a nice book, and here follows some more info…


Authors: Estelle Ramousse and Fabienne Gambrelle

Publisher: Éditions SOLAR

Details: May 2007, 20 euros (19 euros on Amazon France). In French only. ISBN: ISBN 978-2-263-04280-5.

Contents (translation between brackets):

  • Avant-propos (Introduction)
  • Histoire du Métier (History of the trade)
  • VISITE DE L’ATELIER: L’atelier, Les outils, Les matériaux, Chez madame Galanter (Visit to the workroom: the workroom, the tools, the materials, at madam Galanter’s).
  • LE SAVOIR-FAIRE (Know-how)
    • Les techniques de base: 1. Le coupé-cousu, 2. La customisation, 3. Le moulage des formes (basic techniques 1. pattern sewn hat, 2. customization, 3. blocking shapes)
  • L’ARTISAN REALISE (The work of the artisan)
  • There is a list of Parisian suppliers on the flap of the back cover.

The book is full of photographs which will make life easier for those that cannot read French, and the sewn pattern hats are nice but there are no patterns included , just guidelines to make them yourself.

All in all I really like the book, it’s made by a professional milliner who loves hats, and a great deal of effort has gone into picturing and explaining the details. I love the picture of Madame Galanter and her atelier, at 92 years old she looks wonderful!

Finally, my favorite project on the book is “Le bibi”.

First of all there is an explanation about the word “bibi” which describes it as a little hat (smaller than headsize) that sits on the head thanks to an elastic band or hair pins. Apparently the word has its origin on a small capote from the XIX century.

The bibi project on the book requires a small pillbox base (bought at Parisian supplier Artnuptia, although there are many suppliers in the US that sell buckram bases or you could make your own). There are explanations on how to cover the base with fabric, how to line it and sew the ribbon, and what I like most, the trimming. She has made a trimming of the same wool fabric that looks just amazing, it’s like an oversized bow… love it!!

Well… that’s it for today.

July 8, 2009

Four books about hats

Filed under: Hat book and magazine reviews,Millinery material — Cristina de Prada @ 3:20 pm

Recently I bought a few new hat books. Three of them (the French ones), I bought from Amazon France, and the Italian one I bought directly from the publisher.

Here’s what I can tell you about them:

Book 1: Créer ses chapeaux bibis et bijoux de tête

Author: Gaela Lemoine-Vallerie

Publisher: www.editions-eyrolles.com

Details: 2008, 128 pages, 28 euros (26 from Amazon.fr at the date of this post), soft cover. In French only. ISBN: 978-2-212-12335-7


  • Introduction
  • Getting to know the indispensable
  • Hair “jewels”
  • Head “jewels”
  • Hats and small hats (“bibis”)
  • Patterns

It is a well published book with beautiful pictures and how-to drawings. Explanations about the materials and tools. There are interesting instructions on how to make covered hair clips, hair combs and head bands. The projects are classified by difficulty, and are mostly devoted to small pieces and fascinators.

You will find explanations on millinery stitches, how to work with feathers, sinamay, how to prepare a small fascinator base (wired and covered). There is also an appendix with a list of suppliers in France and the UK, and a list of millinery schools.

My advice: If you have no issues with the language (it’s 100% in French although plenty of drawings and pictures) this a nice little book to have. It’s an informed book and a lot of effort has gone into it’s making. If you’re an experienced milliner there might be nothing new for you, but if you’re like me, someone who must have every decent book about hats, this is one you will want to buy.


Author: Agnès Rosenstiehl

Publisher: Editions Autrement (more…)

July 3, 2009

Little straw hat with romantic grosgrain bows

Although made using the same plasticine block I used for the machine sewn mini hats, this one is fully hand sewn. The vintage straw braid is a 4-strand one (four strands of braid already come sewn together into a wider braid), and the grosgrain ribbon is also vintage, from Nina’s stash. I sewed the braid in stages, pinning on the block a few turns and then sewing, pinning again, and so on…

This hat was a commission. The lady who commissioned it needed a hat to go with a simple sleeveless blue silk cocktail gown for a wedding in the UK. The original idea was to use feathers, because I had biot feathers of the exact colour of the dress, but I was not happy at all with my attempts, and finally I changed directions completely and went with the bows you can see now (the grosgrain being also of the exact colour). I think the result is sweet and fun… what do you think?

It’s finished on the inside with a grosgrain ribbon and an elastic band keeps the hat firmly in place.  I hope you enjoy it!

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