Posted by Natalie Kaar / Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Hello there, shoppers!
With Virginia Gold Cup, May 5, just shy of two weeks away — not to mention Preakness quickly following — and fashionistas all over the DMV finalizing their race day ensembles, it’s about time we discuss a design detail that leaves many in a dilemma: hats.
While nothings adds polish like a proper topper, perhaps no accessory gives women more anxiety. After all, wearing one isn’t exactly inconspicuous.
Want to wow e’m in a good way? Read on for a listing of top area hat shops eager to help, but first advice from two millinery mavens to the stars.
We recently scored tips on toppers from Suzanne Newman of Suzanne Couture Millinery in NYC, one of the biggest names in custom couture hats, with clients including Chelsea Clinton and Yoko Ono, her designs often gracing the pages of Vogue.
Then we chatted with D.C.-based accessories designer Nina O’Neil behind the Etsy shop CAIONINA, whose work recently made the high-fashion cut on “Gossip Girl,” her 100 Felt Wave Fascinator spotted on none other than queen B. Blair Waldorf in the show’s 100th episode. (For a behind-the-scenes look at O’Neil’s gorgeous D.C. studio, see Refinery29.)
Q&A with Suzanne Newman
Q: Your custom work is often celebrated in revered fashion magazines like Vogue and graces the heads of the world’s most high-profile celebrities at all sorts of soirees. Which types of events are most inspiring when it comes to crafting a unique hat for the occasion? Weddings, the Kentucky Derby, royal celebrations … ?
A: The horse races always provide the most creative inspirations since my clients usually give me the freedom to be a little more extreme than usual. As a rule, however, I still prefer a well-balanced, elegant hat that complements the lady’s ensemble and personality, rather than an extreme creation meant to solely to attract attention.
Q: In the spring, we think horse races here in Northern Virginia and the D.C.-Metro area, not only as big fans of the Kentucky Derby but local races here at home, including Virginia Gold Cup at The Plains and Preakness in Baltimore. When you think proper toppers for horse races, what are some of the hats’ must-have characteristics?
A: For horse races I prefer larger hats that are more whimsical to smaller ones. Of course the hat should complement the wearer’s ensemble both in the choice of colors and tones but also in the style and look of the dress.
Q: You’re known for your extreme, avant garde creations. Is anything totally off limits in terms of hats for horse races?
A. It is true that I like to be at the forefront of the fashion trends, but a lot of my clients do not necessarily want to look like runway models. I do a lot of classic, elegant pieces that can be worn on several occasions and that will not go out of fashion. For horse races it might be a little different since one might want to make more of a statement … although too large a hat that can obscure vision or inconvenience someone next or behind you is inappropriate. That said, nothing is off limits, except bad taste.
Q: What sorts of materials do you enjoy working with most?
A: Since most horse races, whether in Europe or the U.S., take place in the summer, the materials of choice are straws of all kind, sisals, pari-buntal, panama straw and pegaline.
Q: What has been the most challenging project you’ve ever worked on for a client?
A: A few years ago, one of my clients from a preeminent Texas family was getting married on a mountain slope in Vail, CO. The ceremony was to take place with the bride and groom on a snowmobile … I was asked to make a wedding veil to fit on the snowmobile’s helmet. Came out great … Also, when Yoko Ono appeared on stage at the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, I made a white mink cap for her.
Q: Typically how long does it take for you to complete a project?
A: Depending on the complexity of the pieces and the deadline provided by the client as well as the number of fittings, we can usually produce in three to four weeks.
Q: At what price do your custom-made creations start?
A: Around $800.
Q: Your mantra as a milliner?
I don’t know about mantra, but excellence in workmanship, attention to detail, understanding of the client needs and wants are the concepts that drive everything I do in my work.
Q&A with Nina O’Neil
Q: What are your biggest sellers on Etsy?
Q: In terms of fascinators, what are your favorite colors right now?
A: I love the lilac and bright yellow; they are universally flattering colors on pretty much every hair and skin combination, and so happy for spring.
