Saturday, August 30, 2008

Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat???????????

Just stab me to the the current, September 2008 Departures Magazine, in the Style Issue, Elisabeth Franck-Dumas asks us this question.  Couldn't she have phrased it in a more positive framework? Couldn't she say that hats are hot, that hats have climbed the long uphill mountain of fashion and are now shrieking from a hilltop?  Couldn't she lead in with a "Wake up and wear a hat!", or "Don't be left out in the fashion tundra....get a hat on your head and fast!"?
Something catchy, upbeat,positive, and demonstrative is what we of the millinery bent need to convince the hatless generations that they need us to be put together, well-dressed, accessorized, done.  
The article is about one of my hat idols, Marie Mercie, long a whimsical creative force in the hat world, and so I thank you, Elisabeth Franck-dumas, for the update on Ms. Mercie's creations. She and Stephen Jones have been the triumphant and inspirational banner for my own insanity.  the world is just getting used to hats again, granted, and so we need to keep up the surreal, irreverent, tongue-in-cheek, as well as the all stops out glamour, so that the normal has it's grounding.  Yes, people are usually going to go for the demure, the normal, the silhouette they feel most comfortable with: brim, crown, flower.......but with the standard bearers marching ever forth with  mile high plumes, branches, dead birds, daffodils, et al, we can keep them coming in to see all of the possibilities...........
Yes, there are those that still wear hats!  Better yet,  there are those who newly wear hats, and those that again wear hats.  And those who wear hats in spite of the rest of the naked heads out there.  We wear hats in glee, and joy, and glamour, in the moment, of the moment, and for the moment.
Join the fray!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blue is Back!

Always a fave color for Mother's -of- the- Brides, and the late Queen Mum, blue has fallen by the fashion wayside in recent decades.  Turquoise lifts it's head some summers, and slate sneaks in in the fall, but a good strong true blue has been absent, and sorely missed on the clothing racks of  the Marshall's stores across this vast nation.  Blue is a striking color for every skin tone, and like yellow, and green, every skin tone has it's best shade of blue.  Every collection we include a blue hat, whether it be a teal blue, or a baby blue in the Fall felts, or a feathered concoction for cocktails doused in peacock twirls.  And they always sell.
Now I won't have to shout it from the tenttops at Fashion Week, because the Democrats are bringing blue back!  Michelle Obama has been seen in many tones of blue; since the convention started, I've seen her in little else.  No hat, of course, but we'll work on that issue.  Hilary Clinton was in blue.  Bill Clinton sported a blue tie.  Politicians and their supporters have always known that red is a great color for the tv lens, but apparently, some stylist snuck in a blue dress somewhere, and off it went like a shot.  So now the Mothers- of -the- Brides will have dresses next year, and the spangles of the upcoming drag queen season may very well reflect the blue skies, the blue waters, and the true blue prevalent in the Democratic Convention.
I'm all for loading up the window of Ellen Christine with nothing but blue hats just as a showoff gesture.  

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

the New York Times Style Magazine

So appropriate to the moment we live in, the Surreal movement created a daunting body of work to admire, and emulate.  While Elsa Sciaparelli and Salvador Dali were collaborating on torn images on fabric, and Man Ray was building a catalogue of images to die for, other designers in fashion were sticking to same old same old.  The avante-garde has always hacked their way through the rainforests of bourgeois imagery, to forge ahead and deliver us into an art moment redolent with exotic orchids.......or bugs.  Or blood and guts, or giant eyes, or melting clocks.  The idea of surreal permeates every level of artistic creativity (except for that of the young lady recently dropped from the roster on Project Runway), and has helped many a lost student find their direction, and voice, under the guise of "different".  We live in an era of surreal moments, from the 9/11 horrific nightmare, to the daily bombing of villages throughout the world.  All these moments must be viewed by a careful eye, not allowing the harsh reality to invade every pore, but rather, regarded through a mask of perceptive control.  One side of the face protected, we offer this blatant mask/cloche for contemporary societal participation.  We see, and yet, we do not.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

the Wild Blue Yonder

Rosemary Ponzo, one of our gregarious and effervescent customers, zips around to balls and charity events non-stop.  For her night at the Tiffany Ball, she commissioned a blue feathered headpiece to compliment her blue satin gown.  Feathers are like the birds they come from: some are lyrical in their shape and form, and some are basic, fly me there kind of feathers.  Obviously our Ro is a soaring spirit, costume designer that she is, and this pastiche of peacock swords and coq dyed to match was the perfect combination for her personality, the gown, and the event.  Our premiere, Polly, is an artist, and when it comes to feathers, her eye captures a composition, and what results is always a sublime creation.
For many of the younger set, a smaller, flat composition with a bit of french veiling , is the perfect accent to any cocktail ensemble.  Brides love a juxtaposion of blonde, white and ecru feathers on a chapel, or fingertip length veil.  The popularity of the fascinator in England has given rise to feather headpieces, and to the hatinator, which in my language is a cocktail hat.The Victorian and Edwardians used feathers on everything: at a hem, to provide a dustcatcher; in the hair, on a hat, on a fan, on the gowns, on the wraps, cloaks, stoles, jackets.  Everywhere there were feathers.  There's something to be said for the soft down of an ostrich plume brushing up against the neck.  So romantic.  Do it, wear it, go for it.  Listen to Rosemary!

