Can’t buy a new hat block? Then make one!

I have been looking around for a classic Dior brim but haven’t had any luck finding just what I was looking for. I researched purchasing one, but it just isn’t in the budget right now. In fact, the budget is pretty much non-existent since so many of the art shows have been cancelled.

During the lock down, I visited Hat Academy, an outfit that provides online classes, and purchased a class on how to make a hat block. It is taught by UK milliner, Ian Bennett.

The wire frame brim in progress

It took some calculating (not my strong point!) and help from my intern, but we figured out the placement of the spokes on the wire frame. Next came covering it in paper and a boatload of masking tape.

Wire frame finished!
We first covered the block in long strips of paper and tape
Then more paper in small squares and more tape
Masking tape layer finished!

The next step was to cover it inside and out with packing tape, which helps to waterproof the paper and add another layer of strength.

Packing tape layer finished!

All that was left to do was take it for a test drive. Here’s the finished hat!

Hat blocked on handmade hat block.

All in all, a great project. I was happy to have another set of hands, however. It took the two of us a total of about 15 hours just to make the block. But the materials were a tiny fraction of the cost of a wooden block. I’m not sure how many hats I will be able to make on my handmade block; it won’t last forever like a wooden block. But in the meantime, I’m happy to have a new tool that didn’t cost an arm and a leg!

Vintage Hat Friday

Today’s vintage hat is an interesting one. It looks to be hand sculpted, cut and draped, which is not the easiest task when working with straw as it easily unravels. And speaking of straw, I would LOVE to get my hands on this quality of straw but have not seen anything like it from suppliers during my 15 years in the business. It is very finely woven and knotted. Such a wonderful texture! This one also has a swish of velvet banding from the front over the side and to the top. I’ve often seen velvet used on vintage summer pieces and guess it was just a trend, as I associate velvet with winter.

Vintage straw and velvet hat by Lorie – 57th Street New York

The designer label says LORIE 57th Street New York.

Edgar J. Lorie designed high fashion hats for more than 40 years. He died in 1976 at 92 years old and lived at 975 Park Avenue.

Hats designed by Mr. Lorie and produced by his concern, Edgar J. Lode inc. were sold in leading boutiques and department stores around the country.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Lode quit high school and came to New York, where he learned his craft at various millinery establishments. His wife was a former fashion model who also designed hats for his company and died in 1975.

I looked up the address of his home on Park Avenue and a unit that looks straight out of a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel episode recently sold for $5.3 million! I guess I should have been born earlier, lol. Or maybe he saved lots of money walking to work! Guessing this hat to be 1950s/early 1960s. Not one that I will wear but I much admire the construction and design.

Lorie vintage hat side view.

Vintage Hat Friday

Happy Friday! Here’s another vintage cocktail hat for your Friday viewing. It’s a pretty little black velvet hat with hand beading and rhinestone accents. A dramatic face veil adds drama and sophistication.

Vintage 1950s cocktail hat

No designer label but it has the “O’Neils Akron” label from one of our historic downtown department stores. The other store across the street from O’Neils was called Polsky’s. I wonder why…I see very few hats with the Polsky’s label but many from O’Neils. Hmm…

Cocktail hat back view
Side view

Stay safe, everyone and hope to see you here again next Friday.

Vintage Hat Friday

Today’s vintage hat is an elegant little cocktail hat in black velvet with pearls, rhinestones and small metal studs. It has a stiff velvet bow and the front and netting for extra glamour.

It does not have a designer label but it’s definitely a well made piece. It also has two side loops to help keep it in place. a fun little piece for dress-up.

Happy Easter, friends! Although we’re still isolating, I hope you celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you. See you next Friday!

Vintage Hat Friday

Some of the hats of the 1960s just make me smile and this is one of them. What a celebration of color and style. Maybe it’s because spring is just starting to unfold but this hat reminds me of daffodils and soft green willow branches.

Hat by Mr. John Jr.

This hat was designed my Mr. John, a designer that is much loved by many of my vintage hat sisters. Mr. John came to the US from Germany in 1919 and eventually formed a partnership with Frederick Hirst in 1929 under the brand John-Frederics. He started his own millinery company, Mr. John, Inc., in New York in 1948.

