Category Archives: contemporary millinery

Dresses and Hats – more.

desktop note:

“When not in…

I am to be found at

Art Fashion Creation or

Toile La La or

Worn Written Drawn.”

but, in retrospect, here are Five dresses, hats, or dresses and hats posts:

The Mia Dress.

The Edwardian Dress.

A Klimt, Bakst, Delaunay Moment.

Headlong into Hats:  Millinery Adventures.

Head Full of Art and Hats.

Your comments, I always look forward to receiving – your suggestions, your tips… Speak Your Mind , my loves.

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The Eighteenth Century Calash Bonnet.

The November 2012 Vogue issue includes an interesting Bidding Farewell essay by Hamish Bowles, giving account of his love for artful objects and the process of downsizing / refining his collection via a Bonhams auction.

Bowles says: “I feel that I can confidently say that I may well have been the only nine-year-old in the country who knew what a calash was – let alone possessed one.”  We can probably agree with him.

For some time though, the calash has fascinated me with its similarity to the folding canopy of wagons of that time – and also for its similarity to hoop or crinoline skirts.  Ribbed, the calash – or caleche (“carriage” in French) – bonnet was collapsible and worn to protect elaborate, towering and / or large hairstyles of the eighteenth century.

It is interesting to note that within the same magazine is a very pretty Chanel advertisement, with a bonnet looking quite like a calash:


Chanel advertisement with bonnet quite like a calash or caleche. November 2012 Vogue.

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Bob Dylan’s Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.

Have you ever heard the song?

Dylan sings:

“Well, you must tell me baby

How your head feels under somethin like that

Under your brand new

leopard skin pill box hat

Well, you look so pretty in it

Honey, can I jump on it sometime

Yes, I just wanna see if it’s

really that expensive kind”

The lyrics are humorous. The last bit makes the hat sound a lot bigger than a pillbox hat, though: “… it balances on your head, Just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine”.

I’ve tried to imagine a really chic leopard skin hat.  However the thought of Dylan jumping up and down on a hat, testing its worth, produces a more interesting image than any leopard skin pillbox hat.

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Dresses and Hats: In Search of the Just Right for Now Designs.

Imagining this:

There I am in a chic city – right now – moderate temperature, a happy sun in the sky – not too intense, a bit of a breeze. I might walk to my destination, or perhaps take the metro, city bus, or a taxi and I don’t want to call the wrong type of attention to myself. The dress I’m postulating is modest. When I sit, it doesn’t ride up. Due to this dress, I have the look of a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts. When I walk in the breeze, the dress moves gracefully around me, but doesn’t billow up – threatening exposure.

Now on my head I have a hat – there in that chic city – and I want it to stay on my head. Maybe, when I get to where I’m going, I’ll remove the hat – with a flourish – for a moment… so my hair should stay nice and neat beneath the hat. This hat doesn’t make my head hot, and this hat is small enough to allow other people to see around me – wherever I am. This hat stays on my head – even in an unexpected gust of wind – and should it rain, this hat is not forever ruined. This hat also makes me look like a polished, well-put-together lady – with a head full of important and artistic thoughts.

As I breeze past, onlookers think – my goodness, what an interesting lady… I wonder what she’s thinking.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

A dress and a hat to embody the persona of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis… in essence, refined. However, the Cassini/Halston look of the sixties requires some twenty-first century mindset to fit into today’s context.

For daytime, substitute a clever-something for the pearls. I think the daytime accessory should read “smart”, not “pricey”.  Notice, Jackie’s hat is brimless. I’m postulating a just-right-for-now hat with a brim, to provide a little shade. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim not so large that I have to turn my head to see you from the corner of my eye. “Just right” would be a hat with a brim small enough to allow me to wear super-sized shades when I desire privacy.

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Clever Vintage Blouse Construction…and a Grand Bell Hat: VPLL.

