I love the drama of a hat …





Hats are glorious. They’re a finishing touch to an outfit. They’re a sign of wealth and stature. They’re a must have accessory during the Spring Racing Carnival. Some are functional, and others not so much. They are a work of art, and they are so much fun to make! I first discovered my love of millinery when I was studying fashion and design at university. One of my subjects was millinery which I knew little of before I started. But once I was shown the art of constructing a hat, and the endless possibilities that you have in creating one, I simply fell in love with it. Hats and headwear have been around for centuries. From the Middle Ages when they were used as a form of protection, to current trends that see them on the track during horse racing events, hats have had many reincarnations over time. From royalty to aristocrats and then down to everyday people like you and me, the art of millinery and hat wearing is a trend that I certainly hope will continue for many years to come.

The history of the hat has been a long one. They became popular in Britain in the 14th and 15th centuries, however, headwear was worn long before this by our ancestors. The Pharos of Egypt used to wear glorious and elaborate head pieces as a symbol of their rank and stature in society. In ancient Greece, winners of the Olympic Games were given wreaths made of olive leaves to symbolise their importance and their achievements. In Mediterranean cultures, women wore headscarfs, veils and wraps as a sign of modesty, religion and marital status. And Royal families from all different countries have always worn crowns to display their rank in society.


The term ‘milliner’ was first used in London and was derived from the Italian city of Milan, where the finest quality straw was woven into hats. It was men who firstly began to wear hats in 1700 England. The top hat was at first a structure that was not accepted by society as it was imposing and intimidating to those surrounded by the wearer. But it was soon accepted into Victorian society when Prince Albert adopted the style in the 1850’s, and has ever since remained a stylish accessory for any man in a position of power and wealth. During this same period, woman of the same class where expected to wear hats, mainly bonnets to protect their delicate skin form the sun. Such bonnets were made from straw or cardboard, and tied with a ribbon underneath the chin to keep it in place. The size of them varied during the 19th century, as did the fabrics used to cover them, and the plumes of feathers used on some as decoration. Headwear remained popular among the upper class until the arrival of the parasol, which then provided women with another form of protection from the elements.

Moving into the 1900’s, women’s hats were still part of their ensemble, however the shape had begun to change. Boaters, trilbies and cloche styles gained popularity, and were more accommodating to the change in women’s hairstyles as time evolved. The fabrics in which they were made out of also evolved, and now included the finest silks, wools, felts and straws, and saw the embellishments adorning them include ribbons, feathers, flowers and beading. The uprising of World War 2 saw a demise in elaborate hat wearing, as they were seen as an unnecessary display of wealth during times of hardship by the majority of society. Working women found it difficult to complete their jobs while wearing a hat, and it was a nuisance to be running to and air raid shelter while trying to keep your hat in place. Barriers of etiquette became broken down and although hats were not rationed in order to boost morale, their wearing decreased.

Post WWII, and the arrival of ready to wear fashions saw the love of millinery change position. Women no longer went to their couturier or personal milliner to attain their seasonal wardrobe, but chose to purchase their outfits from high street stores. It was during the 1950’s and 1960’s, that styles such as the pillbox were popularised due the celebrity endorsements of Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn. If the First Lady of politics and the First Lady of Hollywood can wear one, then so too did many women of the decade. During the 1970’s, the art of millinery lost its way again, as fashion and trends of the decade moved away from structured headwear. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that hats once again became a popular item, and this was thanks to the royal influence of Diana, Princess of Wales. When Lady Diana Spencer joined the royal family, she had to adhere to their dress code. All official outings required a hat matching the chosen outfit, a tradition that has remand part of royal protocol for centuries. Queen Elizabeth still to this day wears a hat to most official engagements, and in her time at the throne, has reportedly worn over 5000 different styles!

