Girls on Top




Today most people wouldn’t bat an eye at a women wearing pants or a bow tie (in the western world), but it wasn’t always this way. In fact, prior to the late 19th and early 20th century, social customs were very strict regarding women’s clothing, with women wearing dresses, underskirts and painfully tight corsets. Similarly, women’s hats conformed to a stereotype with the styles popular with prominent male members of society being worn only by women considered as daring and outrageous.

In the 1850’s, women’s rights activist, Amelia Bloomer, started to shake things up. She advocated for women to ditch the tight corsets and heavy petticoats worn under their skirts. Initially inspired from Turkish dress, the wide lose fitting pants worn under a knee length skirt, were aptly named the “Bloomer”.  The Bloomer became a symbol of women’s rights in the early 1850s and was worn by famous feminists, like Susan B Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. But still with the exception of the famous fashion for turbans (imported from the exotic East) the fashion for men and women’s millinery remained distinctly different.


The Roaring Twenties…

Then in the 1920’s, there was another big shift in women’s clothing with women entering the workforce during WWI and gaining the right to vote. They had to think more practically about their outfits, and demanded less restrictive, more casual attire. Although women continued to wear skirts, their clothing became more masculine, loser and sporty.


One of the most influential fashion icons of the 20’s was Coco Chanel. She rebelliously dismissed the feminine styling of her day and embraced androgynous style. She accelerated the already growing movement towards female empowerment and paved the way for menswear-inspired clothing, designing elegant suits, tweed blazers and simple everyday-wear for women. She was best known for wearing nautical stripes, trousers, and chunky knit sweaters. Similarly women advocating suffrage began to also adopt men’s millinery styles.


The Golden Era…

The 30’s brought menswear-inspired fashion to the forefront, with actresses such as Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn sporting suits, top hats, trilbies and bow ties in popular movies.

Although Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn rocked trousers before the 30’s, it was really only considered socially acceptable for women to wear pants in specific situations, like sports or during the wars when they took over many of the men’s jobs. With their husbands away at war, women took on what were previously male dominated roles such as farm or factory work. Since traditional women’s attire wasn’t appropriate for the more physically demanding work, they raided their husbands closets and altered them to fit.

In 1939, Vogue illustrated a woman in a pair of pants on the cover of it’s May issue. The editors wrote, “Our new slacks are irreproachably masculine in their tailoring, but women have made them entirely their own by the colors in which they order them, and the accessories they add.” However the article goes on to depict when, where and how these slacks may be worn, stating  ‘One Iron Rule is that they are well-cut and well-creased to appear properly ‘feminine’ and stresses the necessity to avoid the ‘mannish accessories’ that characterised the ‘early experimental days’ of  trouser-wearing. So women could be free to wear whatever they wanted as long as they still looked like a Stepford housewife and looked pretty for their husbands!

Peace Love and Millinery

Although there were instances of women wearing men’s clothes throughout the 20th century, it really wasn’t until the 60’s and 70’s that menswear inspired fashion was no longer considered a rebellious political statement. In the 60’s women made large strides toward equality with the passing of Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which both gave women more rights in the workplace. In 1961 Audrey Hepburn wore black capri’s in the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, inspiring a new resurgence of women breaking away from traditional feminine clothing.

Yves Saint Laurent took menswear-inspired styling to new heights with his “Smoking” Tuxedo Jacket,  hailed as the alternative to the Little Black Dress. As he said himself, “For women, the tuxedo is an indispensable outfit, which they feel comfortable with, so they can be who they are. This is style, not fashion. Fads come and go, style is forever.” Another influence was credited to the 1977 movie “Annie Hall” starring Diane Keaton, where Diane Keaton’s menswear-clad character donned bowler hats, vests, wide ties and button-up shirts.

Girl Power…

Then the 1980’s was all about the power suit, which included a tailored jacket with large shoulder pads and a knee length skirt. A recent article from Vice magazine about the evolution of the pant suit, stated, “These big shouldered jackets and pants disguised a women’s figure and took the focus off her gender, creating a feeling of authority as the traditional sex roles continued to blur.” UK prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, always wore a suit, saying that “she was in a man’s world, and she had to look the part.”  Celebrities paired this look with a variety of male inspired millinery from the Stetson to the Fedora and top hat.

Fashion Forward

In the last twenty years, “menswear-inspired fashion” has increased in popularity from sculptural shoulders, buttoned vests, plaid patterns, classic fedoras, bowler hats, Stetsons, pork pies, beanies, classic flat caps and trench coats to slouchy boyfriend jeans and suit sets. But, until recently it still had a feminine element with cinched waists, addition of ribbons or lace, and pastel colours. In the last five years this trend for menswear-inspired fashion has continued to grow, but there has also been a growing demand for women’s clothing that is masculine without the feminine touches; so no longer just inspired from menswear, instead it is actual menswear designs fitted to the female body. This style has been given many names, but most commonly referred to as androgynous fashion, tomboy style, or menswear-inspired fashion.  Millinery has followed the same trend with royalty and celebrities taking the dress down approach to everyday headgear.