Friday, August 15, 2008

September Glamour

Or, Glamour in you like it. There's a wonderful spread with Nicole Ritchie, styled with the perfect accessories, including one of the fedoras we designed for  the 3.1 Phillip Lim, Fall 2008 Collection. It's actually the same fedora shot in the Elle September 2008 picture, but in an different colorway.  This warm taupe is a perfect foil for Nicole Ritchie's golden skin tones, and frames her face in a seductive, glamorous way.  It does exactly what a hat should do: highlight your best features, and let you shine.  It's an accessory to the ensemble, and to the face in the hat.  
Remember when choosing your fall hat that it should have a bit of panache, and frame your face.  Your eyes should pop, and you should smile when you put it on, radiant in your hat moment.
The beaver felt we used for this series of fedoras lends itself to the textures of fall, adding either a balance to smooth fabrics, or an intriguing combination of surfaces to knits, tweeds, and raised patterns.  Mix and match as you choose, and let not the hat wear you.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hello, New Zealand!

With the hobbits running amuck around the hills and dales of New Zealand, the citizens have banded together to form a new publication, and report on the intelligentsia, the artistic, and the unusual folk that inhabit the rest of the world, as well.  Thus No. the Magazine was born, and gorgeous portraiture and interesting coverage, and intervews have emerged as a result.
This is the second issue, and Ellen Christine is honored to have the ever lovely Debbie Harry gracing the cover in one of our hats. Debbie has been one of our customers since the first week we opened, and so we've been working with her through the years, vicariously as well.  The vicariously happens when Carlos Davis, a New York stylist who uses our pieces in many shoots, gets the assignment and comes in to pull some pieces for the article.  Luckily we know Debbie's style, and head size, so we were able to give our input.  Carlos made his decisions on set, and this fabulous cover is the result of their efforts.  
What a shot!
The photog has set up a myspace page, and the magazine can be seen there, if you can't find it at your local newstand.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

where, oh where???

Ellen Christine Millinery works with dozens of news publications and glossy magazines every year..........sometimes we even get to see the results, but usually, someone calls in and says "I saw something in such-and-such, etc......" and we run all over town to find an issue.  See how exhausted you get just talking about it?
This happened with Elle Magazine, with whom we've been working a lot lately (thank you, Joe Zee) both here in the US, and in Europe.  Lo and behold, we're in the September issue of Elle US, with a few things, one of which is a shot from the runway show we designed with 3.1 Phillip Lim.  Love that!
Since we did soooooo many August and September issues for this Fall season I'm hoping to see us in a few more.  If anyone sees us in anything out there, please give a holler.  Stylists forget, and I can't  follow every one up, so we pop up in the oddest places.  Another thing to know is that photographers sell their stories to other publications, so of course neither the stylist nor we find out about it until someone sees one of our hats or headpieces in it. Ah, the mysteries of the publishing world!
And all for press...............

