Sunday, June 16, 2013

Concours d'Elegance

A day of Haute Couture, high fashion hats, fine cars and France's prestigious horse race.
One of my fondest memories takes me back to a part of my career when I was fortunate to have been invited to the Prix de Diane (held at the Chantilly racetrack, near the chateau) when it was sponsored by Hermes. Though the  were no ordinary horseraces, this was THE most elegant event of the season. The invitation came in the form of a poster complete with a dress code: "men in morning coats and bowlers or top hats," "women in elegant afternoon dresses and wide brim picture hats." Everyone came dressed as instructed.Those years when the weather cooperated, it was as if a painting of an early summer event had suddenly become animated.

The day began with a 'concours d'elegance'. Women were dressed in haute couture. The men came in luxury vintage automobiles in tune with the theme of each year's event. At the base of each car: couture dressed families with their fine linen table settings, porcelain dishes, crystal glasses, silverware, an assortment of picture perfect finger foods complimented with vintage wine and sparkling champagne. One-thousand guests of Hermes were treated to a four-course lunch--wine with each course and champagne with dessert. Afterwards, we watched the horse races with another glass of champagne in hand. At the end of the day, the woman with the most elegant hat was awarded a watch.

Things have changed. Longines now sponsors the event. Publicity hungry guests are known to show up with absurd hats hoping to have their pictures taken on the Chantilly grounds. But memories from those early days of the Prix de Diane Hermes live on. So today we salute the fete which celebrates all things elegant, especially when it comes to le chapeau!!!!!

A furry brooch is enhanced with feathers for this "Downton Abbey" inspired look

I'm always on the look out for items that can be transformed into fashion accessories. For this exercise I used one of those little silk jewelry bags, brooches, barrettes and ribbon flowers, all of which can easily be transformed into an elegant hat.
Velvet flower brooch works well as a hat for madame.

I love the "fascinator" worn by Princess Catherine Middleton. They require a base. Not having access to raffia to make straw hats, I decided to use my air dry paper clay. Cut off enough to make a 1/2" or so ball. Flatten it by pressing your thumb in the middle to make it concave. I then continue to shape it on the doll's head. (Choose a doll who's hair is uncomplicated and pulled back.) You can make an assortment of them in different sizes and shapes.
Paper clay hat forms.
When they have dried, feel free to paint them as well. What's great with paper clay is that you can pin, sew or glue things into it. Moreover, it's lightweight and can be held in place with pins (to her hair, not her head). If you don't have access to paper clay, you can also create a base using a round of felt. for that I cut a circle, then make a single slash to the mid-point of the circle. Layer over a bit to create a slightly conical shape, on top of which we can add our elements.
A cut flower barrette from H&M makes a lovely flower hat.
Circle of felt & lace creates the hat below.
For the first "fascinator," I took an 8 inch length of "hem tape" lace (easily found at sewing stores in the notions department). I ran a running stitch along the top third of the lace. Pull the thread to gather, then stitch. Fan out the lace and drape around your base. Here, I've added a tiny bead and a couple plumes of feathers for a very elegant look. I admit, I was tempted to add crème colored tulle, however, that would have given it more of a wedding dress look (which was not my goal for today).

I also like the use of tulle which adds so much drama to a look. The red had begins with one of my bases. I take a wad of red tulle wrapped around my had three times. Tie in the middle with a thin red ribbon and fluff out. You can hot wax it or stitch to the base.
A few loops of tulle tied with a ribbon atop the base.
I also like the idea of the petal hat. I took an 18x3 inch length of grey chiffon. Cut into irregular circles. Then layering three at a time, pinch in the middle and stitch the base. I made about 5 of these clusters which I then stitched in place around the crown of the base.

Finally, you can find those tiny silk ribbon flowers. I pinned a bunch to a narrow base. Afterwards I wrapped a bit of red tulle around the whole thing and tied it with ribbon.
Start with the base. Add flowers, a bit of tulle and tie with ribbon.
Paper clay base+chiffon circles in a cluster. Tie the point & add to the base.

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Two smaller ribbon roses clipped on to a larger silk rose, pinched in the back.

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The same tie-dyed fabric wrapped around her head.
Jewelry bags make great whimsical summer hats!!!
Congratulations to Treve...this year's winner of the Prix de Diane Longines.

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