In today’s modern world, hats have become more of a casual item. Women, men and children use them regularly in the warmer months to protect themselves from harsh sunlight, and during the colder months we don a hat to keep the warmth in. There is one time of year however, when hats once again take on their glorious past. Racing carnivals around the country, be it spring time in Melbourne or the autumn events in Sydney, are a plethora of all things I love abut millinery. It’s a time when women can spend hours, and large sums of money, on getting just the right headpiece to complement their outfit. Or if you’re like me, I start with my headwear and design my outfit accordingly. The Melbourne Cup Carnival is Australia’s premier racing event, and the grandest of opportunities to show off all that is wonderful about fashion and millinery. In recent years, styles have changed from large, bold and embellished hats, to smaller and more refined fascinators, and at this year’s carnival, many women sported headbands with subtle detailing.



I was fortunate enough to inherit some stunning pieces of millinery from my Great Aunt a few years back, and chose this racing carnival to bring them out of the tissue paper and let them see light again. An assortment of colours and styles they were, including red felt in a riding style, soft pink silks with ruffles, pale green feathers and veiling, peach inspired pillboxes and navy florals. These hats have a history of their own to tell. My Great Aunt was a woman of immense style and grace, and being an important member of her local community, always sought to dress in her finest. The labels of these hat makers date back to the 1950’s, and include Mr James of Sydney and Harbig (Melbourne-New York-Paris). Unfortunately when trying to research these labels, I have come to a dead end. If anyone has any information on the history of these milliners, I would love to hear about it!

IMG_3556      IMG_3553  IMG_3554

From studying millinery myself, I have made a number of hats over the years for myself and for some stylish clients. I learnt to craft the crown and brim of a hat on traditional wooden hat blocks, using wool and canvas. I’ve also created pieces using wire, sinamay and straw, and most recently used leather to embellish these works of art. Veiling too is one of my favourite trims to use, and the plume of an ostrich or peacock feather can never go astray. I’ve worn hats to every race day I’ve ever attended, some large, some small, depending on what the season calls for. I’m also known to wear a stylish headpiece for a wedding or simular significant event. And during the cooler months of the year, I’ll always have my trusty red felt cloche not too far away!


So next time you see a stylish hat perched on top of most likely a very stylish woman, take some time to appreciate it. The art of millinery hold such a significant history and entails a very creative and skilled mind to construct one. They are a symbol of class, status, season and style. They can be practical or purely visionary. They can be coloured, neutral, and everything in between. They can be fun, sassy, silly and downright glorious. Hats are amazing, and I for one will also be in love with them!

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx


” I know what women want. They want to be beautiful” – Valentino


Imagine the excitement and thrill of having Jacqueline Kennedy as the woman who made you famous. Imagine her buying every single outfit you showed her on your very first private viewing. Imagine the responsibility of dressing her on her wedding day. Imagine the style, elegance, beauty and sophistication she would bring to your label, and the world wide press coverage that you would receive. All of this sounds wonderful to me, and that’s exactly what happened to Italian designer Valentino! Jackie O quickly became Valentino’s number one fan, and bought huge success to the fashion house, launching the designer onto the American market. It is the collaboration between designer and muse that is so special, so pure, and this partnership in particular was paramount in the world of fashion.

Most of the designers who have been inspirational to me on my fashion journey have been the greats who exploded onto the scene during The Golden Age of Couture. But one designer who came afterwards has been just as influential to me. Although he started his career in the early 1950’s, alongside Dior, Balenciaga and Laroche, Valentino did not own the world of fashion until the following decade, and continued to make explosive footsteps in fashion until his retirement in the mid 2000’s. Valentino Garvani was born in a small Italian town called Voghera in 1932. He grew up living a very abundant lifestyle, wanting for nothing from his parents, and recalling himself as a very spoilt child. He knew from a young age that the world of couture was calling him, and his passion was both approved and encourage by his parents. Whilst a teenager, Valentino expressed his desire to have his own custom made shoes and clothes. In the post-war period of the late 1940’s, Valentino discovered the art and glamour of Hollywood motion pictures, with the likes of Lana Turner and Judy Garland, adding more fuel to his already ignited passion for fashion. It was through this discovery that Valentino’s future was decided.