I can’t speak for you, but I find myself wanting to channel my inner Pharrell Williams…the crown on this linen sun hat is so tall! I especially love the double grosgrain ribbon bows in front. As you can see, the hat sits high on the forehead. I guess this was just the style but the modern milliner in me want to pull it down farther on the forehead.

Mr. John created the iconic hats for Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind. He died in 1993 at the age of 91. He was a prolific milliner and his hats are beloved by many. Maybe you have some of his hats in your collection. Until next week, have a lovely weekend!

Hat by Mr. John Jr.
Hat by Mr. John Jr.

Vintage Hat Friday

It’s Friday again but honestly the days are all running together since our world has been turned upside down with COVID-19. Wishing all of you well and please stay healthy.

Orange Felt hat, “Model by Lisette”

I thought this orange number might bring a bit of sunshine to your day! It’s a classic 1950s style in orange felt with a dramatic sweep of two dyed pheasant feathers caped in a pearl and rhinestone holder. The tag inside says “Model by Lisette” The A. Polsky Co., Akron, Ohio.

The hat is constructed with an inner cap and then topped with the brim that is sewn on by hand. And then of course the wonderful feathers were added as the crowning glory.

Such a fun hat that has just the right amount of drama to amp up an otherwise conservative topper. Enjoy the weekend!

Vintage Hat Friday

Ivory Satin Beret

Berets are one of those styles that endure. This beret is made with strips of satin that end in a swirl at the top of the hat. The hat does not have a designer label but has a store label from Polsky’s, one of two major department stores downtown Akron that closed many years ago. Although this hat has seen better days – it has been well worn and loved – it’s charm shines through. Classic and still a beauty!

Vintage Hat Friday

I have recently had the good fortune to acquire some wonderful vintage hats. I will be posting one each Friday for the next few months. When necessary (due to the hat being soiled or damaged) I restore them with new, clean ribbons or mega steaming and re-blocking to bring them back up to snuff. I can’t tell you how much fun it is as a milliner to discover how my predecessors have assembled these little gems and added their personal creative touches.

Black Turban, “Hats by Gertrude”

Since I seem to be on a turban kick, here’s an elegant little number with a label, “Hats by Gertrude.” I can’t seem to find anything online about this designer so I’m curious if she was a local to my Northeast Ohio neighborhood or not. If you know anything about this designer, please share! Not only do I love the way this demi-turban is draped, but the large pearl pin is shaped like a horseshoe with pearls at each end. Such a timeless piece, I would definitely wear this one any day!

Hats by Gertrude Turban – Back view

Turban Tuesday

It’s Tuesday and I have just completed a new turban. Turbans are a classic style and I love to make them – draping all those pleats and twists just makes me happy. Making a turban is a process – first we block buckram over our hat block and let it dry. Next it’s trimmed to the desired shape. The crown (top) is covered with fabric, either matching or contrast, and a bias strip is sewn around the bottom edge. Lastly, the fabric is draped and pinned in place, then sewn with invisible stitches so that the folds and pleats stay in place.

Pinning the Pleats

Below is the finished product. Click Here to see it on my website.

What a Great Hat Turban – Front
What a Great Hat Turban – Back

Vintage Hat Friday

Do you love vintage hats as much as I do? This one was purchased at the A. Polsky Co., Akron, Ohio, which was one of two large department stores in Akron that were directly across the street from one another. The maker is G. Howard Hodge – Fifth Avenue, New York. It’s a cream fur felt beret hybrid with a little brim that was blocked into the design. In true couture millinery fashion, the beaded applique and coordinating pearls and sequins are all sewn on by hand.

G. Howard Hodge Design

Hodge was a well known American milliner who worked in the millinery trade in San Francisco before establishing the G. Howard Hodge brand in New York in 1928. He worked in the trade his entire life and catered to wealthy clients.

I am not a vintage hat expert but would guess this hat to be from the 1950s. If you know more about it please feel free to comment!