All hail the duchess.
The royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge ushered in a British Invasion 21st century-style, and the Kate Middleton effect is transcending far beyond her demure dresses and refined coats.
Statement pieces like a hat and other headwear help complete an ensemble, making the craft of a local milliner and her custom creations currently in high demand across the globe.
Traditionally associated with classy social events or retro Hollywood, hats are quickly becoming a staple in everyday wear. Take Amanda Joyner, for example. The Michigan City mother of three and established milliner believes hats add a little “magic” to any ol’ outfit.
“When you wear a hat, you’re creating a memory, a moment or just a feeling,” she says. “If you or someone around you is wearing a hat, it changes the atmosphere. It’s magical.”
Joyner became caught up in the enchantment of hats as a little girl. Raised by her grandmother in Austin, Texas, she spent much of her childhood lost in classic movie musicals. Many of the 1950s screen sirens depicted an era when women covered up from top to bottom regularly.
Joyner says, “I’m inspired by the old Hollywood pinups and musicals. I like to make up a story in my head with each hat while I’m watching an old movie or cartoons with the kids. And I always say, ‘If ever in your life you break out in song, you have to have a great hat.’”
As an adult, Joyner regularly visited department stores trying on hats and dreaming of one day starting her own collection. After a suggestion by her husband, Michael, that’s just what she did.
After attempting to learn the intricate art of manufacturing and designing hats herself, Joyner took a class with Joy Scott — a British hat designer who studied millinery techniques with the royal milliner to Queen Elizabeth 2.
Nearly two years later and Joyner, now 28, is an official milliner selling her hats through her company, Chef Bizzaro Millinery (a name inspired by her background as a pastry chef). Since her first “Art of Green” fashion show at the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau, she now has sold hats all over the world, including to a South Korean actress for her baby’s photo shoot and in Australia to be worn at the Melbourne Cup. Also added to her long list of credits are her hats gracing the pages of Australia’s “Cosmopolitan” magazine. Hollywood A-listers have even sported her headwear at the Grammys and Emmys after-parties.
Most notably in American pop culture, Natalie Slater — Chicagoan food blogger who’s appeared on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” — has been known to wear a Joyner creation. Look out for Slater pictured wearing a locally created hat in her upcoming cookbook, slated for release later this summer.
“It’s just exploded for me,” Joyner gushes. “It’s humbling and defiantly a rush at the same time because I never thought it would be anything like this.”
Last year, in total, Joyner says she sold some 400 hats. Each individual hat takes about one week to complete. The labor-intensive process includes blocking (or creating the hat’s shape with wooden or hand carved molds), drying and designing. All were made 100 percent from her Michigan City home studio while working on her other projects: Arthur, 7; Bella, 4; and Maddie, 2.
For those thinking they could never pull off a hat like some of Joyner’s more famous clients — think again. Styles vary from quirky cocktail hats to retro pin up-style fascinators with prices ranging from $30 to $140.
“You have to go into it with an open mind,” Joyner suggests. “All of my best clients at first tell me they look horrible in hats. But it’s really all about the right hat at the right angle. Try pushing the hat forward on the head and tipping it to the side — it’ll create a completely different look.”
But the Kate effect isn’t only to blame for the grand comeback of hats. Another United Kingdom influence, the PBS period drama “Downton Abbey,” signifies America’s fascination with sophisticated headwear is here to stay, Joyner says.
“People are looking for something glamorous and timeless these days,” she says. “They are looking for that piece of magic for any outfit. Hats are not just for special events anymore.”