Judges take hats off to Carolyn

DAILY GRIND A hat can turn heads and make its wearer feel like amil­lion dollars. There’s some­thing about head­wear that had award-win­ning mas­ter milliner Carolyn Gib­son hooked from the start. Re­porter Jess Lee sat down with Ms Gib­son to see why the hat is

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Carolyn Gib­son has seen the hat in­dus­try go through its ups and downs but millinery will al­ways have its place, she says.

The mas­ter milliner has just bagged an­other award for one of her cre­ations at the Bris­bane Millinery Con­ven­tion this month, mak­ing a clean sweep of the Mys­tery Hat Com­pe­ti­tion.

It is a trade that has seen her go from an ap­pren­tice­ship in Christchurch at the age of 15 to cre­at­ing hats for the New Zealand Opera Com­pany and in­ter­na­tional cos­tume de­sign­ers.

‘‘My mother said to me, ‘Carolyn, hair­dressers are a dime a dozen, but there won’t be very many milliners’.’’

In fact, she did end up work­ing as a hair­dresser for more than a decade but she re­mains one of the few mas­ter milliners prac­tis­ing to­day.

It was the larger than life hair­styles of the 1980s that put a cap on the num­ber of hats be­ing sold and forced her to learn a new trade.

‘‘No-one could put a hat on that.

‘‘The hair­styles re­ally killed the hat in­dus­try for a while.’’

The younger mem­bers of the royal fam­ily have se­cured the hat a place on the 21st cen­tury head, she says.

Dur­ing her four years of train­ing in the early 1960s she learned ev­ery as­pect of millinery in­clud­ing the in­tri­cate art of wiring, bead­ing and sol­der­ing bri­dal head­pieces.

She con­tin­ues to pass on her tricks of the trade to novice hat­mak­ers from her Mt Al­bert store Le Cha­peau.

It is re­ally im­por­tant to pass on the tra­di­tional meth­ods she was taught all those years ago, she says.

‘‘I won’t teach a fast way of putting any­thing to­gether, it goes against the grain. You have to know the rules to break the rules.

‘‘The comment I of­ten hear from peo­ple is ‘gosh, no won­der hats cost so much be­cause they take so long’.’’

Young de­sign­ers are han­ker­ing af­ter more op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn the art of hat­mak­ing, she says.

‘‘It’s a very old trade and it’s ter­ri­ble that it’s dy­ing out.

‘‘But we are try­ing to re­vive it and it is be­ing re­vived, but we need more ex­po­sure in New Zealand.’’

A ba­sic hat can take as lit­tle as three hours to put to­gether while her more ex­trav­a­gant cre­ations take three weeks.

She prefers a ‘‘real’’ hat to a smaller head­piece.

‘‘I like a hat that makes an im­pact. The hat should carry the out­fit rather than fin­ish­ing it off.’’

There is a hat head, she says.

‘‘It’s like a pair of shoes – if you think you can’t wear them you just haven’t found the right one that fits yet.’’

for ev­ery


Heads up: Mas­ter milliner Carolyn Gib­son has been cre­at­ing head­wear since the 1960s.

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