Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Indiana Jones and Millinery?

It happens quite frequently. I am contacted by someone who wants me to make a hat 'exactly' like one in a movie. Could be My Fair Lady, Gone With the Wind, Gigi, or...Indiana Jones?? No, not Indiana Jones himself. In this case it was to create a hat worn by the character Dr. Elsa Schneider, in a particular scene of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

After a lengthy look for the right color and weave of straw, finding a suitable navy fabric for the under brim, making the crown block, and creating a 'toile', I was able to re-create it pretty darn close. See what you think.

Here is my client as Elsa. Scroll down to see what Elsa looked like in the movie. But if you are an Indy fan you will certainly recognize her character from my client's picture above.

Here's a full shot of her in front of a vintage train, complete with hat, bag, shoes, gloves and that smashing suit. My gosh, she does look the part! Very impressive!!

My client was wearing this outfit to a convention of Indiana Jones fans. This particular group is very interested in vintage clothes as well, so they tend to wear authentic looks from the Indiana Jones movies. The group met on an Indiana Jones fan forum and now meet in person couple of times a year. Love to run into this group in full costume in a restaurant! What fun!

Wish I had a better still from the movie, but this is about as good as I could get of the hat in the movie.

What a fun project this was! Mostly because it turned out beautifully. Whew! But I must say I get very nervous when someone wants something 'exactly' like it is in a movie, or a magazine fashion editorial. 'Exactly' is a scary word!

I always explain to clients that I'll get as close as I can without ripping someone else's work off, but it can be a problem trying to re-create something 'exactly' for several reasons other than copyright. a) We can't see the entire work at hand. Most of the time we are only seeing one side of the hat or headpiece. What does it look like in back? b) We can't be assured that the materials will be available to us. This is especially true if we are working in vintage materials. A particular straw may not even be produced any longer. c) We don't have the equipment needed. In this case I had to create the hatblock in order to get the shape of the crown that was needed for Elsa's hat.

What are your experiences?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hat Girl Names and a Millinery Clarification

Several weeks ago I posted a blog entry about the new mannequins I acquired recently. I asked you guys to help name them and I'm pleased to announce their names today.

"(She) looks like a gal with a past. She strikes me as a former Vegas showgirl, so you better keep an eye on her and keep her in very stylish hats! She looks like a Deloris." Atlanta milliner Diane Shagott

"I think a good name for the wonderful silver head would be Luna (moon in Spanish), because it reminds me of the moon light." Spanish milliner Cristina De Prada
Thanks, ladies! They will forever be known as Deloris and Luna.
OK, now for the clarification:
In the last entry I mentioned that milliners don't use GLUE--ever. Well, I'd like to amend that. Duh. Sometimes we DO use glue. But we do NOT use glue to adhere our flowers, feathers, ribbon, labels, etc., to the hats. That would have the vast potential to ruin the embellishments as well as the hat if things don't get placed correctly the first time, something that is very easy to do. You can easily ruin the embellishments or the hat by trying to pull them apart. That is why we sew the embellishments to the hat. It allows us to get the elements (flowers, feathers, etc.) exactly where we want them without globs of glue everywhere. And we can re-use the embellishments as well as the hat if we decide to re-use them later. The very worst glue (if there is a scale) would be hot glue--yuk, strings of glue everywhere except where it might be needed!
I do use glue to make the French flowers, as you saw on a recent blog entry. And I do use glue in bridal millinery quite often. That would be most often on bridal tulle. If you are adding rhinestones or pearls to the tulle you are better off glueing them rather than trying to sew them on. Sewing makes ugly puckers in the tulle where glueing doesn't. I also use glue to secure knots in thread that doesn't hold a knot very well.
Story: Many years ago I was teaching a straw and felt blocking class and everyone was embellishing their hats at the end of the day. I had given the glue lecture earlier in the day. As everyone was busy putting flowers, feathers, ribbon and such on their hats I left the classroom for a few minutes. Upon my return I was smacked by the unmistakeable smell of hot glue. Someone had the audacity to pull out a hot glue gun in the classroom and proceed to string glue all over the place!! My reaction--I didn't say a word. The class all gave me the 'what are you going to do about it' look, but I figured this--if she was brazen enough to do just the opposite of what I had just discussed at length, then a public reprisal wasn't going to do any good whatsoever. I said not a word. Why waste my breath?
Millinery tip: Sew your embellishments and labels onto your hats. You will be able to remove them easily if needed.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Labels, Weavers and Milliners

This blog entry is actually an answer to Cristina De Prada's blog where she asked how others sew in their labels. (If you haven't checked out her blog, wait no longer! You'll be glad you clicked over.) Since I was just getting ready to put in a few, I decided to make my own blog entry about labels.