Q: For those new to fascinators, what are a few pointers for attaching them to the hair?
A: It took me a while to perfect the clips I use on my fascinators. Two alligator clips are attached under the fascinator that clip securely in to any do and won’t pull at your tresses.
Q: Which hairstyles do you believe best complement fascinators?
A: I think all hairstyles from very short long and straight to big and curly. I think they look a best when worn asymmetrically with a little attitude.
Q: When you think fascinators, what sorts of clothes do you envision accompanying them?
A: I envision people wearing everyday outfits with fascinators … 1950s-style day dresses, long skirts and crop tops — whatever your signature style is. I think hair accessories are the finishing touch to every ensemble. Beyond a sense of confidence, I can’t think of any outfits in particular that wouldn’t be enhanced by the bright pop of a fascinator on your hair.
Q: Which of your accessories do you recommend most highly for Gold Cup goers?
A: Chunky necklaces, stacked bracelets and COLOR!
Q: Describe your go-to Gold Cup ensemble?
A: Something with a flattering shape for you. Whatever looks best on your body type, start there. Then I would say bright colors, modern design and a complementing colorful shoe.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake overall someone can make when accessorizing (no matter the occasion)?
A. One too many, and taking a theme too seriously. A little variety never hurt anyone.
Q: A celebrity whose accessorizing you give an A+?
A: Michelle williams, bright colors, and the perfect mixture of super delicate lady-like style and masculine details.
Q: In terms of style, which decade would you most like to be lost in and why?
A: A perfect split between the late 1920s and 1960s. Both inspire me with design colors and the hats, so many wonderful hats!
Tops of Old Town, 2400 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-836-4511; topsofoldtown.com
Tops of Old Town offers a unique selection of hats that are sure to make a statement. Prices range upwards of $75, depending on designer.
Elinor Coleman Vintage Mirage, 117 S. Columbus St., Alexandria; 703-535-8200; vintagemirage.com
Visit Eliner Coleman Vintage Mirage for vintage hats in mint condition from the 1940s to present-day designs.
Salamander Touch, 100 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-4138; salamandertouch.com
Featuring unique designs from renowned milliner Anthony Gaskins, Salamander Touch has at least 50 hats in stock ranging from $285 to $600.
Betsey, 102 W. Washington St., Middleburg; 540-687-5748; betseyshop.com
This small boutique is committed to providing apparel and accessories that “celebrate individuality and creative expression in a big way.”
Kiskadee, 2205 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-549-0813; kiskadeeshop.com
Kiskadee stocks an elegant inventory of wide-brimmed hats as well as women’s dresses appropriate for the races.
Gossypia, 325 Cameron St., Alexandria; 703-836-6969; gossypia.com
An eclectic mix of merchandise, Gossypia’s hat selection caters to the customer looking for a more simplistic, yet functional style.
Pretty People, 108 N. Patrick St., Alexandria; 703-739-2522; prettypeoplevintage.com
Pretty People Vintage sells contemporary hats around $30 and treasured vintage hats that reach up to $100.
Horse Country Saddlery, 60 Alexandria Pike, Warrenton; 540-347-3141; horsecountrylife.com
All merchandise at Horse Country Saddlery is imported from England and wide-brimmed hats for women occupy the $300 to $400 price range.
Piccadilly Ltd., 80 Main St., Warrenton; 540-347-5300
Piccadilly boutique stocks an extensive assortment of wide-brimmed hats with casual hats starting as low as $20 and dress hats ranging between $48 and $105.
Happy shopping! See you at the races!
–Natalie Kaar & Hilary Adleberg
Tags: CIAONINA, fascinators, Gossip Girl, hat guide, Hilary Adleberg, horse race hats, Kentucky Derby hats, Natalie Kaar, Nina O'Neil, Northern Virginia Magazine, nova mag, S.W.A.G., Suzanne Couture Millinery, Suzanne Newman, TBD shopping, Virginia Gold Cup