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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview With Vintage Milliner and Blogger-Tanith Rowan

A few weeks ago I posted about my fabulous new summer hat, a mid century style coolie hat made for me by hat designer and vintage blogger Tanith Rowan.  From my dealings with Tanith and reading her blog I can tell she is lovely person and a fantastic designer with a true appreciation for vintage millinery.  I asked her if she would let me interview her for my blog and to my delight she agreed.  The interview is below:

1) What attracted you to hats and designing them?

I've always had a soft spot for hats. They are fun to wear and can transform the way you look so quickly, so I always liked to play dress up with them. My mum is also a hat lover, and looks great in any hat, so that helped plant the seeds too. As I got older, I developed an interest in historical costume and vintage fashion, and hats were a big part of that, and I started to collect a few vintage hats.

When it came to making and designing hats, I sort of stumbled on to that! I made a few for fancy dress costumes and there was something about the process that appealed to me more than making clothes. With encouragement from my sister, who bought me my first hat making book, I explored the world of millinery further.

What has been so special about hats for me is that they have kept my interest for years. I have always enjoyed making things, and tried many creative pursuits, but hats are the first thing I haven't gotten bored of. The design possibilities are limitless, the process is so enjoyable, and there is so much inspiration out there. I will never get to make all the hats that I want to, and never try all the techniques I want to, even if I work at it my whole life! And I hope I will.

2) How did you become a hat designer? What training did you go through?

I guess I would call my training "self directed"! I started learning hat making techniques from books, then did some workshops with an experienced theatrical milliner who lived near me. Over the years I've combined learning from milliners, in workshops and individual tuition, with online learning, books and experimentation! Learning from others has been invaluable, but there is so much information out there and so much to learn from just trying to achieve something and working away at it.

3) Do you have a favorite era of hat design?

Image from Chroncially Vintage

Every era has so much going for it and the more you research them the more you find to love. My favourite is probably the late 30s and early 40s, simply because there was such a wide range of styles in fashion, from some simple elegant hats to really extravagant ones. They also featured so many silhouettes, and such unique trims and design elements. I love the tilt hats, face-framing halo hats, elegant much goodness! The designs were really bold and artistic.

4) Do you remember the first hat you sold? 

I sold some to friends and family early on, and I'm not sure what was first there, but I do remember the first hat of mine that sold to a stranger. It was in a shop, so I never met her, but I'm told she looked fabulous in the hat. It was a red felt tilt hat with a feather arrow and a bow of veiling at the back, in black, and I was so proud of that hat! In fact, it has been immortalised in the illustration in my logo (in blue instead), and I love having that design as a permanent part of my business now.

5) Do you wear hats yourself a lot? Do you have a favorite hat? 

To be honest, I am still on my own hat-wearing journey. I love them, but I am not really a confident dresser and sometimes hats take confidence! Because of my business, I am trying to push the edges of my comfort zone all the time. I do usually wear something on my head, whether it's a hat or a scarf or flower, but the bolder styles are still a work in progress.

I also am usually focused on hats for the business and put off making them for myself, so I don't have as many as I'd like! At the moment my favourite winter hat is a red beret and my favourite summer hat is a straw boater I refashioned from a second-hand hat. I'd like to make myself a felt cloche this winter, because it is one of my favourite styles to make, but I don't have one of my own!

6) You do a lot of custom work, was there an assignment that was a particular favorite? 

Image from Chronically Vintage

Let me make a confession: there is always at least one moment in a custom piece where I hate it and wish I hadn't said yes! But that is because they are often something new and therefore present a challenge, and in the end it is also why I love doing them. They always make me learn a new skill or think in a different way.

My favourite so far is probably the winged hat I made for Jessica Cangiano. I love vintage hats with birds or wings on them, but prefer not to work with feathers, so I made the wings out of felt, cutting individual feather shapes and forming the wings from them. The hat is still one of my all-time favourites, and I've continued exploring the technique in other hats since then. 

7) Why do you think people so shy about wearing hats? Do you have any words of encouragement for hat newbies?

There are so many reasons, and I feel many of them myself. I think the biggest thing is that we fear being "wrong" with our fashion choices. Our worry about making a fashion mistake is stronger than our desire to express ourselves the way we want and our desire to look fabulous. Hats are particularly difficult because they inherently make a statement. Because hats are not a necessary part of an outfit these days, wearing one is a very purposeful act. And that draws attention to you. So people will notice a hat, and although you will often get compliments wearing one, we worry that it will also attract negative comments or judgements. 

But the way that hats make a statement is also their power, if you embrace it. It transforms you and your outfit. I feel more confident in a hat, and sort of special. Like I know something other people don't.

If you are not a regular hat wearer, start with finding your comfort zone and then slowly expand it. You might start with hats that are more common but still stylish, like berets in winter and nice straw hats in summer. Also, wear a hat with your favourite outfits, so you have the maximum confidence level to start with! I think we all need a dose of the positive vibes to help us get over our fears.

8) What are your future plans for your business? Are there any new areas you would like to explore? 

There are always new things I want to explore! I have to stop myself from biting off more than I can chew, especially since I am working with a young toddler at home and have limited hours for my business.

I am currently working with some bloggers on collaboratively designed mini-collections, the first of which will be ready in the next couple of months. I also recently bought a small hat block to make some young children's hats, still in a vintage style.

In the longer term, I am preparing to release sewing patterns for fabric hats. It is still early days on that project. In fact, this is the first time I've publicly mentioned it! That's a bit scary for me still but also very exciting. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. I love to teach and help other people so the opportunity to do more of that will be wonderful.

Thank you so much Tanith for letting me interview you!


  1. Great interview! She has put a lot of talent and learning into her hats. It does take confidence to wear hats as she points out.

  2. I love hats. It took me a long time not to mind that I was the only one in sight that was wearing one.

  3. This is a great interview! I love the idea of young children's hats in vintage style :-)

  4. My mom loves old hats, and old hat boxes. Thanks for the sharing...stella rose

  5. Great and very informative post! I love hats, but to my shame must admit that I hardly ever wear one. xxx

  6. Great interview! Wonderful idea for a post!

  7. Stellar interview, ladies! Thank you both very much for making me a part and my blog a part if it through your kind mentions and photo inclusions.

    I just loved learning more about Tanith and am excited to hear/see more about the mini collections with fellow bloggers that she mentioned. So exciting!

    Awesome work, both of you!

    xoxoxo ♥ Jessica

  8. There is so much scope in making hats. Never really thought of the myriad of styles....

  9. Fantastic interview! I've only recently discovered Tanith but really love her work and I'm already thinking of what I want to order from her. I'm intrigued by the hat patterns she's going to be releasing. Sewing my own hat is something I've considered giving a go, although it terrifies me! xx

  10. What a fantastic Interview! Tanith is so wonderful and I hope to own one of her hats very soon. Thank you for letting me get to know her a bit better.

    Liz :)

  11. Awesome interview! I've seen Tanith's work in both your blog and on the Chronically Vintage blog and didn't even realize it was by the same woman! Gorgeous designs. And that is so fun hearing about what she has in store next!

  12. Great interview. Tanith is so talented and very lovely too!


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