Tuesday, 22 April 2014

My First Market and other current events

When you start your own small handmade business, the general assumption seems to be that you will sell at markets. I wasn't personally keen on the idea. I'm a shy person, and a fairly classic introvert, and a perfectionist, and generally afraid of putting my work 'out there' to be judged (in fact, I basically dropped Visual Arts in high school for this reason). On top of that, my work is rather a niche offering and different to most crafts found at your average local market.

Having said all that, my grandmother Wendy still managed to convince me to have a stall at the Mudgee Makers Market on Easter Saturday. Mudgee is a pretty country town about 2 hours from me, with gorgeous surrounding countryside. It was a beautiful sunny day, although quite cool, and the market was bustling.

This is my initial setup, although Wendy later arrived with some more of my hats that had been at Wattle Flat Crafts. Setting out my work like this was a fun experience, and a good reminder of what I've created.

As usual my fears were unecessary. People were very nice and full of compliments for my work. Lots of hats were tried on, and I sold a few things, which was enough to make back my stall fees and more. I still wouldn't say that it's my favourite thing to do, but I'm willing to give it another try sometime. Especially if there are more pancakes with berries and locally made ice cream.

One of the new hats I made for the market was this chocolate brown felt.

It looks much better on a real person than the mannequin head, but I'm afraid I wasn't in the mood to make myself presentable for some photos, but I'll try to get some later.

It didn't attract much attention at the market on display, but I love it on me, so I started wearing it later in the day. I'm tempted to keep this for myself, as it's a style that suits my current hair.

I also want to share my new friend. While we know that kangaroos are regular visitors to our garden during the night, we only see them occasionally, if we get home really late or if the morning is misty and they stay around the local streets longer than usual.

The last week or so has seen this guy hanging around until the early afternoon. He digs in the dirt patches then lies down. He has a wound on his tail, which he covers with dirt, we assume to keep the flies off. We've called WIRES and they are aware of him and a local rescuer is keeping an eye on him too.

It's a nice reminder of the benefits of living where we do. And he's only damaged a few plants!

I have a couple more new hats from the market to show you soon, and I'll be moving on to finally start on the 1950s in my Hats of the Past series.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Helmet Hats, Part One

One of the hat styles I fell for early on in my 1960s research was helmet-style hats. They vary in shape and style significantly, but I love every one I see.

I already mentioned helmet hats in my Made in Paris review, although I didn't watch that movie until after I made my versions. That one was at the tall end of the spectrum.

“Lunar Whites”, Harper’s Bazaar, August 1966, from Gosta Peterson Images. The helmet hat appears in two main contexts - as space age, or connected to motoring style. This ridiculously gorgeous photo gives us a clean white helmet hat in a very futuristic context.

Audrey Hepburn in How to Steal a Million (1966). Again the focus in left on the shape of the hat with pure white colour for the hat and the accompanying outfit. I haven't actually seen this one, I'll have to add it to my "to watch" list, so I can see this hat in action.

Fashion photo by Norman Parkinson, which I found at Annie's Fashion Break. Another very tall version of the helmet hat, still quite simply decorated, this time with large spots. From the shine, I imagine it is leather. I don't have a context for this photo, but the scarf makes me feel it is more driving-around-in-your-convertible than exploring-the-moon.

On to the first of my versions. It's funny how you look at your inpiration images, then go off and make your own with them in the back of your mind, but you take it somewhere else. When you come back to look at your original inspiration, you've gone wandering further off that you thought. Sometimes it's disappointing, sometimes exciting, sometimes just weird. I'm not sure what this one is. A bit of all three perhaps?

I started with the pink and purple felts and my basic helmet shape in mind. I wanted to add a strap to this one, and I found a lovely bright yellow belt that popped against my colours and looked great. (Unfortunately, the belt is too short and I can't fit this hat on myself, but luckily Ruanne has a smaller head than me.) I then drew inspiration from a hat with a large spotty flower by James Wedge in 1964 for my final trim. I kept my flower smaller for this hat, but I'd love to make a simpler hat with a giant polka-dot flower on it in future.

