Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Accessories Diary: Heads Up

Julia Roberts wearing a hat at a polo match in Pretty Woman is what started me on my quest.
Heads Up
By Alison Minton

This is an exciting week in New York, because the first week of May
is traditionally the Superbowl of ladies luncheons: The Central Park Conservancy’s Women’s Committee’s FLO luncheon, aka The Hat Luncheon. This Wednesday more than one thousand impeccably dressed ladies will float into Central Park via the Vanderbilt Gate, almost all of them wearing a hat. When they arrive they will be met by a swarm of photographers and onlookers all eagerly awaiting this year’s crop of newly minted headgear.

Most of The Hat Luncheon attendees take a refined and traditional approach to millinery adornment. Many of the hats will be colorful and decorated with flowers and other botanicals, some with have faux (hopefully) insects perched on high in a nod to the Park’s fauna, and a few will be no less than artistic creations of architectural brilliance. And while most of us marvel at the colorful sea of hats we don’t think much about how they are made, which is why I asked the milliner who made my hat for this year’s luncheon to send me photos of the stages of my hat’s production so I could share with NYSD readers.
Last year's sea of hats.
Let me first explain that I have a closet full of hats. I started collecting them more than 20 years ago after watching Pretty Woman and seeing Julia Robert’s character wear a hat at a polo match.

In my dreamy-eyed youth it dawned on me that if I ever got invited to a similar event, like a regatta on the Thames, I would need a hat. Were it not for the offer of my friend and milliner, Tracy Young of Millinery Treasures in Hudson, New York, I would probably have just pulled from my unremarkable regatta collection. Thankfully Tracy has saved me from that fate and made me a beautiful sinamay confection in a lovely shade of yellow. I chose yellow both because the regatta collection does not include a yellow hat and because it’s one of my favorite colors. I trust Tracy so other than the color and telling her I wanted my hat to be a fascinator, I gave her creative license.
The Millinery Treasure storefront in Hudson, NY.
After I chose the color, Tracy came up with a design and got both the sinamay, which is the material the hat is made of, and the blocks of wood that are used to shape the hat. The sinamay is cut into sheets and molded wet over the blocks to form the hat’s shape. Once the sinamay is completely dry it can be cut into shape and wire is sewn around the edges so the hat will retain its shape.

