Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Another 1950s Half Hat

The previous little 1950s hat in cherry-red velvet was the product of a millinery class and doesn't display as much of my personal style as the ones I have made (and am currently making) in a similar style since.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

Like this one! Using the same lovely rich red velvet, this time the foundation shape is a bit more curly. I wanted to keep using veiling, but play with it in a different way.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

I've overlayed the veil over the main hat body, and also added a thin band of veil, like the one featured in an Australian Women's Weekly photo from my post on millinery trends at the start of the 1950s.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

The other trim I added is a twist of beads along the front edge. This is actually a second-hand bead necklace that I twisted and twisted into a tight rope.

If you follow me on Instagram, you would have seen this in progress, when I was still trying to decide on the trims. I thought I wanted to add more to it, but once I saw it on a real person, I knew I was happy with it the way it is.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

This kind of hat - very small, fitted to the head, usually without large trims, but usually with veil - was very popular in the 1950s. You see a lot of images of these around, but I've seen them called a few different things - demi hats, half hats, cracked egg hats, skull-cap hats. They are often described in sales listings as cocktail hats or fascinators because they are small, and often have an "evening" feel to them, but there are also many "daytime" looks. There are a lot on my 1950s Pinterest board, among a range of fifties hat images, and JudithM Millinery has a board dedicated specifically to "Half Hats and Cracked Egg Hats" that is worth checking out as well.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

I know a lot of vintage fashion lovers have some amazing hair-styling skills, and a great thing about these hats is that you can still show off lots of styled hair. They suit having some fun curls at the front then more at the back below the hats, but also go well with simple and understated hair.

They are fun to make because it can be all about the trim, and suit a huge range of trim types, including (but definitely not limited to) flowers, beading, ribbons, bows, drapes and pleats of fabric and feathers.

Tanith Rowan: 1950s half hat with velvet, beads and veil

In other news, I'm very excited to be currently preparing my first giveaway, which is going to be starting next week! So make sure you check back for that. It's going to be fun.

Friday, 18 July 2014

1950s Hats After Nightfall...

After the natural light outside faded, we were still excited and keen to take more photos, and had a gorgeous vintage telephone and a mirror to play with, so we kept going.

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

We managed to do a lot better in this artificial light than we expected. The detail of the hats, especially the all black one, don't show up too well, but the overall effect was wonderful.

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

As a lover of the slightly-creepy, I was very inspired by these images. Although I don't care for all-out horror, especially gory things, I love things that are subtly unnerving and shiver-inducing. I read old ghost stories and classic murder mysteries, and I'm slowly working my way through Hitchcock movies.

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

As we took photos, stories started to unfold. Each photo inspires me with multiple ideas. Is this a grieving widow adjusting her veil, or a sorcerous witch about to raise her eyes and weave a curse?

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

They feel like stills from a thriller movie. Does she still have time to call for help at this point, or has she left it too late?

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

Taking these mirror shots was fun and fascinating. I had a go at taking photos in this shoot, and the camera would sometimes focus on the reflection, and sometimes on the real person. Most of these successful shots were taken by Mel, with me styling and directing from the sidelines.

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

I love everything about this shot. The wing-like shadows from the mirror, the perfectly frozen moment in time and the intense look on her face. I'm pretty sure her reflection means her harm.

Red velvet fifties hat with veil

We also got the red velvet hat into the action. I love how beautifully the front and back detail can be seen at once in this shot, and the tight grip of the gloves on the phone.

Fifties hats

While editing these (I use picmonkey) I couldn't resist playing with effects, including some from their various Halloween themes.

Fifties hats

Is Dee shocked at discovering that Mel has been listening to her conversation, or has she just heard something that will upset their plans and is silently conveying this?

Fifties hats

I'm pretty sure this is a poster for a movie about two sisters, but I don't know if they are in it together, or if it is about the evil sister plotting against the other.

Black velvet fifties hat with veil

Here is the black hat in the daylight, where you can see the detail better. It is covered in ruffled black velvet, with a full-face black honeycomb veil and a dangling chain and pendant on the left side, which drops lower and further forward than the other side. I've listed this one in my online store.

We enjoyed this so much that we are planning to do a thriller/film noir/Hitchcock inspired shoot again. I've started a Pinterest board for photoshoot ideas if you are interested. I'd love to hear any ideas for spooky photos that you might have.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Faux-Fur Cossack Hats

I have a number of fabric weaknesses. Fabrics that I just love, and find it hard to resist. Faux fur is one of them.

