Unless you have been residing on the moon, you couldn’t fail to notice that a bare head is seriously under-dressed. Hats, headpieces, headbands and fascinators- all of these items are having a bit of a style moment. Dita Von Teese favours the 1940s ‘black widow’ veiled looks, Kate Middleton has a neat collection of fascinators, Paloma Faith accessorises most of her outfits with some variety of headgear, whilst Kate Moss has modelled all varieties, from straw boaters at rock star weddings, stylish Trilby’s at summer festivals, to Minnie Mouse style headbands at Disneyland. The old adage ‘If you want to get ahead – get a hat’ has never been truer.
Which is why it is so fabulous that one of the UK’s brightest millinery talents is based in Birmingham. Sally Harper is the force behind ‘Sharper Millinery’. The company, which was established 10 years ago, creates the most beautiful, bespoke, couture hats, head pieces and ‘head sculptures’ directly from customers specifications, using a range of beautiful fabrics including silks, velvet, straw and sinamay. An exclusive consultation service is available for every customer in order to design and then create a totally unique piece of headwear.
I was lucky enough to have a chat with Sally at the Designer Vintage Bridal Show, where she was showcasing a range of her stunning creations. Sally told me her influences for the fabulous creations often come from old photographs from the 1920s and 30s, and are often based on original vintage creations. Icons of style from this period like Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich also provide starting points for design, along with the work of designers like Elsa Schiaparelli, who, through her own elaborate and groundbreaking designs, forged the way for different things to happen in the world of fashion.
Sally uses original fabrics when possible, but this is often difficult, as many hats from the 1920s and 30s were made of silk, which is often fragile and too delicate to be reused. Therefore many of her designs are vintage inspired, such as this 1940s style head sculpture, which resembles the bright and beautiful designs worn by Carmen Miranda in her wartime heyday.
Sally is in big demand for her wedding headwear. The vast majority of this is bespoke wear, it is very rare that a design is bought ‘off the peg’. Although many brides are now abandoning the long, ostentatious veils of yesteryear, there has been a rise in the demand for small, birdcage veils that look glamorous and elegant, with a real 1950s/60s vibe to them. I fell in love with a lovely bow headband with a small veil attached that Sally had on her display at the Designer Vintage Wedding Show because it reminded me of the veil that Audrey Hepburn wore at the end of Funny Face.
Sally loved being part of the Designer Vintage Wedding Show because it seemed like this was the perfect setting for her beautiful, retro designs. Although Sharper Millinery have been involved in more traditional wedding shows, this seemed the natural home for designs that give such a nod to the past.
Brides-to-be are not the only customers for Sharper Millinery. Sally has designed for Mother-of-the-Bride and bridesmaids, as well as stylish wedding guests. She has a loyal clientele of regular race goers who wear Sally’s wonderful creations to Ladies Day at Ascot and Goodwood. The Lady Mayoress of Birmingham has also worn one of Sally’s creations. The rise of fashionista’s like Dita Von Teese and Sarah Jessica Parker who wear hats and headpieces with such finesse has also helped to expand Sharper Millinery’s clientele. The exquisite designs and use of feathers, beads and ribbons make a Sally Harper creation a must-have item for any vintage inspired wardrobe.
To see more of Sally’s designs, please check out the website at http://www.sharpermillinery.co.uk/