I'm a little concerned it's ended up a bit Pony Club, but I guess that's ok too.

The important this is that it's super cute. And that you can pose like Audrey.

The other helmet hat I made was a collaborative project with Nicole of Manic Pop, who designs and makes gorgeous sixties-style dresses in bright colours and bold patterns. She has designed a dress to go with the hat I made her, and it looks incredibly cool. You'll be seeing the results of our combined design efforts soon!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Floral Headbands and a Sixties Skirt

Autumn announced its arrival here with weeks of rain, in what I think of as distinctly Australian style. That is, each day would include both warm sunny times and heavy rain. The bright sky would cloud over to seem like evening in half an hour then thunder and lightning would arrive. We had a blanket of (thankfully small) hail stones that made it almost look like it had snowed (if you squinted enough).

The last few days have seen a much more enjoyable amount of sunshine, although it is still cool in the mornings and evenings, and mornings of classic Blue Mountains mist are beginning again.

The trickery of photography, the angles we choose to avoid the ugly parts of ourselves and our environments, entertains me, even as I engage in it. I like the convenience and personal feeling of taking photos at home, but it's actually quite hard to make my garden look good. Last winter, the removal of the three giant radiata pines left us with a wasteland, for the most part. Grass has grown back in most parts, but it is still patchy and it has a long way to go still.

Here you can see my gorgeous flourishing herbs and flowers, along with the remains of my very succesful cherry tomato crop, and the Project that is the barbeque area. We have removed the old rusty built-in barbeque, and the rotted wooden benches, but have yet to build the new ones or put the new barbeque in. It is making slow progress, but the barbeque area is one of my favourite projects, and I get very excited about it. Which confuses some people, who aren't quite sure why two vegetarians want a barbeque area at all, as though you can't cook vegetables outside.

Despite being mostly full of woodchips and weeds, I couldn't think of a better place to shoot my "Hippie" looks than in my own veggie patch, however humble.

Both of these headbands feature reconstructed artificial flowers on bands of plaited ribbon. The plaits (as well turning boring ribbons into something more interesting) give a bit of stretch that makes the headbands fit easily and comfortably.

I also wanted to show off this skirt, which was (before I started the Hats of the Past idea) my only genuine 1960s item of clothing. (It's still the most tasteful.)

My mother and grandmother have both worn this skirt, which was purchased in the late 1960s. It is by Australian designer Prue Acton. This was passed on to me when I was young, and I always called it my "hippie skirt". It is sublimely comfortable - the velvet is unbelievably soft. And although I haven't been able to do up the top button for over a decade, I don't let that stop me.

Prue Acton was a significant Australian fashion designer, who has now returned to her first artistic love - painting. From my brief research, she designed clothes from the early 1960s to the 80s, and designed patterns for Butterick, including this cute mini dress. After looking at what examples I could find online of her work, I think my skirt is still my favourite. This mini coat comes pretty close though.

This post is a part of a series: "Hats of the Past: a milliner explores history"

Friday, 28 March 2014

Miss Fisher Costume Exhibition

Today I went with some lovely friends down to Old Government House in Parramatta, to see the exhibition of costumes from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.

I have to be honest and admit that I have seen very little of the show, and I haven't read the books. I have, however, seen pictures of a lot of the hats and costumes, and I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to see them up close.

I knew there would be some good hats, but the first room was FULL OF HATS!

It was fascinating to look at them all together. So many cloches, with many of them having the same basic shape, but such incredible variation from the choice of materials and trims.

Many of the hats (and dresses) were newly made but used vintage fabrics and trims, such as this straw hat with a genuine 1920s embroidered motif.

This blue velvet hat with tassel was an original 1920s hat (I think the only one). So simple, but so elegant.

The same design appeared later in green. I assume they made a copy to match a different outfit, in this case a driving coat.

