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I have been busy designing new hats. Oversize fedoras, Downton Abbey style cloches and jewel tone fascinators to name a few! This is the first year that I have done fall hats and I am excited about this new line!
I love Fall and Winter too. I do realize that sounds strange, given the fact that the Spring and Summer are thought to be the more popular times for wearing a hat. However having lived in Manhattan for 13 years and enduring cold winds on those streets, I can tell you that hats kept me warm and healthy. I wanted to look stylish. Living on the Upper East Side and working on Sutton Place, I couldn’t exactly don a ski cap!
To me, the perfect Fall/Winter hat is smaller. It looks great with a coat or jacket. It is in a classic color, meaning it can work with coats in your closet. It blends in and looks seamless with a variety of styles. And most of all, it is flattering to the face.
When I first started out making hats, I would of course wear them on the streets of New York. I can not tell you how often people gave me positive comments. Men would open doors for me (quite unusual for New York). Ladies would start conversations with me about how their mother or grandmother loved or even made hats.
The hats shown below were all made by me. They have been hand blocked and sewn, using the millinery techniques that I learned at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
Pictured here is Shannon
Christy is a new favorite. I love gray as it goes with so many colors. Black and white, navy or even red, it is the new neutral. I designed Eve with a vintage flair. The Downton Abbey and 20’s style was my inspiration for Christy.
“Buy straw hats in winter. ”
(idiomatic) of stocks
attributed to financier Russell Sage (1816-1906)
Straw Hats in the winter? Well that depends on where they’re worn and, most important, in what colors. As we’ve become convinced of the ill effects of sun exposure, women look for sun protection year round. Sun block is a necessity, plus, there exists a need for attractive wide brimmed hats in autumn/ winter hues. Last year, Polly dedicated a segment of her collection to what we call “transitional straws”, that is, hats made of parisisal straw designed in colors and materials which complement cool weather fashion. The transitional straws have been popular with horse racing fans. Here are a few of the front runners.
Elmhurst blazes with the vibrant colors of an Autumn Day.
Epigram adds rich mocha tones to basic black. An excellent accessory for a camel hair coat or with earth toned tweeds.
Indulgence, in crisp black and white with an unexpected twist in peacock blue is divine with a houndstooth check or to relieve black or gray ensembles.
Any of the transitional straw designs will add spark to your fall and winter wardrobe, all the while, affording extra sun protection.
by Jan Masters Yon
Note: We enjoy contact with readers and invite your comments. My email address is email@example.com. Polly may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. We both look forward to hearing from you.
Nothing now could take the wind out of my sails.
Because I’m invited to step out this evening
With top hat and white tie and tails.
Royal Ascot, Fred Astaire, riding to hounds, Cabaret, impressarios, John Singer Sargent’s incomparable portrait of Lord Ribbesdale, Willy Wonka, opening night at the opera, Alice’s mad teaparty – countless things whimsical and romantic have a common icon. One happy day I was given the task of choosing a name for my first field hunter, a compact, glossy black gentleman of a horse; it was after very little hesitation that I knew. Such a once in a lifetime animal must be called Top Hat.
For one thing, the top hat is associated with gentlemen. In 1890, the St. James Gazette writes When we are told, Hes a fellow who wears a top hat and a frock coat, we know sufficiently well what sort of fellow he is.
Originally, the top hat was modeled after the tall hats made of beaver in the early 1800’s. During the early part of the twentieth century which, by the way, is known as The Century of the Top Hat, animal fur was replaced by “hatter’s plush” or silk fabric. This made the hat more accessible to the rising middle class and must have been greeted with enthusiasm by the North American Beaver population.
The popularity of the top hat, or “high hats” as they were called in the 1920’s fell off when men began to wear bowlers and fedoras for day wear. One of the factors in the decline of the top hat is that they were not suitable for mass production. A top hat must be hand made by a skilled hatter. Sadly, few young people were willing to take up the trade.
Those of us who are reluctant to consign the top hat to extinction are in luck. Polly Singer Hats Couture Hats and Veils has added several new top hat designs to the line. For a distinguished, distinctly equestrian look Polly has taken the classic equestrian style top hat and experimented with various trims.
