Susan Taylor
home style tips

For Derby weekend: Susan’s 1990’s Hat Line

This time of year, as the Derby season approaches, I am always filled with fond memories of the hat line I created and sold to Nordstrom nationwide and Barney’s NYC. It was a busy time of year and these are some of my all time favorite custom creations. I still own most of my first prototypes and sales samples.

My designs were modeled (and enhanced!) by this darling friend, Lisa. And who wouldn’t want to wear a hat if they looked like this?!

I purchased my ribbons and trims from France and Japan, some of the finest sources for beautiful ribbons. My hats were made in a factory in Philadelphia. There, I would select hat blocks and assorted straws and felts to be blocked into styles I designed. Each season I designed new styles, a spring and fall collection, each with my own woven label stitched into the bands. (I could seriously wallpaper a room with the labels I still have stockpiled!)

Each hat was named, and each hat was available in 3-5 colors. This favorite classic was named “Pretty Woman” (pictured above). Obviously, the well-known film of the 90’s influenced my thought process as I selected this taffeta coin dot ribbon.  My bow tying skills, learned from my sweet mother’s hands, came in handy for my millinery designs!

Oversized parchment flowers were a staple in my designs. I also was on a constant search for vintage millinery grade flowers, of which I still possess at least a case of!

And what’s not to love about this dramatic oversized sunning hat?! Floppy brim with a  wide French organdy ribbon to tie under the chin?! Oh. My. Again, an oversized parchment hydrangea crowns the brim. This really should have made the big screen, right?!

This Derby style was popular for sure. Rolled brim, multiple colors, and totally chic. Each hat was carefully trimmed by me personally, packed in tissue to preserve the bows and loops, labeled and shipped to Nordstroms across the country and several other high end New York boutique stores.

What fun it was not long ago, while my organizing to move, to find my creations and reminisce the developing of each hat design, about 25 per season. Four years later, my first home decor retail store opened on Stony Hill Road in Lower Makefield, and this proved to be the end of my millinery career. I traded it in for my first 400 square foot store!

Twenty-three years later, I’m still fond and happy to call these Susan Taylor creations some of my very favorites. Every time I move the hat boxes and tenderly peer inside, I remember late-night completion deadlines and find the results are still dear to my heart. Creating is such a blessing. A bounty of ideas, city resources, and a factory manager to teach me the ropes were daily events for which I will long remember.

I’m thinking that I’ll gather my samples (maybe keeping a select few for my grandchildren) and have a “Susan Sale.” I think they would be great for costumes, stage, dressups…stay tuned for the date and we’ll have a ball trying them on and taking selfies.