Isabelle’s Fascinator

Catherine Red Crinoline Black Base Fascinator

Hello! My name is Isabelle Finley. I am an intern with Polly Singer Couture Hats, and have been since January. I am a Senior in the Apparel Design and Merchandising major at Eastern Kentucky University. My internship has been a wonderful experience, and I have truly learned so much about merchandising, marketing, and most recently, hat design! Polly Singer, the owner and designer for Polly Singer Couture Hats gave me the opportunity to not only design but create a fascinator. I was so excited about this opportunity, and quickly began planning out my design. Polly gave me the option between using crinoline or felt for the fascinator. While I liked the look of felt, it had more of a Fall feel to it, so I chose red crinoline.

I had watched Polly work with hats countless times, and I always admired how skillfully she was able to manipulate materials to achieve her desired design. Someone who is as skilled and talented as Polly makes the art of millinery look easy. I am here to tell you that it is not! It requires a great deal of time and patience to create hats and fascinators. I had such a difficult time trying to bend and play with the crinoline. I quickly learned why some hats are one-of-a-kind. It is impossible to accurately replicate a design no matter how much one tries.


I chose Catherine the Great as my inspiration. Catherine the Great was the Empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Catherine the Great is the longest ruling female in Russian history. I chose red for the fascinator because it represented power, and Catherine the Great was very powerful. 

First off, I gathered all my materials. I got my pins, thread, scissors, and everything I knew I would be needing. After cutting the amount of crinoline that I needed, I pinned my base to the mannequin head that I was using to drape my materials. Then, I wrapped the ends of my crinoline with matching red thread so that it would not fray. Crinoline has a tendency to fray, so I tried to minimize this issue as much as possible. I then began to drape the crinoline on my black sinamay base. I went into this project thinking that I would be able to come up with a design in my head in the moment and create an absolute masterpiece. Little did I know that this was not how it would go at all. Sometimes inspiration is not flowing. I took some time away from my fascinator to see if I would get any ideas. When I came back, I turned some music on, and inspiration struck! I was completely in the design zone, and I had such a fun time draping the materials. I pulled the thread on the side of the crinoline and gathered it to achieve a cloud like look. I pinned this piece on top of the base. Then, I began looping and folding a separate piece of crinoline to create a fun, whimsical design on the top. I would pin each loop to make sure that nothing moved until I was able to sew everything. Perhaps I am guilty of over-pinning, but one can never be too safe. I put a vintage looking button on the fascinator to add some extra glamor and sparkle to the hat. It completely changed the look for the better. After hours and hours of work, I was finally finished. I wanted my fascinator to be a fun statement, but to also appear soft and wearable.

I was thrilled with my design, and I was looking so forward to showing Polly what I came up with. The night before I was supposed to bring my fascinator to Georgetown, I saw a little section of the fascinator that needed fixing. When I went to go fix the fascinator, the crinoline messed up, and I had to completely redo everything. It was around 11:00 pm at this point. One can imagine the type of stress that I was under, but pressure makes diamonds, right? I stayed up far too late that night to get everything fixed, and woke up early the next morning. I live very far from Georgetown, so it is a long drive every week. I sewed the fascinator and made sure that it was sturdy and well put together. Polly was there for guidance and assistance when needed, and I really appreciated this. After I got everything sewn, I chose a black headband for the fascinator to go on.

Catherine Red Crinoline Black Base Fascinator   Catherine Red Crinoline Black Sinamay Base

Fascinator Hair Bows Make a Statement

Shades of Gray 2
Shades of Gray



Always a lover of simple, elegant fashion, I designed these hair bows a few years ago.  While on Facebook today, I posted a photo and fashion writer/equinista L.A. Pomeroy mentioned that the bows are the new look for the fall.  It was totally unbeknownst to me!    Funny because I have been working a few new ones here today. 











Polly Singer Hats Always Show Up at Breeder’s Cup

Polly Singer Hats always end up at The Breeder’s Cup.  Last year, I designed many fascinators for Breeder’s Cup. I am working on one for this year that is so much fun.  I can’t wait for Christy to see it and wear it to the Breeder’s Cup!

Every year at the Breeder’s Cup, there is a hat contest.  Last year, I had two entries in the contest. 

Elizabeth McNulty at the 2011 Breeder’s Cup




I did a custom fascinator  for actress Elizabeth McNulty.  She wanted to include horseshoes into the fascinator.  This was not an easy assignment, but the end result was fabulous.  Probably one of my favorite projects and Elizabeth was great fun to work with.  Being a former Miss Louisiana, the weight of the horseshoes felt similar to a crown, so she wore this winning headpiece with ease. 

The hard part was getting the horseshoes to stand up, since they have to be in that position in order for luck.  The horseshoes were welded together.  The feathers sprung up out of the center.  Elizabeth had wanted to use white and silver, which are two of my favorite colors to work with. 







The second fascinator was for my client and video model, Amanda.  She is tall and elegant, so can carry most anything off.  We did a black fascinator/saucer hat for her, accented with brown curled pheasant feathers.  Amanda, like me, loves to wear black.  She loves hats and I have done many for her.

Amanda at Breeder’s Cup

Hats and Fascinators for The Summer Races

Does it get quieter after the Kentucky Derby is finished? Yes. Am I sitting around without any hats to design? The answer to that is a resounding “no”. Unlike many milliners who design only for 3 months out of the year, I am open for 12 months of the year. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am utterly addicted to hats and designing them.

Today, I am doing a hat for client who annually attends the Belmont, which is the last leg of the Triple Crown. I did 2 hats for Ascot last week. In addition, I did 5 hats/fascinators for the Preakness, which will take place this Saturday.

A big trend that I have seen is people wearing more fascinators to the races and events in general. It’s a fun change and a throwback to earlier days. Here is a recent fascinator that I designed and a photo of it on my client.