Many (many) years ago I went on a fabric-buying binge and I still have a lot of fake furs in my stash from that time. At one point, Lincraft had a massive sale and I bought 3 metres of that fake snow leopard fur! Let me tell you that 3 metres is going to make a lot of hats.

I do love cossack style hats, as you may have noticed before in my 1960s faux fur hat post, and with winter getting serious, they were the perfect project.

I mixed things up with other fabrics for the tip and faux fur for the sideband. This snow leopard one has a purply-blue velvet top, and I matched a black fur fabric with a grey wool plaid.

The snow leopard is my favourite of these fabrics. As well as being so visually striking, it is super soft and nice to work with (for a fur fabric!). I'm in the process of making myself one of these to wear for the remainder of this winter.

As I mentioned in my last post about the 1950s hat, I have some hats in a bricks-and-mortar shop now, and that includes these cossack styles. The blue mountains winters lend themselves perfectly to some seriously warm hats! The grey one shown in the pictures above has already sold. Here is my little display. I'm pretty pleased with it, and they provided the cute little mirror.

I've also got a few more currently in-progress on my sewing table. They are mostly at the sewing-in-the-lining and neatening-up stages.

I treated myself to some new faux furs recently, including this mottled red and black.

This fur-trimmed beanie style is made from a second-hand scarf in a tartan print (Black Watch, I think?) and a fur trim I bought a massive roll of second hand at a market.

I couldn't resist going all out on a seriously winter-princess fluffy long-pile white faux fur. Who could resist, right?

At the moment I'm stuck deciding on bling for it. It is impressive plain, but I think that when you go all out, you should go ALL OUT. And that means sparklies. But I have to decide which one.

(Also, having wrestled this monster throught my sewing machine, I don't want to hold back!)

I fear that my favourite bling is the one I can't use unless I keep the hat for myself, because it was my grandmother's! But I could try to find something similar.

I'd love to hear your opinions on the white hat. Bling or no bling? Which bling is best?

Friday, 11 July 2014

1950s hats in the sunshine

Finally, on with the 1950s in my "Hats of the Past" blog series. I recently spent a day with an old friend and making a new friend, over an amazing photoshoot. I've been sharing sneak peeks on the Tanith Rowan Designs facebook page and also on my instagram, and now I'm ready to start blogging the photos too.

Tanith Rowan: Cherry Velvet Fifties Hat

This is the cherry velvet "demi" hat that I started in class with Joanne Rolfe of Vintage Designs at the International Millinery Forum in January, which I talked about at the time.

Tanith Rowan: Cherry Velvet Fifties Hat

I love the combination of the cherry red velvet with the black ribbon flowers. And I am so in love with the difference a veil can make to the impact of a hat.

Tanith Rowan: Cherry Velvet Fifties Hat

Today is the first of many posts I'll be making from this shoot. The number of gorgeous photos was overwhelming, and it is taking me a while to sort through them all! It was a shoot where everything just went right. The light was perfect in the day, and as you'll see next week, even after dark we had surprising (and slightly creepy) success.

Tanith Rowan: Cherry Velvet Fifties Hat

I feel very lucky whenever I see my hats come alive on a real and beautiful person as part of a well-put-together outfit and in a nice setting. Hats really do complete a look, and they themselves blossom when worn.

Tanith Rowan: Cherry Velvet Fifties Hat

The other recent event that I'm excited about is that my hats are back in a bricks-and-mortar store. I have about a dozen hats, including this one, on display and for sale at The Blackheath Hub. This is a new shop featuring many local arts and crafts, in the next village to mine (super convenient!). If you are lucky enough to be in Sydney or the Blue Mountains, you should go and see all the great local work available here. And if you can't find a cafe you like in Blackheath, I'd be very surprised!

So this one won't be in the online shop but you can always let me know if you are interested, or of course I can make this style up in a range of colours, fabrics and trims. I'll be sharing more small 1950s hats in the coming weeks, so if you like this look, you have something to look forward to!

Tanith Rowan: Velvet Fifties Hat

Thanks to my lovely models/make-up artists/photographers, Dee and Mel!

What do you think? Are you a fan of this cute little style of hat?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Vintage Maternity Fashions

After getting too big for my jeans by about week 10, I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about maternity fashion. Since I wanted to get a bit more into vintage fashion, one thing I looked at was vintage maternity clothing.

I was hoping to find some good outfit posts by vintage fashion bloggers, showing how they adapted a vintage look to maternity wear. There wasn't as much of it as I hoped, but I did find some cute inspirational outfits. I have a Pregnancy Fashion Pinterest Board, it features vintage- and modern-style maternity outfits and some vintage patterns for inspiration.

