Berets and Boots


My fall fashion inspiration can be summed up in two words, berets and boots. For me, the two go beautifully together, both timeless and weather appropriate for Autumn. I also can’t help but conjure up images of waltzing down the street looking like Faye Dunaway from Bonnie and Clyde.

The traditional beret is made on a knitting loom, then felted mechanically. Once felted they are dried on moulds which determine the size. Since I don’t knit, but wanted to make some berets for my Fall/Winter collection, I created mine out of felt by blocking them on a wooden hat form. This gives them a more structured look than the soft knitted variety. In millinery, we refer to berets not by the material, but instead by their particular shape.

When I say the beret is timeless, it indeed is. Berets have been around since the 17th century, but similar styles date back to the Bronze age and were worn throughout Europe. Beret making became industrialized in the 19th century and was popular amongst the working class in France and Spain. By the 1920’s berets started to become a fashion statement and still are to this day.

To complete my desired look, I treated myself to a pair of ankle boots from Heart and Sole Shoes in Victoria, BC. They are from Earth Footwear and caught my attention because they have a 1960’s look, and of course the colour is fantastic! My weakness in boots has always been the ankle boot. Partially because they look great with dresses, skirts, and flood pants, which I mainly wear, but also because my skinny calves and ankles seem to suit this style best.

I don’t know that enough can be said on the versatility of boots. Whether you sport a short, mid-calf, or tall style, they offer options for mixing and matching with your entire wardrobe. Never be afraid to experiment. Different hemlines of pants, skirts or dresses, a flared look or something sleek, it all can work with a favourite pair of boots.

Apparently, boots although worn regularly throughout the 19th century, weren’t considered high fashion until the 1960’s. By the 1970’s they became a staple in women’s wardrobes. Boots were once worn for more practical attire and only gained height when hemlines started to shorten. Taller styles became an acceptable alternative to showing one’s ankles and calves. In 1913, Denise Poiret, wife of couturier Paul Poiret, wore a pair of knee high boots that caused a sensation in both Paris and New York. Designed by her husband, she gave rise to the ‘Russian boot’ that by the 1920’s was being made in a variety of styles. Although this style lost ground in the mid-1930’s, appreciation for a stylish boot was only gaining ground and continues to this day.

Living in a big city allows me the opportunity to study street styles and I can’t deny that I see boots, boots, and more boots each and every day! To add to my secret delight, there has also been a sea of berets as well.

Stay warm and have fun with fashion.

 Russian Style boot

Russian Style boot

Shaking off the rust

Recently I decided to create a small collection of felt hats for Fall and Winter. Although I sew daily, it’s been a while since I’ve designed and produced numerous pieces in a short time-frame. My goal was to complete 13-18 hats. Which required me to shake off some of the rust that had settled into my gears, and to push myself into action despite some mild squeals of protest.

To begin, I spent time looking through my wooden blocks, studying varied shapes and dimensions. I gathered some inspiration from photos and then blocked a few hats to see how this exercise might unfold.

 Inspiration: Woman in Biba suits 1960’s

Inspiration: Woman in Biba suits 1960’s

Hats continued to build upon my work desk, and as I took a step back to evaluate the progress, an obvious and familiar style emerged. One that I recognized well. No matter the inspiration, or the intended direction, I saw evidence of my fingerprints on each shape before me. Proving once again that I can’t escape myself.

My directive was to keep the hats simple, thus making them wearable on a day to day basis. I kept colours neutral, despite my love of colour, and I made sure not to overly embellish them, because I wanted their shape to speak for itself.

One of the aspects of millinery that continues to be a struggle is that many women don’t feel at ease wearing a hat. Hats are often viewed as ‘too dressy,’ or that they make too much of a statement, or women believe they just don’t look good in hats. Hence my desire to keep to simple shapes.

I love it when a hat is both beautiful and functional. I want to speak to the modern woman, to provide her with something that is useful, and which enhances her sense of style without scaring her away.

Whether I achieved all of this with my current designs is still to be seen. I did manage to complete 15 pieces and feel very good about working through the process. I had moments where I fully embraced each step and others where I fought the tedious hours of hand-stitching. I stayed the course and am happy and ready to present my newest work.

I called the collection ‘Facile’, not because it was the easiest collection to create, but because I dream about women once again finding it easy to place a beautiful chapeau upon her lovely head.

I will be presenting many hats from this collection at East Village Hats in New York on October 19th, 2018.


 Photography by Keith Haist

Photography by Keith Haist

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