Saturday, August 9, 2008


In the summertime, on the East Coast, up North, your family went to the shore, or to the mountains , usually to the same resort, town, hotel, or house.....forever.  Some of my girlfriends were Pocono kids, but most of us hung out at the Jersey Shore.  In my house, it meant Atlantic City/Brigantine.  My Mom had friends who frequented AC, and my family had a house in Brigantine, so that was the destination by rote every summer throughout the 1950's and 1960's. My, how things change.  I still love the shore, but the sand gets to me now, so I'm not about lounging on a beach to scope out  guys.  But, give me a boardwalk, and I'm a happy girl. 
The boardwalk in Atlantic City was the most extraordinary place in the 1950's.  Impressive hotels, the common ground of Steel Pier (where you had to see the Diving Horse, or your life wasn't complete), the carriages made of rattan that pushed you up and down the length of the boards.  Mr. Peanut reigned, huge and inviting over the Planter's Peanut stores.  James Salt Water Taffy was best when it was filled AND chocolate covered.  Kohr Bros. soft custard (again chocolate, but with marshmallows now) was the junk food of choice, and rainy days were for playing skeetball.  I still can see the pink ceramic poodle I got for my grandmother with my tickets.  
Atlantic City was the home for musicians, gangsters, and work-a-day vacationers to mingle.  Their kids all built sandcastles on those wide sweeps of beach.  They all went to the Miss America Pageant Parade on the Boardwalk, and to Convention Hall to see the Pageant itself.  they all went to Steel Pier for fudge, or to hear Paul Anka.  Jazz clubs filled with NY elite, and the restaurants overflowed .  
I don't have one single bad sunburnt memory of Atlantic City, and no matter what it has become today, casino back to back, the flavor is there for me and everyone who ever went during those wonderful innocent years.  It remains a mythic draw for many of us from Philadelphia, because we're used to going , and the new slew of slots loving grannies every season keeps it jumping.
Hop on a bus, get in the car, jump on the train and go see if you can piece together some of the past.  Maybe Madmen will shoot a few scenes down there, and we can all drift  for a sec, and relax in time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Row Your Boat the early 1900, there existed a reality that we do not know:  men wore hats every day outside (women, too, but that's another blog).  On the day when men officially laid their winterworn felts aside, and donned their Spring suits, they sported a straw hat.  this marvelous occurence was called "Straw Hat Day".  What a gas!  I love that there was actually a special date , and in some cities, the first day a straw hat was to be seen, to switch gears.  In New York City we're used to the catch as catch can weather, so we wear sandals in the dead of winter, and long sleeves in the summer because of air conditioning. Or not.  But the straw hat rule , as the white shoe after Labor Day rule, and the white glove rule, and the matching purse and shoes longer exists.  I recommend to my clients to do as the Victorian did:  have a darker straw hat be the transitional one for early fall, and early spring as well.  Edged in velvet, or with a bit of leather, suede, or other suggestive fabrics, the straw can carry you until your winter hats come out of the closet.  
On the designated Straw Hat Day, somewhere around May 16, the boater was the touted topper for men.  Used by private schools as their hat of uniform, and by the G-men of the 1920's as a signature hat, the boater has seen it's way through music halls, movies, Chanel, YSL, and the Amish.  A simple shape, made of plaited straw pressed into layers, the boater sits jauntily atop the head, lending an air of respectability to summer seersuckers, linens, two toned shoes, and suede bucks.  Do your homework if you don't know what I'm talking about. 
May it live long and rule!  

Saturday, August 2, 2008


My great great grandmother sat in her rocker with a white cotton rag dipped in vinegar, for her headaches.  A turban?  A headwrap?
Carmen Miranda wore turbans piled high with tropical fruits.  Paul Poiret dressed his models, and his wife, in lush turbans with aigrette plumes stretching high from jewels placed at the front of the forehead, like Indian royalty.  Think of the exotica of  the Ballet Russe, and the intense oriental flavor in their costumes.  Yves St. Laurent wrapped his models heads in turbans and resurrected the look for the decade.
For the uninitiated, a turban is a foreign object, unapproachable, unwearable, and off their radar.  To those of us who rode shotgun in the 1970's and 1980's, when the 1940's look ruled, the turban is a way of life in the summertime.  On the day it's way too hot for a hat, a headwrap is a welcome escape from hair on the neck or forehead.  It extends the hairdo by a few days,until you get to a hairdresser for a blow-out.  It adds a note of insousiance to a simple dress, or flippy skirt and t.  Of course, you should do the red lipstick of your choice to perk up the hausfrau reference, and wear a great pair of shoes, but an Hermes scarf tied just so, and artfully knotted, is just what a girl needs on a hot summer day in the city.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Too Hot for Felt

Now is the time for all good millins to get out the felt and block, block, block.  Stores in NYC already have their Fall stock on the shelves, and here at Ellen Christine Millinery, we began our Fall 08 production in March.  Now that it's August, the felt, and the fur must be dealt with seriously so that there's more than two hats on the shelf for our customers to peruse and angst about.
Felt hats, basically invented in the 1600's, became a rich man's commodity because of the beaver content of the felt.  For those of you who don't know this, the felting process enables  animal hairs to bind together, producing a warm, dense fabric that can be shaped into flats, to make your outdoor yurt, or cones, from which we make hats.  Beaver fur was the most popular and costly material, but after the poor little beavers were practically wiped out in Europe and Russia, other animals were used to create a soft, yet still dense, luxurious felt.  Rabbit mostly, called hare, or lapin, was used to blend with the beaver. Minks, muskrat, any little guy with long and short hairs on his hide was recruited to add to the mix.  In North America, the most prized pelts  for hats were those that had been made into coats, and worn by Native Americans, and worn for a season or two.  The reason for this was that the long hairs were worn away, and the underhairs were made softer through wearing.  Recycling at its onset in the fur trade.The content of beaver defines the cost of the felt: the more beaver, the higher the cost of the felt, and so the higher the price of the hat.
Why am I telling you this?  So that when you see a felt hat on a shelf in a shop, notice the content.  Wool felt does not bind as well, but is practical for the pricepoint .  Beaver felt is still more expensive, and comes in a variety of finishes.  We like to use it because of it's maleability, touch, and I think a hat should be an investment: you get more bang for the buck from beaver.
And no, that is not a mantra for the call girls of the world!