This was a "Hey I know you from Pinterest" hat for me. Such a simple shape, with such well-thought-out trims that create such a stunning effect. It was great to see it in person and close up.

This cream cloche features vintage bronze trims. This is a colour combination I wouldn't have thought of, but that works so beautifully that I might have to get some cream felt!

I just love this bathing suit and beach wrap. It's just the level of coverage I like for the beach myself! And the belt is such a lovely detail. This was new but made from an original 1920s pattern. The hat was revamped with the raffia embroidery.

I think a pair of elegant pyjamas or a lounging outfit is something I have needed in my life for a while. And I adore apricot and black together. Nevertheless, I managed not to steal them.

One of the extra-lovely features of this exhibition was the way the displays were put together to complement the setting and to create a sense of place. The building and its furniture are beautiful already, but I was expecting just some rooms with dressed mannequins in them. Instead they were arranged into groups, sometimes by theme, and placed among the objects in each room in a way that brought it all together. The clothes became part of a scene.

You can't go wrong with a Christmas room. I think I may need a cute ski outfit like this before I can be convinced to go skiing again. Or just a nice outfit to sit around sipping hot chocolate in.

Naturally I took more photos, but I think that's quite enough of them! The exhibition is open until June, if you are in the Sydney area (or almost, like me). You can find details and buy tickets here.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Story of a Bonnet

My hat-making journey began with fancy dress costumes, cardboard, glue and staples. Then my sister gave me a book on constructing hats. It was largely from a theatrical perspective, based on the skills it taught, and the section at the back of basic headdress types and patterns for them. I started making things just for fun, just to learn how to do them.

One of the first things I made was this bonnet, in a regency-era style, with a buckram foundation and a nice plain white cotton. It has a pleated facing that took me hours, and a button on the crown that I hand-covered with the white cotton fabric.

There was no event that I made this for. I had no plans. It was purely for the enjoyment of the challenge of making it.

Over time, however, events came up. It has been to a regency ball in Canberra (although I only carried it), a Jane Austen High Tea in Katoomba (with my friend Sarah), and it had a heck of a time partying in the photo booth at my wedding.

It's been an exciting life for a bonnet. The buckram is dented in places now, but it still looks pretty from a distance.

For Australia Day, I took it to Wattle Flat Crafts (our co-operative weekend shop in the old courtroom at my grandmother's house) with some other old historical costumes of mine, for display. The bonnet has sat there with the costumes ever since, until the other weekend when a woman asked to buy it!

I'm so happy with the end of my bonnet's story. The woman owns a chest of drawers that has a 2 hat spaces at the top - one for a top hat and one for a bonnet. The top hat has been there, with the otherspace empty all the time, waiting for a bonnet to come along. And my bonnet came along!

It reminds me of "Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue-Bonnet", a charming old Disney cartoon that we used to have on VHS as part of a Disney Channel Valentine's Day special.

I couldn't be more pleased that after an exciting life of adventure, one of my earliest pieces has found a loving home in such a charming setting, alongside a smart top hat.

I hope they get along.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Movie and TV Reviews for Sixties Fashion

Ever since I bothered to learn how to record TV shows on our hard-disk-drive-thing-dvd-player, I've mostly been checking the TV guide for noon and midnight - the classic movie hours. Lots of lots of recorded titles still await my perusal, but I made sure to watch the 1960s ones first, in the hope of some hat inspiration. Since I watched them, I thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

Marriage on the Rocks (1965)

This is just the kind of classic movie I love. Implausable but entertaining plot, unlikely but witty dialogue, and charming characters. Accidental divorces and marriages, demanding children and crazy parents form the core of the plot. I enjoyed it immensely, and I'd recommend it happily to anyone else who likes their classic romantic comedies.

"I don't want a glass of water, I want a divorce."

