published Monday, April 11th, 2011

Kate Middleton helps popularize hat trend

Award-winning milliner Carol Schaffeld, 53, sits among a selection of her hats at her store, Peaches Fine Millinery, in downtown Chickamauga, Ga.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press
Award-winning milliner Carol Schaffeld, 53, sits among a selection of her hats at her store, Peaches Fine Millinery, in downtown Chickamauga, Ga. Staff Photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press

HOUSTON HAT LUNCHEON

Carol Schaffeld of Peaches Fine Millinery in Chickamauga, Ga., will be a guest of honor at the Houston Hat Luncheon, a fundraiser for the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts, on April 30 at the Mountain City Club in Chattanooga. The event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the museum and the 135th birthday of the museum’s benefactor, Anna Safley Houston, who was a milliner. The event will showcase hats from local private collections. For more information, call 267-7176.

Every woman needs a hat, said Carol Schaffeld of Chickamauga, Ga.

Schaffeld, an award-winning milliner, has two of her original creations on display at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Ky. She is all abuzz that England’s soon-to-be-princess, Kate Middleton, is reintroducing the fashion accessory to a generation of young women.

Schaffeld, 53, who spent most of her formative years in Europe, has been a fan of hats since she was a child. After moving to the United States when she was a junior in high school, Schaffeld was disappointed to learn that here hats were out of fashion.

Thanks, in part, to Middleton, the hat is edging its way back into the fashion picture, Schaffeld said.

“Most people don’t realize that Kate’s love of hats surfaced about three years ago,” Schaffeld said. “The trade magazine The Hat, out of London, has been featuring her for quite awhile. Her style is fascinating a lot of young people.”

Arlene Goldstein, vice president of trend merchandising and fashion direction for Belk, said Middleton is the “queen” of hats.

“She loves hats and can pull off wearing even the most eccentric ones,” Goldstein said. “In England, it’s cultural. The British have always loved hats. I think we [Americans] will look at what she wears, and the results will evolve. Personally, I love a hat in the summer. The idea of a floppy hat like we wore in the 1970s is becoming even more important as we move into the next season.”

Goldstein said Belk sells a lot of hats. “It’s a beautiful accessory. I think the more women wear them, the more other women will step out of their comfort zone and wear them, too.”

Schaffeld is counting on it. Three years ago, she opened Peaches Fine Millinery in downtown Chickamauga, Ga., to showcase and sell her ever-growing collection of vintage, new and handmade hats. Selling her hats is the hard part, she said.

“I hate parting with them. I love my hats,” she said, pointing out a couple of her favorites — a pink bonnet she wore as a baby and a pill-box style adorned with colorful flowers.

The former French teacher changed professional gears about seven years ago after attending a millinery workshop in Nashville. Milliners are “a small group,” she said, “but more people are becoming interested.”

Schaffeld said one of the most popular hats today is called a fascinator. It can be anything from an embellished hair accessory to a hat attached to a band or comb, called a “hatinator,” that perches on the side of the head.

Schaffeld is selective about the hats she adds to her collection and about who buys them.

“I’ve made a pact to myself about the vintage hats. I will not sell them to someone who wants them for a Halloween costume,” she said. “The vintage hats I buy have been well kept. Most have been stored in the boxes they came in, and many still have the receipts in the boxes. I want them to be respected.”

Schaffeld also sells vintage and new children’s hats, including traditional Easter bonnets for girls and wool caps for boys.

Until the end of May, Schaffeld will be busy at work designing a hat to enter in this year’s hat contest sponsored by the Kentucky Derby Museum.

“All I know at this point is that my focus will be color. The hat has to be one that stands out in a crowd,” she said.

Her 2010 award-winning hat, affectionately named “Eloise” after her mother, took much longer to construct than will this year’s entry.

“I used 85 yards of ribbon to make the 25 roses I used on the hat,” she said. “It took me a year to make. Everything was done by hand. No glue was used.”

Royal Wedding
about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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