This is a Fascinator made for the Kentucky Derby. What is a Fascinator, you may be asking? It is a hat that has gained in popularity since Kate Middleton began wearing these precariously perched feathered creations on her head. The Fascinator is a particularly ornate accessory that can feature feathers, beads, flowers and other fancy trimmings. Fascination over the Fascinator is growing in the United States, with Google searches up 50% for this style of hat since January. Hats–that’s what brought us to Magar Hatworks in Charleston–and we weren’t disappointed.
Leah Magar has been described as a 21ist-century hat maker. She uses old-fashioned hat making techniques with a fashion-forward vision in creating her quirky, Sunday-best hats. She uses the technique of blocking to make and stitch hats by hand. In fact, she has a collection of museum quality hat blocks lined all around her showroom. Here are a few examples of the many hat blocks she owns.
But my friend and I were at Magar Hatworks to buy some hats. You see, I am obsessed with hats and when my friend talked about the hat shop, we knew we had to go. Honestly, even though I love men and women in hats, I only own two hats and they are recent purchases. The reason? I believe that I have the biggest head in recorded history. There were signs of this before I fully realized it myself. I have an aunt who says that as a new-born baby I was “all head”. I could never, ever wear a baseball cap without it squeezing off my head. Sporting ventures like football required the school to special-order head gear. However, it was call outs from folks in college and then in the work place about the hugeness of my head that made me finally get the measuring tape out and take a reading. I am proud to communicate that my head is approximately 26 inches in circumference. It was confirmed by a measurement at Magar Hatworks. For the most part, that is a very small person’s waist. After my initial measurement, Leah Magar said in astonishment that she didn’t have a hat form big enough to block out a hat for me. After she saw my sad eyes and face, she relented. She knew how bad I wanted a hat. You know how it is when you want something so bad and you are told that you can’t have it. She is now making three for me!
Here is a view of some of the hats that Leah makes. The straw hats are there for the end of the Spring/Summer season and the others are for Fall/Winter. For the colder season, there were hats of felt, wool and cashmere that were all dyed in great colors and adorned with various notions. I ordered one straw hat and two heavier wool hats for the Winter. My friend bought two straws and is throwing serious hints to her husband about this wonderful Winter hat she needs as a Christmas present.
I have to believe that old-time hat making like what Leah Magar of Magar Hatworks is doing is a dying occupation. When my friends and family see me walking around with my hats on, I want them to know it is not so much for the fashion statement but more about the fact that an art like this can’t cease to exist. What a skill! Oh, and by the way, if anyone laughs when my big head puts a hat on, I may just have to strap on that big Kentucky Derby Fascinator instead. That will give them something to laugh about! When was the last time you wore a hat?