Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sister Act

“I love your fascinators” is always a salubrious introduction! Aine opened our conversation with these choice words this spring when she enquired about having a fascinator of her own made to match a dress. The occasion was her brother’s wedding in Ireland, her native land. She liked what I had to tell her, and her sister Orla did, too, joining Aine at her appointment in my home studio.

Orla (left) and Aine.

The ladies arrived with dresses and ebullience. Aine and Orla got right into the spirit of things, trying on every fascinator on hand, taking photos of each other, and allowing me to take my own. Their energy and enthusiasm was infectious!

Although both dresses were beautifully colourful and floral, Aine was going for a “more is more” look for her own headpiece, while Orla was happier to tone it down a bit.

Aine has been in Canada for a few years now, and having tested the waters, so to speak, encouraged her younger sister Orla to join her on this side of the Atlantic about a year ago. It was lovely to see them advise and consult each other as they decided on their fascinators’ base shapes, colours and trimmings, sharing their opinions to make sure that each would have a piece that would be just right for their individual dresses and personalities.

Our meeting successfully concluded, I went to work. Each palette was delicious to wallow in as I dyed, flowered, feathered, blocked and beaded. When the pieces were ready, the sisters came back to pick them up.

Nail biting time. Would they like them?

They liked them! They said many nice adjectives! “Gorgeous” was one I distinctly remember. They kindly posed for one more photo, and very kindly promised to send photos of themselves at their brother’s July wedding, in all their glory. There were hugs as we said our farewells. (Hug your milliner. We really like it. Makes up for those bitten nails.)

And they were as good as their word. A few days ago Aine sent their photos, saying “Everyone admired our hats and thought they were fab!” Quel relief! And even more exciting news – she got engaged!


I love a happy ending, don’t you?

Orla with her niece, Leah

Aine with her newly betrothed, James

With James's sisters, Carol and Hannah

Thank you, Aine and Orla! It's been a pleasure!

Monday, 6 July 2015

Natasha at the Queen's Plate

Yesterday was the Queen's Plate, and its party within, Hats and Horseshoes. It's big, it's fun, and it's free to get in and park!

I really thought that my only presence there this year would be the piece I made for Natasha, which would have been quite fine, thank you. She had a fifties vibe in mind, in red, black and white. Not a decade I had spent much time referencing in my work, which now seems incomprehensible. It was a wonderful era for millinery. So it was good to have this challenge.

Natasha contributed lots of great thoughts on how she wanted her hat to look. She seemed pleased with the final result. She used nice adjectives and a hug. I like hugs!

I did get to go, though. It was a big surprise, since my original invitee got her dates mixed up and was going to be out of town. But my partner, the indispensable Scott, stepped up and invited me last weekend. My hero!

Shortly after we arrived, guess who we saw in line to be photographed? Natasha and her partner, Ron! Quel serendipity!

I could not have been more delighted to encounter her. I'm so happy to have contributed to her beautiful self's beautiful Queen's Plate ensemble.

Here is their official red carpet photo by Woodbine:

And here are some hat photos I took in my studio:

Red, black and white were having a bit of a moment. Right, Shaman's Ghost?

(Like last year, my millinery magnum opus for the big race happened to use the same colours as the winning horse's jockey's silks. I wonder if it will happen again next year?)

So anyway, I had one week to design and make myself a hat. And I got it done.

Scott's hat I had made before, so no panic there.

The rest of my ensemble was a result of closet shopping. Last year was so crazily windy at Woodbine Racetrack that I made sure I weighted the hem of my flared skirt, just to make sure I wasn't going to have an unwanted Marilyn Monroe moment.

And I didn't, because the wind was much less of a factor this year.

Colour was well represented, though! The scene was awash in a glorious riot of hues and tones and pigments. Intoxicating! (Not unlike the signature Blue Diamond cocktail. I recommend them.)

I spent the afternoon greeting my fellow milliners-about-town and George Brown College millinery program alumni, five of whom were competitors in this year's Millinery Design Competition. I was happy to simply be a cheerleader this year. (Competitors are invited, and rumour has it that there is a cutoff date to when you were a student. Apparently I was one too long ago now.)

The photos I took don't really do justice to this year's competition hats, so I'll borrow others' to show you the winners:

Third prize was this confection from Paddy Richardson called "At First Blush."

Second prize (for the second year in a row) went to Amparo Findlay's "Spirited Away."

And the grand prize went to Vanessa Lee Wishart's exuberant creation:

Congratulations, Vanessa, Amparo and Paddy!

Hats and Horseshoes is like a millinery Mardi Gras! I'll be back, and I hope I'll have the honour of dressing a few other heads next time. (Place your orders now. Avoid the rush!)

Here are way too many photos I took along the way. Enjoy!

The indispensable Scott Kennedy, author, gentleman, day-saver and hero. Sigh!

Handsome from every angle.

That would be me. That fifties thing is kind of catchy. And coincidental. My dress was bought ages ago and the hat was made last week to go with it.

With Northern Dancer, a big fave chez nous.

Krystle, in one of the first hats I glommed onto, a real standout. English milliner, no big shocker.

David Dunkley, QP15's official milliner, with a hat he designed made from Lego.

Me playing with Lego. They had a pixilated picture of last year's Queen's Plate winner and you could build little colour-coded squares and help put it together. I could have stayed and played for quite a while, but tore myself away after one square.

Plane! Low-flying planes descending to nearby Pearson airport are still my weird favourite things about Woodbine.

And now for some hats and people, some of whose names I know:

Anne and Julie


Liz and Jacquie, Toronto Vintage Society

Men in shorts. Trending!

LOVE this look! And the lady looks very wonderful, too.

More red, black and white moments.

Sharon and Trevor

The lady in silver (hat from Florida) was a prize winner in the Most Fashionable Lady contest after this. Can I spot 'em or what?


Tracy and Brent

And so we bid a fond farewell to this year's Hats and Horseshoes at the Queen's Plate. Can't wait to see what we'll all be wearing next year!