Lady Salisbury, named for the first woman to ever hold the position of Master of Foxhounds, has the flattering proportions of the style hat that is still required attire in upper level dressage competition. Lady Salisbury, available in black or navy sports a feminine swath of black veiling.
Miss Skittles, inspired by Catherine Walters, a nineteenth century beauty who made a name for herself as a horsewoman and lady cavalier is distinguished by a lush hand band fashioned from pheasant feathers in autumn colors which is a perfect complement with earth-toned fashions.
Celia, is the most whimsical of this line, again, well bred equestrian lines ornamented with black satin ribbon, several iridescent feathers secured by tiny seed pearls. Appropriately named, this most unorthodox tophat in the collection honors Celia Fiennes whose diary entitled Through England on a Side Saddle records Celia’s extraordinary horseback journey through 17th Century England.The design Celia is as lively and bold as it’s namesake.
All three of the aforementioned top hats are perfect with suits, and pants suits and complement all styles of outerwear from dressiest coats to your beloved knock-about-jacket. For the evening however, Polly has taken the top hat down a more fanciful path. Minaturized and unrestainedly decorative her mini top hats are a spoonfuls of fun!
In the spirit of Madmoiselle Magnifique, the new design, Cabaret is a delightfully droll headpiece with a lot going on– a flume of airy crinoline, irridescent peacock feathers and stripped coque in black and fuchsia make this hat a stunner. Nothing more than a simple black dress is needed to create a sensation.
During the holiday season one sure fire way to stand out among the ubiquitous black is by wearing winter white. Polly has designed a tiny white top hat for this contrarian’s choice. White Mischief is a crisp little sinamay top hat banked in white veiling and tufts of white feathers. The look is both ethereal and witty. The hat can be customized by touches of color or done in all white as a sophisticated bridal look with today’s sleek strapless gowns.
My dear horse Top Hat is living out his retirement in a vast field of Kentucky bluegrass having during his career carried me on breathless chases and my child over even more nerve-wracking 4-H jump courses. He has on occasion submitted with great humor to wearing a Dracula cape or butterfly wings in costume classes. Everything ever asked of him, he’s performed with impeccable manners, courage and great wit– a gentleman to the tips of his ears, ever mindful of living up to the name “Top Hat”.
by Jan Masters Yon
Breed the best to the best and hope for the best.
the Breeder’s axiom
In a perfect world every day would be Ladies’ Day. In the world of thoroughbred racing Ladies’ Day is October 24, opening day of the 25th running of the Breeders Cup Championships. The Breeders’ Cup Ladies Day Classic (formerly known as Breeders Cup Distaff) will be the premier race on the Friday program featuring five races for the distaff divisions (fillys only) with the feature race being the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic worth $2 million.
The Breeders’ cup was created in 1982 by Kentucky horseman John R. Gaines as a year-end championship for North American thoroughbred racing. It also draws outstanding horses world wide. Day 2 of the event is considered to be the the second richest day in sports, the Dubai World Cup night being the first.
This year, to the organizers’ credit, the day will be profitable not only to the breeders owners and competent and/or lucky handicappers; two global charity events will benefit as well. The Breeders’ Cup association has established relationships with St. Judes and Komen for the Cure and has set a goal of raising $250, 000 for each organization during the 2008 season. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases and freely shares its discoveries with scientific and medical communities around the world. No family ever pays for treatments not covered by insurance and families without insurance are never asked to pay. Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures.
The program will be held at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The average temperature in this area is 81, with an average rainfall of 0.57 inches. If you’re planning to attend you may expect to experience hot weather and little likelihood of rain — perfect hat weather. So what style of hat complements the fashions of the season yet provides comfort and sun protection in a warm climate?
