Adrienne Bennett
Adrienne BennettMilliner

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How did you become interested in millinery?

Before I became immersed in the world of hats, I spent most of my free time doing my family genealogy. I decided to combine this hobby with my love for sewing. So I started making a 1910 tea dress. Well, a little research showed that ladies of the day wore hats. I decided I needed one. Well it is now 5 years later, I’ve made about 400 hats and the tea dress is still not finished.

Where and why did you learn millinery?

I began with a class at a local fabric store, an introductory class. I took several more classes from Jan Wutkowski in North Carolina, United States. Then I really got hooked! Since then I have bought ever book, both vintage and current, on the subject and just practiced and practiced. The Wombourne School of Millinery e-books have been really helpful. The more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn.

How long have you been a milliner for? Where else did you work?

I have been making hats for a short time. This is my fourth year. At first my millinery was a hobby, but, when friends and acquaintances started asking me to make them hats, it soon became a business. I sell hats from March to October at art festivals and make hats the rest of the time. I also work full time as a teacher.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

I tend to get inspired and work on variations of a theme. I might see a movie and try to do a variation on a hat from that movie. I usually try to have 3 unique elements in each hat. Texture, color, form are the elements I like to experiment with. I tend to like asymmetrical looks. Hand dying my straw hats in the summer on my back porch and experimenting with colors are akin to making mud pies when I was much younger…

How would you describe your style of hats?

My hats are what I call “Americana”. They appeal to a wide range of tastes, traditional to the romantic and classic shapes, but are subtly unique, not too loud or flashy. My most popular hats are very everyday wearable. A lady will be noticed in one of my hats but not considered too flashy.

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

All of my commissions have been enjoyable, but my most satisfying was creating a classic black cocktail hat that had three interchangeable trims. My customer was looking for a versatile hat that she could wear to several events and be able to change the look subtly…

Who do you make hats for?

The majority of my customers are American women that are looking for a hat that will become their favorite to pop on their heads before going to the grocery store or to their child’s sporting event or just for a ride in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

What materials and techniques do you favor?

At this point I love to block straw, and felt and sinemay. And I have sewn a few fabric hats from patterns. Since my husband is a wood turner and makes me my hatblocks, I am still experimenting with hat blocking and it remains my favorite technique.

Any other interests?

At this time I am teaching myself French flower-making and working on making some of my own flower trims.