More sinamay has to cover the wires so it’s not visible. Once the basic shape is finished, it’s time to decorate. In my case, Tracy made flowers out of the sinamay and added some feathers. Suffice it to say Tracy outdid herself on my hat and I am thrilled with the results. The finished hat will be revealed on my head on Wednesday, but you can see the stages of production in the photos below.
The first step is choosing the sinamay color and any adornments.
The second step is creating a design.
The hat begins to take shape with the base.
After the base is finished the flourishes can be attached.
From New York hats to Hollywood costume design ... Actress Taylor Gildersleeve Black and her husband, Brad Livingstone Black, a society portrait artist, are currently shooting a short film called “Helen of Troy.” The film is written and directed by Brad and stars Taylor and Australian hunk Zebedee Row. Taylor described the film to me as a “clever little love story.” It is being shot in France and in Millbrook, NY and will premier later this year. And when it does, we will be seeing bespoke garments by couturier Norman Ambrose and jewelry by Verdura. I first met Taylor when I spotted her wearing Verdura at an event for The Museum of the City of New York last Fall.
A sketch by Norman Ambrose of his dress with a Verdura Criss Cross Cuff and Tourmaline Rope Cluster Earrings. Taylor Gildersleeve (photo by Joanna O'Shea).
Taylor Gildersleeve Black on location in France filming Helen of Troy (photo by Joanna O'Shea).
Speaking of The Museum of the City of New York ... this year’s Winter Ball, sponsored by Oscar de la Renta, was a glamourous affair at the Pierre Hotel. During the cocktail hour I was on a mission to photograph only Oscar de la Renta accessories, when I ran into DPC who asked me how I could even spot the accessories in the very crowded and dark room. How does a shark smell a drop of blood in the ocean? Okay, the secret is I looked for Oscar dresses, which I can spot a mile away, and assumed the wearers, like Eliza Reed Bolen, would probably also be wearing Oscar accessories. Plus there are some women, like Yaz Hernandez and Kathy Prounis, who I have photographed enough to know favor Oscar de la Renta.
Eliza Reed Bolen, Executive VP of Oscar de la Renta, wore trademark tassel earrings.
Yaz Hernandez carried a yellow lucite Oscar clutch.
Kathy Prounis's bejeweled Oscar earrings grazed her shoulders. Elkin Nance, VP of E-Commerce at Oscar de la Renta, wore shoulder length Oscar tassel earrings.
On March 3rd, Tomas Maier and Margaret Russell hosted a book signing at Tomas Maier for Firooz Zahedi’s new book about Elizabeth Taylor, My Elizabeth to benefit the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. The crowd was like a power lunch times one hundred, and much to my delight, they were wearing equally impressive accessories. Kay Ungar Pitman had two stacks of statement bangles, Debbie Bancroft was wearing a huge and fabulous Vera Wang statement necklace with crystal bugs that was given to her by the designer for her birthday, Fern Mallis wore a tassel necklace, and Beth Rudin DeWoody wore tassel shoes.
Kay's stack of bangles included vintage Elsa Peretti, Hermes, Alexis Bittar, and Jessica Kagan Cushman.
Debbie Bancroft's Vera Wang crystal encrusted bug necklace was a birthday gift from Vera Wang. Tom Lampson accessorized with an Hermes pocket square.
Fern Mallis wore a necklace designed by Theresa Wangia of Beltshazzar. Margaret Russell wore two Florian necklaces from Tomas Maier.
Beth Rudin DeWoody's Roger Vivier shoes sported whipstitching in front and ...
... in back
Kathleen Giordano and Kay Unger Pitman wearing a Leila Rose necklace and a vintage '50's necklace.
Marigay McKee was strapped into a fabulous pair of Gianvito Rossi shoes.
No accessories needed for Frederic Fekkai.
Fran Drescher holding a copy of My Elizabeth, by Firooz Zahedi.
A little bit farther south on Madison, also on March 3rd, the Horticultural Society held a cocktail party at Frette to honor Peter Copping, creative director of Oscar de la Renta and Mary Van Pelt, former Chairman of the Hort Board. There was a lot of bold gold, but also some bull.
Bully for Whitney Larkin whose Charlotte Olympia zodiac shoes boasted the sign of Taurus.
Melanie Rhodes hand hammered her brass bangle bracelets. Melanie Seymour Holland wore Glamourpuss earrings.
Kathy Prounis' ring was adorned with a giant Swarovski crystal.
Martha Glass wore a hammered disk necklace by Sequin.
Melanie Chisholm's Anya Hindmarch bag put on a happy face.
Sara Johnson Kaplan wore an Hermes enamel bangle.
Edible party favors.
The creative juices were flowing at a party for the Museum of Arts and Design, held at Jacqueline Weld Drake’s residence on Park Avenue on March 14th. The event was a pre-party for the Museum’s LOOT exhibit and honored Kay Unger Pitman and Joan Hornig. The guests wore unique and special jewelry, some of which was exhibited at previous LOOT events, like Suzanne Golden’s colorful beaded bracelets and pin, which she made herself. Others like Kay Unger and Arlene Richman wore amazing vintage pieces.
Jacqueline Weld Drake hosted the event. Kay Unger Pitman's vibrant vintage necklace is from the 1930s.
Valerie Lettan purchased her Fairchild Baldwin necklace at the LOOT event last year.
Elysze Held was regal in a Shiroiy Darius Cama necklace.
Michelle Tay's Issey Miyake necklace was a pop of color.
Patricia Falkenberg got her flower necklace in Provence and paired it with a Patricia F. dress of her own design.
Suzanne Golden is a previous exhibitor of wearable art at LOOT and she made her pin and ...
... and her bracelets.
Arlene Richman wore a vintage Larry Vbra necklace that featured a detachable bow pin.
On March 21st Jean Shafiroff hosted a book party to launch her new book Successful Philanthropy: How To Make A Life By What You Give. New York notables including Georgina Bloomberg, Rita Cosby, and Dr. Valerie Steele were in attendance, as were two beneficiaries of Jean’s personal philanthropy, her rescued pitbulls, Bella and Daisy. Practicing what she writes, Jean and her daughters had just returned from two trips to Central America to rescue dogs and bring them back to the United States for medical treatment and adoption. While all the ladies were well dressed I have to give snaps to two gentlemen, Dustin Lujan and Xavier Rogers, who really nailed it in the shoe department.
Jean Shafiroff's main accessory on this night was her new book Successful Philanthropy. Georgina Bloomberg wrote the introduction for Jean's book.
Joyce Brooks wore a hat by Kathy Jeanne, but the best accessories were Daisy and Bella.
Bella smoothing out the train of her mom's dress.
Tomaczek Bednarek's eagle tie was a gift designed by John Catsimatidis.
Xavier Rogers' Doc Martens sported the Union Jack.
Victor DE Souza carried a Chanel pouchette.
Dustin Lujan's Louboutins made a point ...
... while his Givenchy portfolio was fierce.
Penny Grant and Rita Cosby having fun.
Yaz Hernandez and Dr. Valerie Steele of FIT.
And, finally, back to where I started, a bit more about hats. On April 25th, I attended a viewing of Tel Aviv artist, Maor Zabar’s, Carnivorous Plants Collection of hats at Barbara Feinman Millinery. The hats were really quite amazing and are all sorts of pitcher plants in the process of devouring bugs. Maor was inspired to create the collection because his partner is a vegan and he made the hats to tease her about vegetation that isn’t so vegan. Let’s hope she has an appetite for jokes. Some of Maor’s hats will be seen at the Hat Luncheon, as will Barbara Fienman Millinery’s.
Milliners Barbara Feinman, Maor Zabar, and Julia Knox holding carnivorous plant hats from Maor's collection.
Two of Maor Zabar's collection of pitcher plant hats.

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