First of all, the above beret has somewhat of a story. Back in October of 2008 I had someone contact me about making a headcovering for a religious habit, of sorts. However, she needed a weaver to weave a length of fabric for not only a headcovering but a matching shawl. I contacted a group of weavers here in North Carolina (members of the Surface Design Association) to see if anyone was interested in the job. Long story short, we found someone to dye yarn then weave the fabric in the colors and weave my client needed.

I had some input as the the tightness of the weave I'd need, and the amount I'd need to make this modified beret, based on the initial picture sent by the client. Due to the fact that this handwoven fabric was particularly frayable I used a woven fusible interfacing to cut down on loose threads. It helped immensely in putting the pattern pieces together without losing shape and integrity of the fabric.

OK, so that's the story of the beret. Here is a picture of my preparations for sewing in the label. My labels are fairly simple. I have two, actually. One is white with silver metallic lettering and the other is black with gold metallic lettering. As they are long and skinny they fit nicely on the petersham ribbon inside my hats. In this case the label is sewn on the headband since there is no petersham. Both of my labels read aMuse: artisanal finery, the name of the shop.

Can you see the silver metallic thread? I've found spools of thread that are exactly the same as the lettering on the labels--gold and silver. I attach the labels with stab stitches on the ends. Well, actually the stab stitches are hidden in the scroll work that surrounds the lettering. So really you see no stitches at all!

Voila! The finished product!

And a wider shot showing the inside of the beret with its lining.

I usually don't made fabric hats. For some reason they just don't appeal to my millinery senses. Maybe it is because I was never very good at matching up notches, and seams, and getting things to look professional. But something told me to take on the project. It has been an interesting job because of the coordination between the client, the weaver, and myself. I hope she will wear it in good Faith.

Millinery Tip: Labels can be sewn in in any number of fashions. Do NOT glue in your labels!
In fact, milliners don't GLUE anything. GLUE is a four letter word in the millinery world.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

WAWAS, Artists' Studios, and a New Venture for aMuse

I just recently joined a group of artists working in the same area of the city were aMuse is. The group is called the Wrightsville Avenue Working Artist Studios, WAWAS for short. Each first Friday night of the month we open our studios to the general public, have some refreshments, and allow visitors to see us in action--a studio crawl. There are a couple of fine art painters (including Deborah Cavenaugh, a nationally reknowned artist), a stained glass artist, a couple of jewelers and me...a milliner. We are a growing group since so many artists are moving into our area of Wilmington. You never know who might be joining next. This past Friday night, July 3rd, was my first Studio Crawl with the WAWAS.

I used some eye-catching blue and white balloons to draw attention to the shop. Since it was the night before the 4th of July (America's Independence Day for those of you reading internationally) I wasn't sure what kind of turnout we'd get. We did OK and I appreciate everyone who came, but I'm hoping for better turnout when we have these NOT on a holiday weekend when everyone already has plans. But a first Friday is a first Friday...can't control the calendar.

Here I am standing in the doorway to my atelier. I worked on a custom order for a client. A butterscotch colored panama that will have the crown cut away with a new celery green sewn braid crown attached.

That's my friend and one of my best customers--Carroll. Carroll has what I call 'hat sense'. She knows what to ask for in designing a new hat, is great with colors/textures/embellishments, and best of all, is not afraid to go out on a limb with her styles. We've done many hats over the years. I appreciate her patronage immensely.

One of the other WAWAS has recently moved across the street from me! How exciting!! She is a metalsmith, a jeweler. Her name is Mitzy Jonkheer and she does some great work. You can see her WAWAS' sign in front of her studio.

I'm looking forward to the next First Friday and to the many folks who will learn a little more about what goes into making a hand-made hat.