Today I'd like to share with you some images I found on Trove and Flickr, and talk about how I feel about maternity fashion and the different approaches to it in the past. I won't go into too much detail about maternity wear history, but I do have some links about that to share if you are interested in more information.

1914 maternity dressing jacket
From The Gundagai Times and Tumut, Adelong and Murrumbidgee District Advertiser, 20 Feb 1914

The general trend of maternity fashion history is that things look pretty sparse in the early 20th century. Mentions of pregnancy are pretty rare, and hiding it was a primary focus. This illustration comes from an article talking about the Latest Fashion, and only once mentions that this Dressing Jacket is for a maternity outfit.

1937 maternity fashion illustrations
From The Muswellbrook Chronicle, 3 Sept 1937

This fashion illustration from 1937 shows 3 dresses in a very similar style, but the one on the right is our maternity design (obvious, right?). It is described as follows:

"The style illustrated is a dual-purpose frock. It has been planned to provide comfort and style during maternity, and is suitable at all times for wear by the well-dressed matron who is inclined to fullness.
The cross-over effect, with its single button fastening will be welcomed. The panels bring the necessary slenderising influence."

Many people prefer these styles over later, more voluminous maternity designs. I agree that they look much better, but the problem I have is looking down at my ever-expanding form and then looking at the dress. I can't see my large pregnant self in that dress, let alone looking any good in it. The problem with the photographs and illustrations of the time not showing women who actually are or look pregnant, is that I can't see the dresses as really suited to maternity.
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/44477

I had to share this, as one of the few photos I found of an actually pregnant, everyday woman. This is from 1944, and shows a weigh in during a health check. You can actually get a feel for how the standard dress style of the era looks when worn over a very pregnant belly. Fashion illustrations just don't give you that. And she's wearing a cute hat.

1953 Maternity Fashion Sketches
From Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld), 9 Feb 1953

Once we get into the 1950s, maternity wear starts to look like I might actually be able to wear it. Some of it, anyway. Based on this illustration, I would say that some fashion is kind to "Ladies-in-Waiting". I mean, I can tie a dress in, but not at the waist like this! I feel, reading the actual article describe the dresses, that they are much more suited to the growing figure than the illustration suggests. I think fashion illustrators have a lot of trouble sketching in any other way (just a these days it is all long legs and super-skinny frames). The introduction to the article states:

"For years we've complained of the poor style and high price of maternity dresses and at last the manufacturers have woken up to the fact that women want something right in the front line of fashion to wear, during the long months of waiting for Jimmy or Jane! Just knowing that you still look elegantly trim makes the queue at the clinic seem shorter, and your own special D-day not too depressingly far ahead."

She goes on to describe the fashion options in detail, the materials, what occasions to wear them to, and so on. Still, however, much of the time her focus is on how to keep "your happy secret" to yourself.

1954 maternity fashion sketch
From The Chronicle (Adelaide, SA), 25 Nov, 1954

"We do not want to go out with our husbands after dark only - like the dog being exercised. We want to look attractive up to the last moment. And it can be done, if we can get the clothes."

The article accompanying this sketch describes a failed search for maternity wear in the UK, and how similar the situation is in Australia. The comparison is made to the styles readily available in America, which are roughly sketched but described in great detail, to inspire "the Australian home dressmaker". The one I've shown above is a tomato red cotton jacket with a white collar and a navy outsize artist's bow. Also described is an outfit that includes green cotton jeans ending in a tie just below the knee, with an expanding waistline, worn under a smock top in pink, white and green printed cotton.

1957 maternity fashion aww
From The Australian Women's Weekly, 25 Sept 1957

By the late fifites, maternity fashions were starting to get their own spreads in the Women's Weekly, with patterns available to order, and some photography that does the fashions justice (although I doubt the models are actually pregnant).  

"Color is a staunch ally to morale in pregancy. Light colors do not necessarily have an enlarging effect; intense reds, blues, clear whites are flattering."

1960 maternity beach suit aww
From The Australian Women's Weekly, 14 Sept, 1960

I had to include these pictures from 1960. What a contrast there is between these outfits! A fun beach suit showing lots of leg and a conservative outfit that includes little white gloves. I'm not sure I'd feel confident in that beach suit (even if my pregnancy wasn't straddling winter) but I do think it is adorable!

