Meet local milliner Elizabeth Edwards
When award-winning local fashion designer Elizabeth Edwards discovered millinery five years ago she knew she’d found her calling. Kate O’neill recently visited her colourful riverside shop in Cherry Street, Ballina to find out more.
When did you first become interested in hat design, did you always want to be a milliner?
I think I first fell in love with fabrics and fashion as a child listening to my Mum talk about whipping up a dress for the Saturday night dances and I was enthralled about stories of the Sydney milliner who in a flurry could create a hat with feathers and straw to match your dress. I’ve always been drawn to the millinery section in a department store, becoming a milliner seems to have been a natural progression.
What do you love about hats ?
It’s hard not to smile when your wearing a hat. I see customers try on a hat and you see the transformation, the joy on their face. Hats can be fun, make you feel beautiful, set off an outfit and complement your personal style.
What was the pathway to owning your own business, and where are you now ?
I first started sewing classes in the tiny village of Federal at Rural Youth, I immediately felt comfortable with the art of needlework I became the state dressmaking champion at 16. After
finishing a Diploma in Fashion teaching and design through Lismore and Newcastle TAFE I became a fashion teacher and developed my own label O’posso children’s wear, taking out North Coast Designer of the Year 1991. I bought Riverside Clothing Alterations five years ago and expanded the business to include dressmaking. I started attending USQ to study millinery after a rep mentioned they hold intensive millinery classes, I met some wonderful millinery teachers and I fell in love with the art. I have since attended many millinery courses. I now stock
Elizabeth Louise Millinery with ready to wear and made to measure.
What is the process when designing a hat?
I love collaborating with a client to customise a piece of millinery that reflects their own personal style. I’ll start with talking about the colours, fabrics, silhouette and line of the headpiece. I work with the client’s outfit, many times I have altered the garment and have the off cuts to work with which I can incorporate into the headpiece.we will discuss the occasion or event. A bespoke millinery piece takes three weeks to complete. I’ll work with a wooden millinery block or I’ll free sculpt a piece depending on the style and feel of the headpiece.
How does a hand crafted hat differ from a mass produced hat you pick up off the rack?
A handcrafted hat is just that, it’s unique and handmade, it has attention to detail with beautiful quality fabrics and craftsmanship. A handcrafted hat is something you’ll treasure and will become a staple in your wardrobe. Its taken time to create and is a small work of art.
Is the racing season your busiest time, what other occasions do people buy hats for?
The racing season is a busy time for milliners. I’m currently working on orders for Melbourne Cup and the Darwin Cup. The Royal Family is good for milliners. I make hats and headpieces for weddings, festivals and everyday wear.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I thrive on creativity, millinery ticks all the boxes. It’s a challenging art form and incorporates all my acquired sewing and design skills. A headpiece is sculptural and has to look beautiful and balanced from every angle. It has movement and direction, it’s a 3D reality. While I’m working on a hat I get lost in the beautiful process of crafting a handmade piece, it becomes meditative and satisfying. I recently attended Hat Week Australia and was privileged to learn new techniques, be inspired and network with internationally recognised Australian milliners — what’s not to enjoy.
Tips for wearing a hat?
Your facial features and overall shape are important factors for choosing the right hat or headpiece. The placement of the hat is important, a piece might work best by tilting it, or wearing it slightly back or forward. Wearing your hair up might be the answer for a certain shape. Try lots of different shapes to experiment to find your best style. I think everyone can wear a hat, I say smaller the lady bigger the hat.
Elizabeth designs and creates her hats in her studio, Elizabeth Louise Designs, in Cherry St Ballina.