Fashion On Top; Hats

Sarah Fitzhugh photoWritten by: Sarah Fitzhugh
LdM B.A. in Fashion Design & Art History



We see them as commonly as we see shoes and jackets on the streets. They’re celebrated and highlighted at events such as the English Derby, the bigger the better. Once upon a time, historically, they displayed your importance within society. What I’m talking about can sometime be over looked within fashion shows, but are amazing works of art that designers use to create atmosphere within their shows and enhance their garments. I’m talking about hats! These hats are artworks separate from the garments that are designed, but no less important. Some hats make you feel like a Grand Duchess while other hats make you feel sporty; hats just like clothing have the ability to change how you feel.

Now, I can attest that I am no skilled hat maker. I love hats, but never truly took the time to look deep into how and what went into making hats. When I was told that I needed to begin designing and creating a hat for a show done by the event planning course, I was excited. Slowly though, you can imagine the panic that set in as I realized I knew nothing about hat making. Thanks to the hat competition through LdM though I’ve had the possibility to spend a little bit of time focusing on what goes into the wonderful world of hat making. I visited the hat exhibition at the Pitti Palace to get the ball rolling on what I hope will become an amazing piece of art. The exhibition is great and provided a ton of ideas to inspire me and I left with a few ideas of what I really wanted to accomplish. Through my class together with Sharon Liaw, Working Group Project, we were also able to take a trip outside the city to Grevi, a hat making company in Signa. This was truly a treat because they have been making hats since 1875, meaning they really know this art form. Walking into the building we were presented with an overwhelming amount of hats. I never knew it was possible to have this many styles, fabrics and accessories on hats before visiting Grevi. The women making the hats were more than happy to demonstrate the way that bands of raffia are sewn together to make the wide brimmed beach hats that we all know. There were two rooms where the newest collections of hats were housed, both summer and fall hats. Needless to say, I tried on as many hats as possible. What can I say, I do love hats!

IMG_4075When it comes down to making the hat though, I’ve had a little bit more difficulties starting the process. Last week though we had the opportunity to attend a hat workshop at the fashion department to learn the craft, organized and taught by guest lecturer Thessy Schoenholzer and our own LdM professor Sophie Springer. It was amazing! Though it was a workshop to develop a skill, the best part about this workshop was focusing extensively on the creative thought process behind the work. We began to think of hats not just as an accessory, but as an extension of our own bodies. Hats become part of us; they allow us to extend our creativity beyond our own heads. Brainstorming with words such as crown, eyes, ideas, intelligence, headstrong, fantasy, and covering allowed us to focus on the direction we wanted to go with our designs. From here we began to drape different styles of hats on head forms covered in batting.

The interesting thing about these head forms is they are the same style used in the 60’s and have remained unchanged. We watched as amazing hats were draped out of synthetic raffia and realized there were boundless options on how to construct a hat. Nothing was a mistake. The creative process was amazing, and we also saw how to form hats using the bias cut of the raffia and steam on the head form. We put all of this information to use in trying our hand at draping with pattern making paper. There were some amazing ideas produced by other students that I would never have thought of. All the brainstorming and advice we were given truly sparked the imagination in all of us. My hat has yet to be brought to fruition, but the ideas I have now will surely allow me to create a hat that I can be proud of for the hat show. I’m looking forward to seeing the other hats produced by students as well! This experience let me have some insight into a portion of the fashion industry that I knew only a little about, and for that I am grateful. Hats off to the designers who create these works of art, I have a much deeper respect for them now.