It’s almost that time of the year again.  The Hat Luncheon is right around the corner so I’m swamped making hats.  For thirty four years, the Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy has hosted the annual Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon.  It typically takes place on the first Wednesday in May and for several years now, I’ve created hats for women attending the event.  I thought it might be fun to share how I go about making a hat for the Hat Luncheon.

It always starts with a conversation.  For example, in February, a client and I talked about her outfit and if she had any particular thoughts for the hat she was commissioning.  Color and material were the main points of focus and she was planning on creating her outfit around the hat being made. I wanted to give my client plenty of time to find the right outfit so I committed to delivering the hat in early March.

Once I knew the fabric and color, I started to think about different design and style options for the luncheon hat. I’m not formally trained in fashion illustration, so sitting down to sketch designs isn’t really an option.  I tend to go through fashion reference books placing Post-it notes on the pages that catch my attention.  From there I like to let everything macerate.  Like making boeuf bourguignon, everything needs to simmer for a while to bring out the best elements.  After a few days, I went back through the photographs and sketched a design (doodled would probably be a more accurate description.)

Based upon the mental image that I had, I went through color cards and started ordering materials from a multitude of suppliers.  Sinamay from one supplier, feathers from another, petersham from this location and dyes from that.  Many custom hats are one-of-a-kind and require materials that I don’t have in stock.  That’s part of the reason that a custom hat takes longer to make.  Being organized helps me ensure that I can deliver on time.  Once the materials arrived, I then started blocking and making the trim elements.  This hat had almost 50 individual leaves that needed to be cut out and rolled by hand.  My daughter helps out periodically on weekends and fortunately for me, she was able to help me roll the leaves.  All together we spent 4 hours rolling edges.  Once the key elements were created it was on to building the hat.  This particular design had 3-d elements that needed to be assembled before they could be placed on the hat.  Trims were attached, feathers were dyed to match and everything came together beautifully.

The hat luncheon is a visual kaleidoscope of hundreds of women who have donned their finest and gathered for a luncheon. It’s delightful knowing that my hats are among those being worn.