Milliner: Darna Michie (right on the photo)
Location: Washington, United States
How did you become interested in millinery?
I began designing hats in 1965 when I was 15-years-old. I'd checked out a copy of "Seventeen Magazine" from the school library and there were photos of models wearing outfits with matching hats... I was hooked. I'd already been designing and sewing my school clothes and it seemed like a natural transition to design hats to match my outfits. I started out by spending 50 cents on a pattern by McCalls that included 6 different hat styles.
How long have you been a milliner for?
Although I'd began designing the mod styles in 1965, it was while I was in college that I became interested in Victorian and Edwardian styles. I studied art and design as well as taking classes in history, including art history and American history. It was during this study of history that I became captivated by the changing styles of clothing during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and especially hats and bonnets.
What has been your most enjoyable commission?
That's a difficult question to answer because each new commission as well as each new day working as a milliner brings so much enjoyment into my life. However, I'd really have to say that a wedding is a very satisfying commission because it's connected with so much anticipation and excitement. I must also say that the ladies who wear the red and pink hats are a lot of fun to design for, as they're just out to enjoy themselves.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
OH MY! Just about anything... a beautiful swatch of fabric or possibly an elegant veiling; even a feather can inspire me, but I mostly design according to my mood... A light-hearted mood usually presents itself of whimsical designs, a more serious mood will find me pouring over my hundreds of antique publications trying to do something more "period correct". The beautiful dark haired girl in the photo is my daughter Darnell. She assists me when shopping for fabrics, flowers and supplies and most important she's my inspiration and has been since the day she was born!
What materials and techniques do you favor?
I use an assortment of ready made hat stock, I also make my own buckram and wire frames and also block my own wool felt. I use nearly all new fabrics and trims: the finest laces, silks, velvets and, yes, loads of bridal tulle (the ladies love it). I hand dye most of my feathers and occasionally I use antique feathers. My flowers are silks, organza, velvets and even paper. I look for the most beautiful flowers available... once again I prefer the new flowers to the vintage.
How would you describe your style of hats?
Although my hats are designed for the Victorian and Edwardian eras, I do my best to include styles that can not only be dressed up for re-enactment or church, but also dressed down to blue jeans and a blazer.