There’s something about hats that’s unexpectedly enticing. Not the woollen stay-warm necessities we drag over our ears in wintertime, but the gorgeously constructed froth and fibre creations more commonly seen at weddings and racetracks.
I discovered Milliners’ Guild in Bristol thanks to a write-up in Clifton Life magazine, and just had to check it out for myself. With aqua walls, dark wood and more sky-blue mannequin heads than I could count, it felt like an art gallery rather than a shop – with the artwork on offer being beautifully sculpted hats.
Many of them, with their gauzy layers, sprinkles and feathers brought to mind ornate confectionary creations, or exotic flora found in heat-dazed glasshouses.
The shop’s owner and queen hat-maker is Ani Stafford-Townsend, who says she’s keen to ensure the guild element of the name is a central part of the business.
“All the bespoke orders are created by myself and my assistant Annabel (Allen – a milliner herself with bags of talent, pictured left), but we also have the work of more than 20 other milliners, bag designers and jewellers in the shop,” Ani explains. “One of the aims of the shop is to provide milliners from around the country the opportunity to sell their work in a quality retail setting.”
Ani says that anyone who wants to can get in contact with images of their creations. “If the style fits with our client base, we can arrange to meet and view the work.”
The shop also hosts a weekly evening millinery class plus one- and three-day workshops, so you can have a go yourself. “We put the emphasis on learning proper millinery skills – there’s no glue gunning in our classes!”
Way back when, people put on a hat every time they ventured out, and while I think that’s a bit too demanding, I do believe we’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to express ourselves through fashion – the cherry on top, in fact. What better way to add some frivolity, some fun, a touch of wow-factor or simply a bit of joy to an outfit?
“Although people tend to limit wearing hats like mine to weddings and to the races, I hope that in the future that will change and people will wear them any time they want to feel a bit special- like a pair of high heels,” says Annabel. “I think hats offer a way to express your personality – they can add fun, glamour and elegance.”
I couldn’t agree more! I vote for re-introducing hat-wearing to everyday life – I’m sure it would make getting ready in the morning a much happier task, and we’d never have to worry about bad hair days again.