Hats Off to Chicago, Illinois

by Elizabeth Armentor

It may seem impractical for residents of the Windy City to have a passion for hats, but the millinery enthusiasts of Chicago are determined to make a place for the exquisite and endangered art of hat making. The hat lovers have two goals: to preserve millinery (the art of couture hat design), and to provide events for hat enthusiasts to show off their favorite designs.

Illinois, Parisian Style
In 1995, the Millinery Arts Alliance was the first American group to hold Le Fete des Catherinettes, a traditional Parisian celebration dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, patron saint of hat-makers. A spin-off of the fete, Les Chapeaux (The Hats), is held the first Thursday of every month to showcase the hats of different milliners (available for purchase, of course). The Fete des Catherinettes has continued every year, and other hat-loving events have sprung up as well, such as a spring bonnet festival around Easter and a garden tea party at the Peninsula Hotel.

Chapeau: The Millinery Guild
Chicago has a second prominent millinery guild, called Chapeau: The Millinery Guild. Chapeau has been featured in Hat, London's millinery magazine, and by Joy Scott, a prominent London hat maker. Chapeau also holds fashion events, and member Laurie Kennard directed the documentary In Everything I Saw a Hat, which premiered last November at Illinois' Chicago Cultural Center.

You Can Learn Millinery Basics in Fashion Design School
Many fashion design schools offer elective courses in headwear design. In fact, Eia (an Illinois milliner so renowned that she doesn't use her last name), teaches classes in hat design both privately and at one of Chicago's fashion design schools. Headwear, or millinery, classes teach about the history and symbolic significance of different types of hats. You'll also learn how to use common hat making materials, straw and felt, and blocking techniques.

If you've always loved hats, take heart that in Chicago, committed designers are working hard to preserve the art of millinery design.

Source:
Chapeau: The Millinery Guild
The Millinery Arts Alliance

About the Author
Elizabeth Armentor is a writer and editor who writes about education issues.