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The Derby Hat - A Miliner's Tale

A Milliner’s Tale

mil·li·ner  (ml-nr) n.


One that makes, trims, designs, or sells hats.
[Probably alteration of Middle English Milener, native of Milan, from Milan, the source of goods such as bonnets and lace.]
I bet after reading this you’ll never use the word “hatmaker” again.  It seems so…plebian.
Allow me to introduce you to the master milliner: Philip Treacy. (Think Royal Wedding, where all the hats and fascinators were made by him)  Do you think he could design a little something for moi for the Derby? Probably not.
Like jewelers, dress-makers and anyone that designs anything, I am always fascinated by the process. 
Recently, I got to go behind the scenes to see the process at Headcandi, a local millinery owned by Britni Knable.  I wanted to know what the secret was to making a good hat.
We’ve all been to Dee’s and Michael’s in search of that perfect ribbon or accessory for our hats at Derby.  Some turn out great, others….well let’s just say they are no Philip Treacy or Britni Knable.  As my friend visiting town at Derby said “it looks like all of Aisle 14 at Michael’s is on that hat.”

Every feather and ribbon from Michael’s is on this hat.

Britni enlightened me as to the components of a great hat or fascinator.








Basically a ton of inventory here (this was just a smidgen of an entire wall of clear bins):


And all that makes this:

Simple beautiful colorful fascinator.


And this beauty too.  This one is a $500 hat.  I’ve never worn $500 on my head, but I can feel the difference immediately.  It is heavy and fits perfectly.  The black feathers are hand-cut into those triangle shapes.


Here is the key.  She has all this beautiful inventory, but opts for a more simplistic chic.  She says it is always better to pick three great accessories over 20 little ones.  Quality over quantity.

Britni studied at the Illinois Institute of Arts in Chicago and studied under a Chicago milliner.  She had always sewn, but found that designing clothes was tedious compared to hats.  She loved making hats and bridal head wear.  She moved home and started Headcandi.  She also is a manager at Dress & Dwell in New Albany, where she sells her hats, fascinators and bridal headpieces and veils as well.

Her first fascinator, made in college.

She hand sews all of her hats.  She makes ready-to-wear and custom hats and fascinators.  Hats start at $178  and fascinators at $68.


She gave me some great tips and pointers on how to wear hats and fascinators:

  • Do your hair and fasten it separately for a fascinator.  Don’t expect the fascinator to be able to hold all of your hair.  She recommends bobby pinning your hair up if you are using a comb-based fascinator and bobby pinning over the headband on a headband-based fascinator.
  • If you have short hair, opt for a fascinator.  Otherwise your hat can make you look like a boy.
  • Most importantly:  don’t pull back all your hair in the headband fascinator.  Just pop in the middle of your head, around your hairdo.

WRONG! You are not going to wash your face, you are going to the Derby.


RIGHT. Just pop it into the middle of your head.


You can find Britni’s Headcandi hats and fascinators at Dress & Dwell in New Albany, Clodhoppers, Rodeo Drive and Bella Rose in Lexington.  She also makes custom hats; you can bring in your dress or just your vision and she can create a beauty for you.

Custom hat ready to be created.


To order a custom hat by Britni, click here to contact her, or here for more information.  You can also reach her by phone at 643-2425.

I don’t want to see any of you before Derby with an cart full of feathers, ribbons and flowers in Aisle 14 at Michael’s.  Simple is chic.




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