I have a very small head (I assure you that my brain fills up every single inch), and as a result I have a very difficult time finding hats, other than toques, that fit. So when I found award-winning milliner, Amparo Findlay, of Hatitude, I knew that my head would go hatless no more.
As a stylist and fashion lover, for years I yearned to wear a slightly skewed fedora on my head and wished that I could walk through the city with a floppy hat perched ever just so (without fear of either of them blowing off with the slightest breeze). While my small head kept me from achieving either of those visions, never did I ever consider having one custom made.
When I stumbled upon Hatitude Canada on Instagram, and saw Amparo's amazing creations, I knew I had to reach out. What I didn't realize was that in just a few weeks I would have, not only a hat to fit my itty, bitty head, but one that was custom designed down to the very last detail. (Something that a control freak like me absolutely adores.)
If you've never considered approaching a milliner to have a bespoke hat made, you might want to reconsider. While it typically costs more than purchasing something off the shelf (depending upon where you shop), it can definitely be worth the investment, especially considering what you actually get. Vivienne Westwood has been known to say, "Buy less; choose well." In this case, I think she definitely has a point.
I've tried on hats at local boutiques that ranged anywhere from $125 to $250 (and have seen some that cost even more) and not only did they not fit, the styles and quality just weren't what I was looking for.
Custom hats with a milliner typically start at about $375. When you consider that they're handmade and customized to your size and liking, that you're supporting local Canadian talent and that you'll probably receive the highest quality materials and craftsmanship, it can definitely be a worthwhile option.
So what can you expect from the whole process? It all depends on who you work with, what you're looking for and how much involvement you'd like to have. I was very hands-on with Amparo but deferred to her experience during the creation of my hat.
Together we chose the felt and colour, played around with different hat styles to see which would suit my face and style best, chose ribbon, size of bow and played around with brim size.
I had two separate fittings just to make sure that we were on the right track and within four weeks I had my custom made hat in my hands and, of course, on my head. Best of all, I absolutely love it and know that it will be part of my wardrobe for many years to come. In this case, definitely worth the investment.
Here's the step-by-step process of the creation of my one-of-a-kind masterpiece (a.k.a. my new beloved hat):
The very first thing Amparo did was take a few key required measurements with a dress maker's tape.
Once we chose the felt, she set it on the steamer and prepared the hat block. When the felt was sufficiently steamed, she shaped it over the block.
Amparo then placed an elastic around the felt to hold it in place during the drying process. She shaped the brim and set it to dry. At this point we discussed some of the details -- namely brim size, ribbon and bow colour and size.
Based on my measurements (and my tiny noggin), Amparo decided to cut the felt into two pieces (the crown and the brim) -- for greater control and better fit. The crown would have been too tall, so she cut it down to suit. She also marked the brim length for better accuracy. We had not one, but two fittings to make sure that everything fit properly before she stitched the felt back together.
And voila! My creation is complete and I'm walking the streets and strutting my stuff with my fancy new hat on my head. See the smile on my face? I am one, happy, small-headed girl.
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