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Millinery Confections

January 15, 2010 by Jacki Apple in Fashion, Features with 0 Comments
  • Hat Designs by Louise Green
  • Words by Jacki Apple
  • Photography by Alyssa Lavine

Lisa Marie • Dress: Vintage Sonia RykielThere was a time, way back in the 20th century, when a hat was de rigueur for any cosmopolitan woman or man, not merely for special occasions, but as an essential part of one’s wardrobe. In recent decades, real hats seemed to have been superseded by the handbag as the primary accessory. But hats are back with a different signification and status. (We’re not talking here about baseball caps, or those dreadful knit things, pulled down over greasy hair, that can only be called head coverings.)

Hats are sexy! Unlike a bag, a hat frames the face. It can broadcast taste, style, glamour, confidence, originality, personality, wit, imagination. It can suggest courage or conformity, be playful or serious, flirtatious, seductive, bold or bashful. A hat is expressive. It sends a message, and in the dressed-down, anything goes, flip-flop and t-shirt uniformity of contemporary Los Angeles, designer and milliner Louise Green knows that a hat can make a statement that distinguishes you and sets you apart. And so do her legions of customers. From the celebrities who come to her for custom designed chapeaus, to the young and old fashionistas who flock to her sample sales, to the men who know a good fedora can set off a suit, or jeans, and turn heads. For Hollywood stylists, hip musicians, museum council ladies that lunch, and especially African-American Sunday church women, because nobody knows hats better, or wears them with greater panache than they do!

When the British-born Green came to Los Angeles in the 1980s, she had the good fortune to fall under the tutelage of two women who were masters of custom-made fashion headwear – Mrs. King, and the late Wilma Rey Gordon who held hat-making gatherings in her View Park home. There, Green honed the high level of craft that is the foundation of her art.

Green’s esthetic is romantic, elegant and witty. Vintage-inspired cloches and picture hats with shaped brims dominate her collections. But it is the imaginative combinations of color and materials in her trimmings – custom-made silk flowers in an array of patterns and textures, leaves, grosgrains, embroidered ribbons, laces, feathers, touches of beading, or veiling – that distinguish her handmade couture designs. They make each hat an individual personal statement and conjure up just the right amount of cinematic fantasy.

A stroll through the aisles of Green’s workroom reveals her vast collection of new and vintage textiles and accessories, and hat blocks from the 20s, 30s, and 40s. It reminded me of the back streets of the old Les Halles market neighborhood in Paris with its little shops housing dusty boxes of velvet flowers, antique ribbons, and exotic feathers, before it was bulldozed in the early 1970s.

Green’s “fascinator” hats are an assemblage of trimmings atop a little clip-on headband that sits perched flirtatiously at a cocky angle. A must-have accessory, they add glamour or sassy sophistication to well-styled hair, like a unique piece of jewelry on a simple black dress. Or, like Billie Holiday’s gardenia, a customized Green “fascinator” can easily become a personal signature.

For Spring 2010, Green has added a delicious new confection called the Doll Hat that was inspired by Impressionist paintings. Think of those miniature brimmed hats worn by Renoir, Manet, and Cassett’s fashionable Parisian women, with a contemporary twist. We can also look forward to a light airy collection of sheer textures, lacy sisal, shades of vanilla, ivory and cream, a cloche in a new ribbon weave jute, big soft brims. and one of my favorites, an exquisite shallow crowned hat with flowers under the brim beside the face rather than above. And for something a bit more tailored, there are the very chic black and white combinations, while soft metallics of pale silvers and coppers add dressier luster. The Spring Collection also features sporty fedoras, and even a couple of bowlers for the guys!

Style is all about attitude. Whether you want to attract admiring glances, or just perk up your day, try a Green chapeau. Instead of another short-lived electronic device, invest in a hat. Be alluringly elegant, coquettish, or a noir femme fatale. Be fabulous.

Following is a sampling of the Louise Greene collection.

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Louise Green Millinery Co.
1616 Cotner Avenue (1/2 block north of Santa Monica Blvd @ 405 Freeway)
West Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 479-1881

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About Jacki Apple

Jacki Apple is a Los Angeles-based visual, performance, and media artist, designer, writer, composer, and producer whose work has been presented internationally. Her writings have been featured in numerous publications including THE magazine, The Drama Review, Art Journal, and High Performance. She is a professor at Art Center College of Design. Originally from New York, she was the first curator at Franklin Furnace in the 1970s.

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