Where Did You Get That Hat?
No occasion would be complete without that special hat. A hat can make you feel like a million dollars and one hat, ‘Chapeau d’Amour’ (the ‘hat of love’) created by couture designer Louis Mariette, is valued at almost three times that at 2.7 million dollars. It’s woven from platinum, covered in diamonds, and unsurprisingly it’s the most expensive hat in the world.
Who knows when women first covered their heads with an animal pelt to keep the rain off? By Egyptian times no self respecting Egyptian lady would be seen without a headdress of some kind. Throughout history women have been expected to cover their heads with veils, hoods and wimples, but it wasn’t until the last years of the 16th century that structured hats for women began to appear at the European courts.
By the mid 1800’s Swiss and Italian straw hats were being worn by fashionable ladies and with the rise of tulle and velvet a hat revolution was created. Decorated with flowers, ribbons, bows and feathers, the bonnet remained popular until the early 1900’s. Then, after the First World War, and short hair for women, the cloche caused a stir along with flapper dresses and jazz.
During the years leading up to the Second World War, department store small-brimmed hats were in vogue. But when the war eventually came, women turned to more utilitarian headgear to man the fields and factories – turbans and scarves were easy and practical.
The sixties saw most followers of fashion replacing their hats with flamboyant hairstyles and wigs. Hats for women became more casual; caps and knitted hats were teamed with mini-skirts and bell-bottomed trousers by designers like Mary Quant.
Princess Dianna’s fondness for hats led a creative hat revival in the eighties and nineties. These days, most women wear hats only on special occasions – weddings, christenings, and the races including Royal Ascot and on Ladies’ Day at the Grand National at Aintree.
Today the hat is a thing of beauty; some would say an art form. Hatmaker Ann Maree Willett and milners Vicki and Peter Drackett have created ‘Deep Blue Sea’. Made from hand-finished Australian felt, the hat is decorated with feathers and twenty-six Australian opals set in sterling silver and 18k gold. At 200,000 dollars its millinery gone mad, but Willet isn’t the only hatter on the block.
Philip Treacy has taken the art of millinery to another level. His work is beautifully modern with graphic sculptural lines and dramatic colour. He was born in Ireland and at five was making hats for his sister’s dolls. He attended the London College of Fashion and then went work for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel in Paris. London based Treacy designed hats for both Princess Beatrice and her sister Eugenie when they attended the wedding of William and Kate.
The name Yvette Jelfs is synonymous with Royal Ascot and The Grand National and for ten years she offered her opinions, alongside Jeff Banks, on fashion and style with the racing set for the BBC. Before this, she worked under Graham Smith and designed pieces for the Duchess of York, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Diana. She currently works out of a shop in Edinburgh and her structured hats are often seen at the races.
Piers Atkinson might be described as the hatter’s Mad Hatter. His work is imaginative, fun, and even outlandish. His extraordinary fascinators exude humour and playfulness; perfect for a celebrity wedding or fashion event. He’s designed for both Cate Blanchett and Lily Allen and his themed collections have included neon signs, overgrown cherries, and stuffed animal headgear.
Rachel Trevor-Morgan’s beautiful couture award winning hats and headpieces are favourites with the Queen and the other Royals. Rachel collaborates with designers such as Caroline Charles, Stewart Parvin, Bruce Oldfield, Neil Cunningham and Ulrich Engler, designing millinery to complement their collections. She currently works out of St. James’s in Central London.
From colourful clams to huge scaffold-like feather creations, Noel Stewart’s work is certainly eclectic. He takes inspiration from contemporary art and architecture and has designed hats for many of the world’s most influential fashion icons including Beth Ditto and Lady Gaga. He’s been featured in all the top fashion magazines from US Elle to Italian Vogue.
Leading British milliner Stephen Jones is perhaps the most prolific hat maker of his generation. He’s considered one of the most radical and important milliners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries and has worked with John Galliano at Dior, Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. His clients have included both singer Boy George and Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry who he once shared a house in London with.
German designer Siegfried Hesbacher – aka Siggi Hats – was the official milliner of Royal Ascot Hats between 2002 and 2004. He designs and makes high quality ladies hats for all occasions from his West London shop. He sells to the world’s leading department stores, retailers and private clients.
Pip Hackett creates gorgeous bespoke vintage style hats using traditional craft skills with a contemporary twist. Her designs take inspiration from the films of the forties and fifties, especially Film Noire. Her hats are sold in exclusive stores such as Harrods, Liberty and Harvey Nichols.
After training with Gina Foster and Noel Stewart, Bundle McLaren launched her own millinery line in 2009. Working out of her Battersea home, she’s quickly become one of London’s hottest young milliners making stunning headwear at extremely affordable prices. Her work has been featured in British Vogue, Easy Living, Tatler and the Times and Pippa Middleton is just one of her clients.
Simone Wright-Eddison regularly writes for the leading racing websites in the United Kingdom. Her favourite race is the Grand National and when not writing about the race Simone can be found on the gallops at Bankhouse stables watching the progress of her own racehorse who she hopes one day will win the big race at Aintree. You can follow her on Twitter @grandnational09