If fashions of the past make your heart thump a little faster, don’t miss out on Vintage Pattern Lending Library’s great design collections. Earlier in the year I’d learned of VPLL’s Titanic project, which involves recreating 1912 fashions from La Mode Illustree – a major turn-of-the-century sartorial arbiter. As a project volunteer, I test-sewed a hat, two women’s blouses, and a child’s apron.

Test-sewing the hat was an unusual experience for me – as I’d never created a hat with a wire armature. However, the Ladies’ Spring Hat depicted a frame… so I produced a small-scale practice model. As life goes, other responsibilities began to demand my time – but I still like to check VPLL’s Titanic progress… and was ecstatic to discover a new hat pattern there tonight!

Check this link to see the beautiful hat project – this time it’s a Bell Hat (much like the ones Marc Jacobs presented in his Fall 2012 Louis Vuitton collection!) You’ll see this hat is also based on a wire armature – but, using a stiffer fabric, one might avoid the necessity for the framework structure.

Louis Vuitton Fall 2012 by Marc Jacobs. Runway collections image at

Now, the other thing that may excite you (especially if you sew) – is this 1912 La Mode Illustree blouse design, which is fabulously engineered so that the side-body and sleeve are in one piece. You just have to see it to understand, so don’t miss the link directly above.

Small-scale toile created to test La Mode Illustree 1912 Blouse 0219. Toile La La toile and photo.

VPLL has recently announced they have a sufficiency of volunteers, but don’t fret… you can still investigate the website to see the great work of VPLL’s testers, view vintage fashion illustrations, and look for great sewing patterns!

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Hats: Contemporary and of the Past.

Hat-thought has occupied quite a bit of my brain-space – for two years now – though I’ve been intrigued by hats since the unveiling of some my Nana inherited from a Great-Aunt when I was a teen.  I’ve read about, made, and researched hats and millinery history.  For a time, millinery played a wallflower role, but now circumstances seem right again for hats to make an appearance.

Before attending the Savannah College of Art and Design fashion show this year, I created this small dressmaker hat “Cameo” – worn here by my charming model… but you’ll also see it in my shadow silhouette below.

Cameo has an asymmetric design defined with black piping and black buttonhole-twist hand-stitching.

Cameo Hat made this year for SCAD fashion show visit. Millinery design by  Toile La La.

Toile La La wearing Cameo Hat in Savannah, GA.

The Cameo Hat perched fixed at an angle on my head, with the strength of a snapped-in-half dime-store comb and two bobby pins – all of which I stitched inside the hat using thin elastic thread.  Since my hair is straight, not curly like that of my charming model, I twisted it into a ballerina bun and and anchored the hat against it with the comb.  You’ll see the model is wearing a headband under the hat – but that was merely to keep her bangs out of her lashes.

For hat-security, I did consider using a millinery-specific elastic at the back of the hat, but didn’t have time to search for elastic to match my hair – although black would have worked fine.

Recent trips to Chicago, Illinois and Denver, Colorado prompted a lot of hat thoughts – as I wore a store-bought sunhat which was determined to either sail off my head or shield my vision like horse-blinders.  It did however provide good sun-protection, shielding my eyes, face, neck and shoulders.  The problems it created did set the gears of my designing-mind whirring:  Is it better to have a hat that ties under the chin.  How do you design a hat that protects the face without obstructing the vision in each turn of the head?  What materials can be used to screen the sun and still permit air-flow?

As it seems most of our hat-wearing in recent decades has been either decorative (for instance, at the Kentucky Derby) – utilitarian sports or job-specific (baseball-type caps with tight bands or cowboy hats), these practical aspects of hat-wearing have rarely been addressed.

In the past, hat-wearers utilized built-in elastic or ribbon bands and of course – hatpins.  The pinning of the hatpin seems to be a skill acquired through practice, but I did find a very nice Vixen Vintage post with hatpin how-tos, so here’s a link.

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