The New Normal

At Hat Couture Creations we have been working for some time with traditional male shapes given a feminine twist in our creative millinery projects.  Here is a small selection of some of the projects custom made for our clients.  Some of these designs are still available to purchase online at

Guys Getting it On…

Here at Hat Couture we’ve been receiving lots of great feedback from our customers but it seems that we’ve been neglecting a large portion of our potential market with many new enquiries coming in from guys wanting to find custom millinery with added pizazz.  Our potential customers include those working in the theatre, movies, media and music industries (as well as those who would just like to look like they do). So our next big thing will be the launch of a range of flamboyant custom made Fedora’s, Trilbies, Homburgs and Bowler hats designed to make our male clients also feel exceptional.  For bespoke, head-turning designs call me now and let us create something extraordinary for your next red carpet event.

The New tUrban Chic…



Harnessing Peacocks by Hat Couture  available online at

Turban Chic in a variety of guises has long been a staple on the runways of Europe and the USA but the history of turban fashion goes back further than Sex and the City 2 believe it or not!

History of the Turban…

The historic origin of the turban is uncertain, however based on evidence gathered from archaeological sites, ancient civilisations in India, Mesopotamia, Sumeria and Babylon wore this form of headgear as part of their cultural and ceremonial costume for centuries.

A style of turban called a phakeolis  was part of the uniform used by soldiers of the Byzantine army during the period 400-600AD and continued to be worn by the Byzantine people from the 10th Century in Cappadocia (modern Turkey) and their Greek speaking descendants right up to the early 20th century.  The Islamic prophet, Muhammad (570-632AD) is also believed to have worn a traditional white turban to symbolise his purity. Shiah clerics today wear white turbans unless they are descendants of the prophet Muhammad or Sayyid, in which case they wear black. In modern context, Sikhs wear turbans in a variety of colours as a symbol of their religious belief, status and to bind their hair (which is never cut) as a testament to their faith. Many Muslim men also continue to choose a green  turban because it represents paradise, whilst in parts of North Africa blue turbans are popular with the shade often signifying the tribe of the wearer.  In many traditional African ceremonies such as weddings, women still wear a form of colourful patterned turbans to acknowledge their tribal origins.

The Origins of the Turban Fashion Trend…

The history of turban fashion for women began in the late 18th, early 19th century, when trade with India saw the dawn of the trend for turbans as a Western fashion accessory for society ladies. While earlier portraits show examples of the turban in women’s dress – notably Vermeer’s 1665 portrait Girl with a Pearl Earring – the draped turban is first recorded as a widespread fashion in Britain in the late 18th century, rising to even greater popularity during the Regency era; this was a fashion said to be inspired by increased trade with India for the import of cottons. The fashion may also have been partly inspired by growing interest in, and knowledge of, the Ottoman Empire and Turkey. The writings of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu on Turkey are also said to have been an influence. There are several portraits of her in turban style headgear and the turban was also sometimes known as the turk or chiffonet.

The style of turban was initially simple, in keeping with the drape of gowns of the time, but as its popularity developed it tended to follow the fashion in hair and became progressively larger as hairstyles became more elaborate. Turbans might be lavishly decorated with plumes for balls and functions, but also for daywear – as satirised in a 1796 James Gillray cartoon, High Change in Bond Street. The fashion remained during the early decades of the 19th century, with examples of Paris and London fashions from the 1830s showing ornate turban headdresses topped with tall plumes.

Turn of the Century Chic…

We have Paul Poiret to thank for the revival of turban fashion in the early 20th century. By 1910 the turban had made a complete revival and was a staple in evening wear and the ultimate high society fashion statement.

As any fashion trend, the turban has cycled its way through our modern era, making brief cameo’s of fabulousness. The history of turban fashion is very consistent with glamour. Whether it is a classic 1946 film noir, a 1970’s British Vogue feature, a 1980’s tribute to Joan Crawford played by Faye Dunaway, or Sarah Jessica Parker herself reviving the turban a la Carrie Bradshaw for the 21st century… what goes around comes around. And the truth is our Western civilization will always be swept away by the exotic elegance of the East with the turban.


Hat Couture Does tUrban Chic…


Inspired by many appearances on the catwalk this year in shows from Gucci to Marc Jacobs, Hat Couture has worked on a number of contemporary takes on tUrban Chic this year.  We started with a special commission for the wedding of one of my good friend’s sons during early Summer 2018.  This was Midnight at the Casbah, a silk abaca wrapped, raw silk creation that featured a vintage Dolce and Gabbana pendant brooch to perfectly match the client’s outfit.  Pure Hollywood glamour!