Some Links about Vintage Maternity Fashion:

I have to say that I am happy to be pregnant in a time when it is socially acceptable to show off my bump and let it be obvious that I am in the family way. I do think that some of the vintage styles are fun, however, and intend to draw inspiration from them for some of my maternity dressing.

What are your thoughts on vintage maternity styles? Which era do you like?

Friday, 27 June 2014

Book Review: The Fashion File

I'm embarrassed by how long it took me to join my local library. I talk big about ethical issues, and although I follow through pretty well on some of them, I've been slack on this. I've bought books rather than hunting them down. Now I'm having fun just browsing what's available and reading things I might not otherwise have found. When I think they might interest you, I'll share a review. We start with a vintage-skewed fashion advice book.

"The Fashion File: Advice, Tips and Inspiration from the Costume Designer of Mad Men"
Janie Bryant with Monica Corcoran Harel

There is a lot to like about this book. I've read quite a few books that give advice on finding your style and building a wardrobe, but this one still had a lot of unique approaches to offer. Within each chapter, the advice was broken down into many small separate sections, and there were many bonus facts dotted about the place, but the book still managed to be coherent and keep its focus.

That focus was always on how to immediately apply the lessons to your own life. Each chapter finished with a "checklist" that summarised the actionable advice.

There was a lot of discussion of vintage style, vintage fashion icons and fashion history, but it was all with the aim of incorporating that wisdom into your modern fashionable look. This might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it interesting and a fresh perspective compared to other books I've read.

The illustrations are gorgeous, and provided in great enough numbers to make browsing through the book a visually pleasant experience, to say the least.

The sections on style icons (there was one of these each for men and women) described each star's main looks and unique qualities, then honed in on the best style lessons to learn from them.

Similarly, the look at each decade described the trends of the era, then highlighted a particular vintage item to shop for and how to wear it. For example, the 1920s put the spotlight on beaded bags, discussing what to look for when shopping and outfit ideas to pair them with. This was probably my favourite part of the book, and if they had gone into the same detail for a few more key pieces in each decade, it would have been fantastic.

Some other features I liked were the section on promoting and maintaining postive self image, a costume designer's approach to closet arrangement, and advice on "playing dress-ups" at home to prepare looks. The idea of following that last piece of advice makes me feel silly, but the reality is that I never leave myself enough time to get ready, and if I haven't already worked out good pairings from my wardrobe, I end up wearing the same things and generally less daring outfits. I imagine that's true for others too.Maybe I should give it a try.

The main negative for me was the lifestyle blindspot. The author clearly lives a glamorous life in a glamorous world, and has very different wardrobe needs to me. So at times, particularly when talking about 'necessary items' to own, the advice was useless to me. I don't mind that as much, but I think it should be at least acknowledged that not everyone's needs are the same. Advice about work clothes that is suitable only to those in office-type jobs is extremely limited, and I need a lot more outfits for going out to a local restaurant for dinner than to a cocktail party or gala event. The other minor niggle, as a fanatic of ethical fashion, were the occasional moments when the values of the book clashed with mine. Neither of these points seriously detracted from what I enjoyed about the book, but I thought I should mention them.

Overall, I recommend giving this a read. I feel that while not every section or piece of advice would suit everyone, there is so much variety here that you are bound to find something that you enjoy and learn from.

If you've read this book, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it too. Or any other fashion books (vintage or otherwise) that you would recommend.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Shop Update: Another 7 Hats

My hat-a-day rate has slowed, but I have added 7 more hats to my online shop, so I thought I'd show them off again.


First up, two more hats from my exploration of 1960s faux fur hats. I love the look of the fun cheetah spots, and this grey faux fur is so soft and such a rich colour.


My first exploration into sinamay is finally in the shop now too. This one makes me think of eucalyptus leaves, despite the flower, because of the rich dark green and a pale silvery green together.

Nothing subtle about this one mini top hat. I was obsessed with carousel animals at the time, and this is my "Carousel Rooster". I love it, but it is quite a bold statement!


After mini top hats, one of the other fabric-covered hat shapes I had fun exploring was miniature tricornes. I only finished these two off late last year. This one in red, black and silver, is called "Lady Maria."


And this one is "Countess Charlotte." Mostly black and cream, with highlights of gold and dark green. She has a gathered facing, which is one of my favourite finishes for underneath brims.


To finish, we have a simple and understated 1920s cloche. No trims, just hand-shaped folds in the felt. I do love this one!


Shop updates will be thin for a while as I work on a custom project and getting some hats ready to put into a local shop in just a couple of weeks. It's going to be a busy time!