Hats to Handbags

Last weekend I attended a study day at Dorset County Museum that was organised to compliment their ‘Hats to Handbags’ exhibition of vintage accessories. Veronica Main joined us as a guest speaker from Wardown Park Museum in Luton. She is curator of costume and textiles there, and hugely knowledgable on hats in particular. It was a really informative and interesting day, mainly on millinary history and techniques. I feel well versed on the varying constructions of straw hats, from rosette crowns to button crowns.  Considering the construction,  a hat should be approached like a basket that you wear on the head, and it should be remembered that in the past hats were designed to wear on the the hair rather than the head. I was particularly interested in straw plaiting, which was used to create plaits to be wound in a spiral forming the hat itself, or used in the decoration of a hat. Some plaits were plaited with dyed fibres, although these are relatively rare now as the dye caused the fibres to perish. Various fibres have been used through the ages to make ‘straw’ hats, including paper (rags based), woodchip, horse hair, hemp, grasses and reeds,  cereal crops, artificial silk and later cellophane. I was excited by the idea of shredding fibre based paper and using it to plait and use in constructing a 3D form. I know that there is a 3D project coming up on this course and have been inspired to create a hat for this.

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