Concept to Creation

Concept to Creation


The journey of one hat that was destined for Royal Ascot. Some hats are meant to be small and demure, others are intended to be a grand spectacle. This is the story of the later type. The client in this story was a tall statuesque beauty who can carry, not just a large hat, but one that is particularly eye catching.

Hat projects start in different ways, this time it was a collaboration of the dress designer, client and Edwina.  The three had collaborated in the past with much success, so there was a level of trust already established. The designer had a dress idea and a colour in mind. Edwina had ideas of possible hat shapes and styles that would take the outfit from beautiful to extraordinary.

Edwina Carving a styrofoam hat block
Preparing the Block

With an idea of a shape and general feel of the piece Edwina put on her overalls and got straight to carving the block of styrofoam. She relished the carving process and the creativity involved. This particular block took about 16 hours from start to completion. It made a tremendous mess. Of the many blocks Edwina carves in styrofoam each year only a select few are chosen be be sent to the block maker, Boon and Lane to be carved into wood. A styrofoam block can be used many times, but a wood block has a longer life span. The wave block below was made for the same client, for one of her 2014 Royal Ascot hats.

Once the styrofoam block was shaped and smoothed to Edwina’s exacting standards and the sinamay and pinopok were dyed to perfection, a three layer sinamay & pinopok brim and crown were blocked one layer at a time. Blocking such a large piece was hard work and consisted of the wet material being pulled over the block and pinned into place and left until dry, then repeated 2 more times.

Arc Block
Wave Block

There was a fitting with the client to check the head size, angle, colour and overall profile with a final discussion about the trimming elements.

Flower Making Tools
Close up Flowers 1
Close up Flowers 2
Testing trimming ideas on Poupee
Top of  Royal Ascot Hat

The brim edges were wired and self trimmed.  Other structural supports were put into place, with special consideration to how to anchor a large, lightweight hat in case of wind. Every stitch was hidden, every trimming was tacked and secured. All this work was done by hand.

The underside was covered in hand dyed, individually cut and press flower petals. The large pinopok bow with finger tip rolled rouleaux and roses were made for the underside. The topside had scattered floweres with curled ostrich quills and another bow. Edwina firmly believes a hat should be beautiful from all angles.

Client in Royal Ascot Hat
In The Times

A hat of this size required special consideration through to the end. An extra large hat box, which had to be special ordered to accommodate this grand hat was ordered and the client hired a special vehicle so that she could arrive at the Royal Ascot intact.

Edwina had seen the outfit at fittings, but the girls in the shop had waited to see the outfit all together from photographs taken at Royal Ascot. We had been delighted to see the client in her exceptional outfit on various media sources including the next morning’s The Times newspaper.

It is very rewarding to be part of this process. Even if it is just writing the blog post at the end. Please send us your pictures from your special events in an Edwina Ibbotson Millinery piece. We love to see when it all comes together.

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