Polly Singer Couture Hats and Veils is a step, or in racing parlance, a stride ahead with a newly designed line of what we call “Transitional Straws”. Playfully named in this blog only for Breeder’s Cup winners, these hats are fashioned of parisisal straw in our best loved shapes (The Madhatter, Simply Elegant, Blythe Spirit) in warmer autumn hues and finished with trims, feathers, flowers and fabric which are in keeping with the season. Below is a gallery of the newest designs. Sorry, these particular hats aren’t yet available for purchase online but I invite you to peruse the gallery. If there’s a design that suits one of your fall ensembles, please call, we are happy to discuss designs and are taking orders for them by phone. On an interesting note, Polly designed a hat last year that proved lucky for owner Theresa Mobley of West Point Thoroughbreds, whose horse, Awsome Gem finished third in The Breeders Cup Classic .
If you can’t make it to The Breeders’ Cup this year, you may follow the races on television. For the third straight year ESPN will televise live coverage of both days of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The following link will take you to the schedule.
Opening day, Friday, October 24 will feature five races for females only which, according to Breeder’s Club president, Greg Avioli, is a show case for the talents of the best female thoroughbreds in the world. If you aren’t fortunate to be at Santa Anita that weekend, I urge you throw a Ladies’ Day Party; to assemble your best lady-friends, favorite refreshments, The Daily Racing Form and show support for Filly Power. You might offer prizes for The Alpha Mare, Best Handicapper, Most Spirited Display of Lady-Like Support and, naturally, a special award for Best Fall Hat. It’s our day, ladies, lets revel in it!
by Jan Masters Yon
…laughter tinkled among the teacups.
Mr. Appolinax, T.S. Eliot
A cool September morning in a lovely rural locale was the setting for a tea in honor of Polly Singer. Longtime friends Caroline and Jane gathered a group of Polly’s intimates for a brunch to congratulate Polly on the recent inclusion of hats from her collection in two national magazines, Tea Time and Victoria
The delights of the table (as always, let’s talk about the food first) began with a champagne toast, proceeded to a brunch which consisted of two kinds of Jane’s quiche and Caroline’s Waldorf Salad and scones with creme fraiche and homemade jam. The occasion finished sweetly with tarts, tea and laughter.
The beautifully appointed Autumn table was further adorned by charming guests. The ladies present represented various vocations and avocations; among them, a woodworker, a vintage inspired dress designer , a couple of graphics artist and a bee keeper or two. Needless to say, the conversation was both varied and lively.
Invitations and place cards made by Jane and Caroline bore images of hats. Interestingly enough, though there was no mention of hats as a dress code requirement, most every guest wore one; and, as would be expected, several of the hats were Singer designs. Polly herself wore Blythe Spirit, a wide brimmed black hat banked with yellow silk flowers. One of the hostesses wore Audrey at Ascot. Though officially fall, it’s still quite warm in Kentucky; transitional hats, natural straw trimmed in darker colors, black, bottle green or plum for instance, were the overwhelming choice.
Hats featured in this month’s Victoria Magazine are from the Singer fall and winter collection. The hat created for Tea Time is a new design, Fall Romance. To see the layouts and learn more about Polly’s contribution, scroll down to Hat Chats entitled Hats Off to Victoria and A Hat for Tea Time. Both magazines are currently available on the stands.
We wish to thank Caroline and Jane for the kind tribute and delightful morning.
by Jan Masters Yon
It’s currently 73 degrees, one can hardly interpret this as a nip in the air, however, it is enough of a drop to remind us that fall is just around the corner.
Did you know that September is Fall Hat Month? Rebecca Chamberlain reminds us in a blog on her charming Ladies’ Historical Tea website. Enjoy her comments on Fall Hat Month as well as a variety of subjects by visiting:
How to celebrate? Rebecca suggests buying a new hat. We were delighted to note that she also recommends that her readers visit Polly’s website for an original couture hat.
All the old favorites are there, Camille (formerly named Greta Garbo), Audrey’s Winter Hat, as well as a few newcomers to the fall line. New entries to the fall collection range from urbane little hats such as My Shadow and Silver Shadow to the lavish Victorian inspired design Fall Romance, which was introduced in Tea Time Magazine this month. (see blog entitled “A Hat for Tea Time, Sept. 3, 2008 )
I’d also like to call your attention to our vintage pieces. Several of the newly posted vintage hats are perfect accessories for fall fashions. I Spy and Washington Square are treasures from the 60’s and 70’s. Both hats have timeless silhouettes and are in paler earthtone hues that that are always popular in cooler months. Personally, I can think of no more charming way to add wit to an outfit that with a vintage hat.
