Saturday, October 23, 2010

Vintage Millinery: Building an Idea Book

While surfing the Web for vintage millinery images, I came across a photography blog, Paul Ryan Bohman: Fine Art & Photography. Needless to say I was extremely impressed by his photography skills.  Although I loved all of his fine art image categories (portraits, commercial, maternity, etc.), I tried to stay focused on the  fashion photography section of his portfolio, in particular, this vintage fashion show.  Remember, I was not looking for a photographer, but for vintage millinery images.  Still, I lost focus.  After all, this post is about creating an idea book.  But then I realized how elegant these ladies were in their hats.  The hats weren't funky, just elegantly simple and classy.  These were not the types of hats I wanted to use as examples for an idea book; but then, maybe I was taken to this site for a purpose.  Maybe these images were telling me to be true to myself.--to create elegant, creative fine art regardless to trends.  After all, I only have to make what I like.  How liberating!  Now, on to the idea book.

One of the requirements for my first millinery classes was to compose a millinery idea book.  It was explained that the purpose of the book was not to copy the collected designs but to improve on them, to "make them your own."  The book was also to be used for designer's block--just by looking at a design could spike one's creative juices.  Today, my idea book resides on my computer.

I have noticed that some "designers" are so accustom to copying others' designs that they are paralyzed until a creative designer creates.  So what happens to the brain when it's not exercised, not pushed to its limits?  It does not grow, and thus the copier will always have to copy. 

I link to or follow a site because I feel that its content offers fine examples for additions to an idea book.  So, for those new to millinery, check out the links to the right on this site, and also check out some vintage millinery books.   You may find that the saying, "There is nothing new under the sun." is true.  To prove this point, check out some of the fashion plates from the 20s (perhaps even several years before) and 30s--top hats, picture hats, caps, cloches, beret, turbans, and more.  However, this does not stop one from creating something fresh from something old, vintage or not.  Do the research; have fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Millinery Should Never Make You Sad

Photo:  2010 Eric Richardson

Hurt or sad, I really couldn't say.  All I know is that I spent hours fraying, rolling, and sewing this hat layer-on-layer (March, April?).  So when I saw this pictures I thought, "Do people really care about the feelings of others?"  After seeing this picture I guess I just snapped, resulting in this post.  Forgive me; I should be more of an adult.  My daughter said, "I warned you."  One of my best friends said a couple of years ago that "Milliners are the most vicious people I know."  Both feel that I'm just too generous.  I remain positive.  I will never say that I made a hat that I did not make. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How to Copy a Hat Block

I spend more time experimenting with prospective millinery materials and techniques than making hats.  So, when I had the opportunity to work with a material I had read about in a costuming book, Fosshape, I just had to get my hands on some.  Just by accident a couple of weeks ago when I was out and about, I ran across a costuming supply store, Richard the Thread, located in Culver City, California.  I had seen their Web site some time ago while looking for millinery supplies.

Inside the store there were very large rolls of fabrics used in costuming: buckram, Fosshape,  Miracle Net, Ice Wool, etc., stuff I'd never heard of before.  To make a long story short, I purchased the Fosshape and went on my merry way.  Around  the same time Mrs. King, one of my millinery teachers--on and off for the past 25 to 26 years--brought a hat block to class that I absolutely adored.  So, with Fosshape in one hand and the block in another, coupled with a little steam, my copy of this fabulous block was born.

I'm short and full figured, so although I loved the block I knew that the shape, as it was, would not look well on me.  I blocked a straw hood over the block and formed the rounded edges into sharp edges by shaping in the hand (pinched the folds between my fingers) after the fabric had been removed from the block.  The result  was stunning.

I had a black vintage blimp (very large hood) fur felt that I was itching to block on this gorgeous block.  The hood was dark black, soft, very thin; simply lovely.   This time I did not manipulate the folds on the hat, but I was very pleased with the results.

The Technique

My first approach was to steam the Fosshape and then pull it over the hat block.  This is how I would approach felt, straw, and sometimes buckram.  This did not work for me--I never read instructions.  So, my next approach was to pull the fabric over the block and then secure it to the block as usual. After the material was secured with blocking cords, I steamed it.  When Fosshape is steamed, it becomes hard.  After the Fosshape had dried, I finished the copied block as I finished the Styrofoam block I carved (wood filler, white glue mixed with acrylic paint, etc).  However, my final step for this block was to paper  mache its inside to give it extra strength during blocking.  At this point I've only added one layer of paper mache, but I'll add additional layers after each layer has dried.

The more experienced milliner may ask, "how is it possible to remove the felt and straw from this copy?"  Well it depends on a number of things.  In this case, although the straw was blocked on the original block, I did not take the block apart.  Why, because parasisol is very flexible, and unless it is heavily sized, it will not hug the block tightly.  The vintage fur felt was also very flexible and did not hug the block tightly.  The final factor is that this block sloped forward.  Usually when a block slopes forward, it is usually made into a two-section block rather than a five section one, as this original block.  Also for those of you that may have a paper mache hat block from the 30s/40s that slope forward and flair out at the front, it's easy to understand how this works.

Hat blocks are usually made into sections when the head size is smaller than the tip. 

The straw hat was sized on the outside with millinery sizing after it had dried.

Check out the following resources, and find others on the Web.  Experiment, Experiment!

Fosshape Tutorials:  Cosplay Supplies, Richard the Thread
Hat Block Tutorial (video):  Torb & Reiner
Hat Blocking (video):  Flat Felt Felt Pillbox 1 and 2
How to Block and Drape Felts and Straws (slow to load, but worth it)
How to (video) Make Paper Mache Paste
How to (video)  Paper Mache