Valentino graduated from high school and soon after took a six month course in fashion design in Italy. His determination and enthusiasm to follow his dreams was so ferocious, that he told his parents at only eighteen years old, that he was moving to Paris. With his natural born talents, Valentino made the move to the French capital in 1950, when the House of Dior was at the height of the Golden Age. Valentino marvelled at this ‘New Look’ that had taken over the world of couture, and recognising he had entered Paris at just the right time, enrolled at the prestigious Ecole de la Chambre Syndical de la Couture Parisienne. Whilst furthering his studies, Valentino mastered his craft and learnt new techniques to bring to the world of fashion. Upon graduation, he applied for apprenticeships at Jaques Fath and Balenciaga. Valentino was soon hired by another couturier of the decade, Jean Desses, and remained at the house for five years, alongside Guy Laroche. After Laroche went out on his own, Valentino soon joined him at the House of Laroche. Being a much smaller firm, Valentino was able to be involved in all aspects of the business, from sketching to running errands, and gave the young Italian a solid foundation to take home with him to establish his own brand in Italy.

With his drive to succeed, and the unfailing support of his parents, Valentino opened his first couture house at 11 Via Condotti in Rome. His first collection was released for spring/summer 1959, with the press making sure that his Parisian training was well covered. The following year, one of his financial backers withdrew, which opened up the door for a fresh new influence to arrive. Giancarlo Giammetti was studying architecture at the time, but realised the potential of the House of Valentino, and soon invested in the business, becoming Valentino’s right-hand man and faithful companion for the remaining years. It did not take long for people to recognise the Valentino world of opulence and luxury, with actresses, royalty and aristocrats soon knocking on the front door of the saloon. In the early sixties, Italian fashion was starting to take off, with American buyers traveling to the Roman Empire to view collections and place substantial orders. Valentino was producing a ready-to-wear collection, with some American department stores placing orders for 300 plus dresses per season. There was money to be made on the American market, with Valentino and Giammetti frontrunners in the game.

In September 1964, Valentino showcased a collection at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. This was the beginning of his love affair with Jacqueline Kennedy. The former First Lady placed an order for one of every piece in his collection, to be made in black and white. This event was truly monumental in Valentino’s career, and in the landmark year of his career in 1968, Valentino designed the wedding dress for Jacqueline Kennedy for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis. The pair would remain muse and designer for years to come.

In the 1970’s, the Italian fashion industry was in trouble, with the only exception being Valentino. The label continued to have grand success on a global scale. The very first scent released by the house was during this period, with the launch party being nothing short of extravagant. The Valentino brand continued to diversify, creating various franchises including handbags, shoes, belts, ties, luggage and umbrellas. At one point in time, the Japanese market contained more than forty franchises alone.

Daniele Venturelli

Valentino became synonymous with one particular colour during his career. Red. Although he released many collections in black and white, the vibrant shade of red was always featured somewhere in his works. The colour red symbolises passion, love and romance, with every collection released by Valentino since 1959, having at least one red masterpiece included. The House of Valentino now has a diffusion label under its brand called Red Valentino, with boutiques here in Australia and across the world. Valentino is also known for his feminine silhouettes, making any woman fortunate enough to wear one, be overwhelmed by elegance, grace, beauty and sophistication. Valentino is a popular choice around award season in Hollywood, with many fine dames being lucky enough to wear a piece of Valentino history.


After fifty years in charge of his business, Valentino decided it was time to retire the pencils in 2008. In his last fashion show, nine hundred guest were invited to this most enchanting evening in Paris. Under a full moon, Valentino took his last bow to a standing ovation. Becoming a premier Italian fashion brand, Valentino proved that Italy could rival Paris when it came to the world of couture, and that the world of fashion was indeed universal. Today, the name Valentino is still spoken about with gusto and flair in the ever expanding rag trade. Valentino has never been about high fashion, but about making a woman sensual and seductive. It’s about how themes and variations may change, but the underlying element of a woman will never change.

Love Always, Anastacia Rose xx