I became interested wearing hats when I was in high school. I had a fabulously popular sister and my two best friends (one blonde and one red-head) were all gorgeous. How was I to compete? In hindsight; I realized that I could get attention from wearing hats. And I did! But it was not until my first professional job after college that I started making hats. I was the assistant costume designer at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia; I met Barbara Taylorr, a theatrical milliner. I watched her trim a hat for “My Fair Lady” and I fell in love! I was taught the secret little movements that make the hat special! I begged her for a job and she hired me! And that was it! I found my passion.
Where and why did you learn millinery?
I majored in theatrical costume design and I apprenticed with other milliners. My main mentor is Rodney Gordon from Rodney Gordon Studio, Inc. I was his assistant for years. He taught me the finest points on the perfections of millinery. The finest points on shape, trim, and attention to detail. I have ripped many seams out and redone them!!!!
How long have you been a milliner for?
Professionally, I made my first hat in 1988. So that is 18 years! I have owned my business and worked in it full-time since the summer of 1993.
Where else did you work?
Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania); Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery (Alabama); ABC: Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Cleveland (Ohio); Studio Area Theatre in Buffalo (New York); Barbara Taylorr Millinery in Philadelphia (Pennsylvania); Rodney Gordon Studio, Inc in New York City (New York).
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
Number one inspiration is from clothing on the street and the runways. Number two is from buyer and retail customer ideas. Number three is from fashion trends and magazines. But there is always an underlaying theme of elegance of many kinds and from many eras. My only other inspiration is trees and all kinds. But that is more about flow and movement then anything else.
What has been your most enjoyable commission?
I love it when a customer gives me a swatch and a few guidelines and just trusts me. Other then that, I love the horse races. I like working with The Keeneland Shop at Keeneland Park in Lexington and with Luna Boutique in Louisville (Kentucky). They give me the freedom to do what I do best.
How would you describe your style of hats?
My hat collection is so diverse that it is said to be 93 uncategorical 94! How I describe my hats is this way: something for everyone, classic with a twist, attention to every detail and the most comfortable hats to wear. My company and my hats are integrity.
Who do you make hats for? That is, church goers? Brides? Everyday winter wear?
My main customer is an everyday customer all year long, although I have church ladies, derby and event customers as well.
What materials and techniques do you favor?
Silk trim – hand rolled roses and bows. I like it all even buckram covered hats. As far as felt and straw, I like them both equally. My employees I think prefer felt. I love cut and sew hats in straw and felt personal the best.
Do you have any other interests?
I am a business owner so there is little time for other things. I love my husband Blake, my family, especially my niece, Fiona. I love my heritage of both Scotland and Ireland. I also play the piano. I love trees, and the Hills of Pennsylvania where I grew up!