Millinery in the Movies

On hearing that my latest venture included a foray into millinery, my lovely friend Galen Yeo (CEO of The Moving Visuals Company) sent me a link to one of my favourite scenes in any movie, Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle at the Ascot Races in My Fair Lady            ( In this clip she is of course wearing one of the most splendid hats ever seen on the silver screen. With all Miss Hepburns dazzling costumes and hats for the movie created by the inimicable Cecil Beaton, it is small wonder that this film continues to be mentioned at the top of any hataholics list as an all time favourite.

And of course Audrey herself was the perfect muse for all milliners, with her natural cool elegance and elfin features.  Sporting an array of spectacular tiles, she and Jackie Kennedy Onassis were a tour de force, keeping the designer hat business afloat throughout the sixties.

But clearly the romance between screen sirens and movie millinery did not begin and end with La Hepburn.  From the birth of the industry via silent movies in the twenties through to the introduction of the first ‘talkies’ in the thirties, movies stars like Norma Sheara, Alice Day and Mae West dazzled and smouldered in their picture hats, turbans and cloches.

As we moved into the forties the effects of wartime austerity on the fashion industry was reflected in the more modest millinery shown in the movies.  Film stars like Lauren Bacall, Gene Tierney and Dorothy Lamour wore hats that were smaller and less flambouyant than their Hollywood predecessors, with the trilby and beret leading the fashion field on the runway.

As we’ve already seen, costume designers in the fifties and sixties were dying to break free from the shackles of austerity spawning a whole new era of outrageous millinery that only became slightly diluted by the dawn of the age of Aquarius in the form of the hippie movement. Among the starlets who lead the pack as milliner’s muses during the fifties and sixties were of course Marilyn Monroe, Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Lauren and Grace Kelly.

The seventies and eighties were not great eras for contemporary movie millinery but they did spawn a number of interesting television costume dramas like Upstairs Downstairs, Dallas and the Onedin Line where hats did occaisionally upstage the actors.

And finally we come to contemporary movies and their influence on hat designers like Philip Treacy and Pip Hackett.  With films like The Red Hat, Titanic, The Duchess and The Great Gatsby plus television series like Downton Abbey movie millinery continues to thrill and inspire.

My own nod to the sirens of the silver screen are a Passion for Peonies, Invitation to the Abbey and Silver Screen Siren all of which are available to purchase or hire from my Etsy shop

Chambers… a Dictionary of Style

Where do I gain inspiration for my up-cycled and original gems?  Whilst I enjoy exploring my own creative ideas, there is of course no substitute for research and learning from some of the brightest stars in the millinery constellation. However when it comes to asking a hataholic to name their favourite designer, there will always be conflict. Some of us enjoy the whimsical floral artisty of Pip Hackett, while others crave the more abstract vibe of Philip Treacy or Stephen Jones.  Then there’s the new kids on the hat block including Dawn Guibert and the theatrical De De Valentine.  For the great unwashed (or as yet untainted) here’s the first in a series of pieces that will provide a quick race through some of the current maestros of millinery and a lexicon of great ideas.


Milliner William Chambers started hat making in 2007 – the same year Roisin Murphy wore his creations on tour!  He set up his studio in Glasgow city center and now makes custom-designed hats for clients by appointment only plus his own stunning contemporary designs.

William ChambersBrought up in North Lanarkshire, Chambers gained a First Class Hons degree in Textile Design at the Scottish College of Textiles before studying millinery at Glasgow’s Metropolitan University. He worked for luxury haberdashery VV Rouleaux before setting up William Chambers Millinery in 2008 after winning the VICE UK Creative 30 competition. He has won Accessory Designer of the Year three times at the Scottish Fashion Awards.

He exhibits his collections twice a year at London Fashion Week,and his hats are stocked in Harrods, Fenwick and Fortnum & Mason in London, Samuel’s Hats New York and on He opened his own hat shop in Glasgow city centre in 2014.

Celebrities who have worn his hats include Kelis, Suzi Perry, Joan Jett, Ana MatronicRMurphy_V_03Feb09_PR (Scissor Sisters), Roisin Murphy, Livia Firth, Anna Della Russo and Judy Murray, who commissioned a Chambers hat for her son Andy’s wedding – photos of which appeared in every UK newspaper the next day.

His hats have appeared in Vogue, Elle, Evening Standard,, Tatler, New York Post, The Telegraph, The Sun, Metro, Grazia, Red, Glamour, Conde Nast Brides, Wallpaper, Travel & Leisure, Nylon, The Herald, Harpers Bazaar, Paper, Sunday Herald and The Scotsman, and he features in the hardback book Couture Hats.

Chambers seeks to modernise millinery with a fresh look at how we dress the head today. Chambers’ taste for the avant-garde mixed with his knowledge of the retail sector results in designs that are at once both exquisite and wearable. He mixes traditional materials such as felt and sinamay with contemporary materials like latex, plastic and metallic leather, creating headwear that is both progressive and desirable. He takes his inspiration from many sources, but the biggest influence on his designs is his own flower-filled back garden: he is as keen a gardener as he is a milliner.

For my part I love his use of flowers and organic materials in his work and you can clearly see his influence in some of my own originals.  The image on the left shows a William Chambers original from his bridal collection (£495) whilst the image on the right shows The Diva Bride (£180) from my own Hat Couture collection available from