Isn't this an amazing hat? It's a style you see a lot in the 1950s actually, and that brings us to something that is heavily highlighted in this movie - the generation gap. Val (Deborah Kerr) wears gorgeous fashions and looks stunning in them, but they do reflect the clothes of the previous decade strongly. Meanwhile daughter Tracy (Nancy Sinatra) wears younger styles, and hair ribbons, bands and bows instead of hats.

The generation gap shows in more than fashion. Val and Ernie (Dean Martin) dance at a club, and look quite uncomfortable but do their best to keep up with youngsters around them while Dan (Frank Sinatra) gets his clapping-along corrected by another club patron.

"Does this look like an apron?"

"You turned off the fight!"
"You won't miss it. There's going to be a doozy right here."

This polkadot turban is divine! It's on my mental to-do list. I was hoping to make it (or something similar) as part of the 1960s month, but other things took priority, and I knew I could visit turbans in a range of earlier eras.

Have a look at the original trailer on the TCM website and keep an eye out for this one.

Made in Paris (1966)

I had high hopes for a movie about a young fashion buyer on a trip to Paris for the couture shows. And as far as fashion goes, it doesn't disappoint. Beyond that, I can't say a lot in its favour. It had its moments, but at other times I was just rolling my eyes. I found the main character pretty unsympathetic, and there was one out-of-the-blue song, and a couple of almost-as-out-of-place dance numbers, I think inserted because the actress could sing and dance, rather than for any benefit to the movie.

So let's just talk about the fashion. This movie unquestionably focuses on the higher end of the fashion spectrum, and everyone in the movie dresses extremely well.

My favourite outfit by far is the pale grey wool ensemble worn by Maggie Scott (Ann-Margret) when she arrives at the company apartment in Paris. A tall grey helmet-hat with strap, and a grey coat with fur collar. Underneath is a grey sheath dress with fur trim at the hem.

The fictional fashion designer Marc Fontaine (Louis Jourdan) is central to the plot, but we only see a few outfits from one fashion showing. There was a lot to enjoy in these scenes though. Marc's comments to Maggie as the show is in progress are revealing and entertaining.  

"Don't buy it, it's only for the fashion magazines. It'll photograph beautifully, but it won't sell."

"The average buyer will be foolish enough to order it in colour. They give the women credit for very little taste."

Not just the models but the audience wear some lovely hats in the fashion show scene too. While you don't get a close look at most of them, you do often get a 360 degree view, and it's a fun source for little sparks of inspiration.

If this movie turns up on your TV screen one day, it's worth a watch, but I won't tell you to go chase it down. You can watch the trailer at the TCM website, and they also have a promo video with actor Richard Crenna that includes some of the fashion show, costume designer Helen Rose talking about the clothes and showing some of her sketches, and footage of Ann-Margret's wardrobe tests.

Love Child (2014)

Airing on Australian TV at the moment is the drama series Love Child. Set in Kings Cross in Sydney in 1969, it follows the struggles facing the unmarried pregnant teenagers staying at 'Stanton House' until they have and give up their babies and try to return to their former lives. Naturally it's not that simple.

I watched this show without high hopes, because anything seriously hyped by one of the commercial channels usually disappoints, but I've been enjoying it a lot.

Not from a hat standpoint, I must admit. The only (non-uniform) hat I've noticed is on Patty's old-fashioned mother when she comes to visit, be racist, and leave again.

The fashions, makeup and hairstyles are fun though. They are young, bright, and casual, really representing the other end of the spectrum from the above movies. Most of the characters are teenagers from middle-class backgrounds, there's a lot of bold colours and patterns and mini dresses.

I don't know what the future of the show will be, but I think it's worth a watch if you're in Australia. You can still catch some of the episodes online too, not sure if you have to be in Australia to do so (probably).

One of the things that has fascinated and frustrated me in my vintage hat research has been the variance between different sources. Finding images and having to work out where it fits into my schema of the fashions of the time. This fashion magazine image - would anyone normal really have worn it? This everyday photo - is this person actually on-trend and up-to-date or are they wearing something old-fashioned? This couture piece - was this even ever meant to be worn by a regular woman? And if so, who would have worn it? Celebrity? Middle class? Mature? Young? Sophisticated European lady? Country NSW famer's wife?

