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Lauren Ritchie
Lauren RitchieMilliner

How did you become interested in millinery?

My Dad worked at the TAFE in Wangaratta and saw a short weekend course in Albury to make a hat, our family has always been interested in dress making and it just seemed like a fun weekend making and learning with my younger sister.  We attended the headpiece making course and returned the following month to the hat making course with Elizabeth Hemsley.  


Where did you train in Millinery?  What was the best aspect of your training?

I have formal training from Kangan Batman TAFE with a Certificate II, III and IV in Millinery which took three years of one evening a week to complete.  I had some wonderful tutors in Serena Lindeman and Paris Kyne. While I believe TAFE training is very important it is also the application of these skills working for someone else has been invaluable.  It has allowed me to refine my technique without the concern for developing a design and having my workmanship be the second thought or my design suffer because of my inability to complete a technique.  I was fortunate enough to undertake workplace with Louise Macdonald in my first year of study and was invited back following this to be a staff member and have been there ever since, that was 5 years ago.

Who do you make hats for? Churchgoers? Brides? Everyday wear?

Currently while working for Louise I do not seek my own clients however I do make some pieces which I stock in The Essential Hat.  These pieces take time to develop as I am wary of developing my own design aesthetic outside of my work with Louise but the pieces I create I feel confident about their vision and quality and Catherine Ellen has been a great support in allowing me to have an outlet for these pieces.  I also work as a maker for TV, theatre and opera so I enjoy the opportunity make a headpiece that accompany outfits.  

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

When I make pieces for myself or my sister we usually have a concept of what dress we will be making so it is about creating a piece that will draw together an outfit.  We might use pieces of the fabric from the dress or I have sourced a wide variety of materials second hand which usually results in wider variety to choose from.  


What era are you most drawn to?

I am really drawn to the 1940’s – I like the straight skirts and dynamic headpieces.  I find it odd how we romanticise about past decades, when women had fewer rights and social abilities, while we are still not equal on all field today we have still come a long way.  I guess I still see the value in how someone presents themselves and that is what I find an important part of these eras.


Do you wear many hats yourself?

I do, I should wear more but I am working on it.  I find it much easier when I am going out with my sister as if one of us wears one, the other one will in support.  We aren’t particularly racegoers so we are always looking for other opportunities – we have worn pieces to literary lunches, gallery openings, birthday celebrations, weddings, music performances and other evening events.  The theory is it doesn’t have to be large but something is better than nothing.  

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

In 2014 I was fortunate enough to be asked to make some cloche shapes for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries for Season 3.  The milliner who usually makes the piece was busy on another project and I knew someone within the wardrobe department.  I made 9 pieces for the show, which were used over about 2 episodes including Dot’s new pink with brown trim cloche which appear in the second last episode of Season 3.  


Who would you most like to see wearing one of your pieces?

I would really like to see the continuation of headpieces growing within evening social events – Melbourne’s headpiece and hat wearing is very focused on Melbourne Carnival and I would love to see this expand. It doesn’t have to large pieces, smaller pieces can be just as stunning.  There are so many innovative milliner’s in Australia looking for opportunities and the experience of having a piece made or putting together a head to toe outfit is someone many women enjoy.  I think it falls back to a confidence aspect of wearing something different. When my Nan sees my sister and I wear a hat or headpiece she comments about how wonderful it is to see us dressed but she then onced followed this with how she was one of the first people to stop wearing hats to church.  I think this a really interest social aspect of hat wearing and I have heard many examples of similar stories.  The generation who stop wearing hats is the one that is nostalgic for the next generation to continue – it is a very interesting contradiction


Describe your workroom atmosphere – do you play music, share a table, can you see the floor?

I find sewing very therapeutic – it depends if I am sewing for work or leisure.  I am still able to separate the two which I think is very important.  When I am working with Louise sometimes we can spend hours just working in silence next to each other or we will play the occasional podcast.  When I am working in my own space I will have music playing or if sewing for leisure will have a TV series running in the background.  


What has your day looked like?

Currently my week is a combination of hat making, dress making and teaching so each day looks very different.  


Do you have any other interests, hobbies?

I enjoy swing dancing and play in a Jazz Swing Band that focuses on music from the 1920’s-40’s

Lauren teaches courses at Louise Macdonald Millinery studio – check for upcoming classes

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