A Practical History Lesson On American Hats!

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At the moment I am working on making hats for a Discovery Channel Drama Documentary. I have been asked by Diana, the movies Wardrobe Mistress to fill some of their head wear gaps. Diana is also responsible for the wardrobe of Section 9, Story Of An African Farm, King Solomon’s Mines among countless other productions.

I have been given the opportunity of working with Diana several times and have always learnt something important from the experience. This time I have been asked to produce hats for an American history movie which begins in 1640- 1940. I have completed a Confederate style hat which is similar to the Canadian Mountie Styled Hat. I had a great time hand blocking this shape. In order for me to get the styling correct I had to understand the reason for the structuring and style. As I began to block and steam the crown in the Mountie style, I also placed the blocked shapes prematurely on my head and suddenly came to understand that the dents were for resting an enlarged crown on the head and that the protruded pocket at the center of the hat acted as a heat conductor. It has been proven that the human body looses 80% of its heat through its head. This brilliant style utilized that fact to act as a heater. If the style had sat flat on the head, it would not create the same warmth effect. Once I understood this, my blocking became a natural form of sculpture.

I also used this opportunity of working with Diana to connect with a local hat factory to block the shapes that i felt could be Hydraulically Blocked  with their blocks. I am hoping to form an empowerment initiative in the manufacturing Millinery industry. This is my first step forward in this direction and I feel the opportunities for all could be bountiful with the proper backing! My vision is to create a Millinery business where the workers are the owners!!! Its the only natural and correct way forward in the manufacturing sector. It is time that the creatives and the workers were rewarded and not just the Big Title Holders! I can see how my vision could work especially with the entertainment industry and the movies that will be shot here using our new film studio here in Cape Town. At the moment many hats are brought in from costume houses in the UK. I am also doing some stitch work for the American Civil War Caps. I really love the fit of this style of hat also. It is snug and just feels good on the head. I am learning that there is a great deal to be said for the so called ‘old fashions!’ It was not just about exterior appearance but also mechanics and sensibility. I think I am going to enjoy exploring these possibilities further!

Once I complete the Caps, I will be producing some Tri-cones. I will be contacted to produce more hats as they continue filming. Hats were big in America from 1640 to 1940….lucky for me!