For the same event we also developed a more youthful look as modelled by my daughter Tish.  This was an Alice band based fascinator wrapped in a fabulous shade of Royal Blue with peachy pink hand made silk blossoms to compliment her Ted Baker ‘cold shoulder’ Harmony ensemble.


Next out of the workshop was Rock the Casbah which pays homage to the forties with its sinamay teardrop shaped percher covered in raw black silk again swathed in swirls of silk abaca. This piece is finished with a mount of oily green and black gloss plumes a vintage Art Deco pendant brooch in crystal and jet.


Last but by no means least we have a duet of two colourways for a similar design, Harnessing Peacocks (as shown as the featured photo above) and The Queen of Sheba.  Both of these pieces are constructed with a hand blocked buntal asymetric fez base covered and fully lined in raw silk.  The headpiece is then enrobed in swathes of silk abaca and finished with crystal antique pendant brooches.

tUrban Chic DIY…


Be sure to do your Fashion 101 homework by incorporating a turban into your own ensemble as the summer sun fades! Here is a great tutorial on how to make a turban from a fabulous head scarf (with thanks to Jessica on Pintrest).  We look forward to seeing pictures of your own interpretations as you too Rock the Casbah,

Rocking Post Modern Baroque…


Here Comes the Sun

The rise of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his court at Versailles, signalled the dawn of the Classical Baroque era in art, architecture, music, and fashion.  It was defined by natural, curving silhouettes, flowing lines, gold filigree, rich colours, and overall voluptuousness.  Clothing contained an abundance of lace, pearls, ribbons, and gold embroidery, and was refreshingly free from the excessive decoration of the Renaissance.  Fashion changed rapidly:  the growing middle class would copy the styles of the nobles, who would in turn create new fashions to stay more “refined” than the middle class.  Unlike earlier periods, where bodices, sleeves, skirts, jackets, and breeches were made to mix and match, clothing during this period was made as separate and entire matching outfits, often made of the same fabric.  This was referred to as en suite, and was the predecessor for our modern-day “suit.”  Seasonality also began to be widely used, a grateful relief from yearlong, heavy gowns and doublets as worn during the Renaissance.  The most important development of this period was the rise of fashion designers after Louis XIV certified the establishment of a dress-makers guild and a milliners guild.  These professions contained both men and women.  The most popular designers were well-pursued by the nobility and even the middle class.

The Duchess of Style

The baroque era fashion trend for outrageous wigs and hats featured in the award winning costume drama ‘The Duchess’ starring the sublime Keira Knightly.  She was quoted as saying that wearing the elaborate wigs for several hours during filming put a great strain on her famously slender neck, but she loved the drama of the millinery and costumes designed for the film by Michael O’Connor (winner of both BAFTA and Academy Awards for costume design in 2008 for ‘The Duchess’).


Rock Baroque

The new collection from Hat Couture Creations is inspired by the Georgian splendour of neo-baroque millinery.  Featuring dramatic sweeping asymetric profiles, low crowns, plumes and hand made silk blossoms under and over the brim, each one off design is a statement piece guaranteed to turn heads and make you feel like a Duchess.  The first design out of the starting gate is ‘Giverny Gardens’ a beautiful piece exclusively hand crafted by Hat Couture Creations. Featuring our signature large sweeping brim and low domed crown in premium ivory sinamay with matching sinamay swirls and arrow head plumes, this elegant hat is finished with blush silk hydrangea blossoms and roses.  Giverny Gardens is available exclusively for a limited time only from


Next in the Rock Baroque collection  is ‘Vivienne at Versailles’ another fabulous one of a kind piece  by Hat Couture Creations. Also featuring our signature large sweeping brim and low domed crown in premium light blue sinamay with matching sinamay swirls and arrow head plumes, this elegant hat is finished with vivid blue silk hydrangea blossoms and ivory roses.  Vivienne at Versailles is available exclusively for a limited time only from



‘Prudence at the Palace’ is the third hat in the Rock Baroque collection by Hat Couture Creations. This design also features a low crown and large asymetric brim in dark grey sinamay with matching sinamay swirls and arrow head plumes. This theatrical hat is finished with soft pink silk hydrangea blossoms and roses.  Prudence at the Palace is available exclusively for a limited time only from


‘Blushing Peonies for Penelope’ is the final piece to complete the Rock Baroque collection by Hat Couture Creations. Featuring our signature large sweeping brim and low domed crown in premium light grey sinamay with matching sinamay swirls and arrow head plumes, this elegant hat is finished with hand made silk peony blossoms in tones of the softest pinks and blush.  Blushing Peonies for Penelope is available exclusively for a limited time only from

For these and more exclusive designs inspired by Baroque splendour please visit my Etsy store at or contact Denise Marsh at