Zuri, is another new autumn design worth looking at. Zuri, Elizabeth’s Cheetah with bells and whistles, is a jaunty animal print fedora festooned with feathers. The hat has it all; color, texture, movement and reminds me of a number of similar styles accessorizing Ralph Lauren’s fall collection.
I love summer dearly and am always sorry to see it go. The prospect of finding the perfect hat for cooler weather may one of the season’s most rewarding compensations. I wish you all a happy Hat Month and happy hunting.
by Jan Masters Yon
It was a pleasure to have 4 hats featured in the September/October issue of Victoria Magazine. I was contacted back in June to provide 4 hats for the fall layout. Little did I know that they would be featured so prominently in Victoria! It has been such a thrill for me since Victoria is one of my all time favorite magazines.
I have always been a huge fan of Victoria Magazine. Back in the late 80’s, I was an original subscriber. The magazine inspired me and perhaps, led in many ways to my becoming a hat designer. The photographs and hats were lovely, timeless and beautiful.
To view the individual hats, you may use the following links to see the hats on our website.
The September/October issue of Victoria has some other wonderful articles of interest, one being the store “Tail of the Yak” in Berkeley, California. I urge you to pick up this issue as it is a visual treat. It makes one yearn for fall and all its abundant treats.
For more information on Victoria Magazine, please visit Victoria Magazine.
By: Polly Singer
Working with a limited cache of materials on a tight deadline, a deadline which came on the heels of months of tight deadlines does not make for ideal working conditions. This was the situation when Polly was asked by a magazine stylist to create a hat for a photoshoot.
In June, soon after the Kentucky Derby rush Polly received a commission from Tea Time, a magazine devoted to “the many delights of taking tea”. She was asked to fashion a Victorian style hat to be used as a prop in a photo illustration for an article entitled Hats off to Mrs. Beeton, a piece about Beeton’s Book of Household Management, an 1861 publication on the proper running of a household.
“As I was swamped with orders, I had limited time to design this hat. I literally had to use items that I had on hand, which forced me to be very creative. I’ve always enjoyed special design projects.”
After researching hat fashions of the era, Polly chose a chocolate brown parisisal straw for the body of the wide brimmed hat. Then she began to dig. With stores depleted by filling Derby orders and no time to order more supplies, the hat would have to be assembled with materials on hand. A quick scavenger hunt through the small studio first yielded a swath of cut panne velvet in the perfect shade rich brown. Then, she looked to feathers. Ostrich, pheasant or peacock? Ostrich feathers were a definite, as followers Mrs. Beeton’s advice would have used ostrich feathers as knick-knack dusters. If one phrase describes the Victorian approach to design that would be “too much is never enough” therefore the best answer seemed to be, “all of the above: ostrich, pheasant and peacock feathers.”
As for flowers, a couple of nosegays in aubergine velvet were unearthed. But the hat still lacked a focal point and needed an element of bright color to offset the rich browns and plums. Since none of the silk flowers which are the mainstay of her more elaborate designs were available in an autumn palette, Polly took a large scrap of pumpkin hued silk and used milliner’s magic to fashion it into a cabbage rose that could have been the pride of any Victorian English garden. One of the real treasures from the Singer “I may need this someday” archive was a cluster of glass beaded grapes which when added to the hat provided a subdued bit of bling and served to bridge the dark tones of the hat and the brighter orange rose.
Tea time magazine was delighted with the result and featured a full page photograph of the hat on page 24 of the September/October issue. This issue is currently on the stands, we invite you to admire the result of our scavenger hunt and enjoy the usual entertaining and informative fare Tea Time has to offer.
We are so pleased with the hat, we gave it a name, Fall Romance and entered it in the Polly Singer fall collection.
by Jan Masters Yon