These movies and shows were great at showing fashions, but in very different ways. Love child shows mostly younger, cheaper, more casual clothes from a city far from the centres of fashion (but it's also a modern interpretation, so even then, I'm trusting their costume designer). Marriage on the Rocks show mature and young fashions, but still a high-end Hollywood version. And Made in Paris is all high-fashion, no mucking around with the everyday woman, whatever her age.

I'm going to be making a change to my original plans for the Hats of the Past blog series. These things always develop differently to the way you expect. I'm removing the arbitrary restriction of one month for an era. The 1960s will either finish next week or go on for one or two posts more (depending on what I make), and the 1950s is definitely going to take longer than one month. This will not only give me time to cover all the styles and stories I want to, but also make me feel I can fit in time to do a few other posts and projects when I want. The 1950s is not far off though, the research is going swimmingly, and I even have some family stories to share.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

High Fashion and High Hats

It's hard to know how to describe this category of hats, the tall hats that sit back on the head, covering pulled-back hair. Whatever you call them, I fell for them pretty hard!

They appear primarily in "high fashion" photos, and on women like Audrey Hepburn. I haven't seen them in photos of everyday women, and I haven't seen many vintage hats for sale in this style either. I assume they didn't spread much further than the couture photoshoots, but perhaps I have just been looking in the wrong places. My research sources are primarily British, Australian and American, and they may have been a more popular style in mainland Europe.

This first one is of my own design, based on a few elements from different sixties hats. When I saw a hat with a "bubbly" outline, I knew I wanted to try to recreate that look, and my "block" (vase) lent itself well to this shape and style. It's in red wool felt, trimmed with cord and wool felt.

In the middle of making this hat, I hadn't decided on trims yet. I was walking past the Victory Theatre in Blackheath (an old cinema that is now an antique centre and cafe - and a lovely place!) with my groceries, and I had a feeling I should go in. Upstairs in the vintage fashion section, in a glass case, was a 1960s hat. It was a different overall shape to this one, but it was felt with ripples like this. The ripples were trimmed with black cord, and it had two pom-poms dangling from the top. I decided against pom-poms in the end, but I used the cord idea.

You can see that I needed a model for this hat, since I am lacking in the feature required to wear it - hair you can put into a bun! This is my beautiful and extremely stylish (and very dear) friend Ruanne, who appeared in the last post (and you will be seeing her again).

I'm getting to point where I'm making enough hats that calling them by their descriptions is becoming tiresome, and since I am looking at so many vintage sources, I've decided to follow their lead and name some of my hats. This one is called "Giana".

The second hat is a copy of a design that appeared in a British Pathe video from 1963 of Italian Women's Hats. It's very important that you look at mine before you look at the inspiration, though!

It was this video that guided me to Italian names for these two hats. This one: "Alessandra".

This is a camel-coloured wool felt with black pheasant feathers. An extra band of the felt makes up the decorative twist at the front. I'm almost at the end of my old store of pheasant feathers, and I've never had any of the scale that appear on the inspiration hat! They are massive! I will say that my interpretation is a subtler, more wearable and practical version.

I often play with photo filters, but don't used them much on the blog (apart from black and white) because I want to represent the hats as they are. I couldn't, however, resist the lovely colours brought out by this one (and it's still pretty close to the original).

British Pathe is one of my favourite places to look for hat inspiration. The benefit of seeing the hats in motion, from lots of angles, on a model, and often with the colours and materials described by the narrator, is unbelievable. This won't be the last Pathe-inspired hat you see here!

Are you a British Pathe fan? Do you have a favourite video?

This post is part of a series "Hats of the Past: A milliner explores history." Previous posts are my first impressions and changing ideas about sixties fashion, a look at sixties style of fur hat, an exploration of pillboxes, and a look at the state of millinery in 1960.

Oh and both of these hats are up in my online shop.