GLAMOUR: Patricia Balmer with fellow milliner Ann Boyle.
GLAMOUR: Patricia Balmer with fellow milliner Ann Boyle.

Flourishing features on extraordinary hats

A BEAUTIFULLY crafted hat is a head-turner, especially at race meetings and Patricia Balmer's hats are all works of art worthy of a place in a museum.

Considering she is self-taught and does not follow conventional millinery techniques this is quite an achievement.

Some of her striking headwear will star at the Emporium Hotel's Exquisite Hats & High Tea event on Sunday, April 23, along with hats by fellow milliners Flora Fascinata and Ann Boyle.

"I just got into it because a friend I went to the races with told me I had to wear a hat," Patricia said.

Finding inspiration from the colourful parrots on her acreage property, Patricia just let her natural creativity loose and learnt on the job.

"I am a hairdresser," she said.

"I have always loved going to the races, the fashions on the field. I have always been a little bit arty. Hairdressers are like that. I would go (to the races) and wouldn't wear a hat and finally my friend said 'if you are coming, you have to wear one. Make your own'. That's how I started."

That was nine years ago and Patricia's designs, under the label Tricia Ann Millinery, were soon sought after and sold through the (then) Hat Box.

"I was lucky enough to be introduced to the Hat Box to retail the hats and I kept working full-time as a hairdresser," she said.

"I used to sell a lot of hats. I changed my style every year. You have to do that."

Patricia puts her millinery success down to a lack of convention and no formal study at all.

"I did a couple of classes but I never studied," she said.

"I have taught myself. You learn. You work things out for yourself. I find not going to college helped me. I am different. At college everyone learns the same things."

Patricia, who does not want reveal her age but admits to being a seasoned senior, plans to keep on making hats as long as people want them.

She uses beautiful fabrics for her hats: leather and velours in winter, silks in summer.

"I use different types of leather, make leather flowers for winter and silk flowers for summer. I love looking at fashion hats but I never tend to copy. I don't plan or think too much about it. It wouldn't work out if I did."

The Emporium Hotel Exquisite Hats & High Tea event will present the three milliners and their work as well as special guest and international Fashions on the Field winner, Mildred Ellwood. More information and tickets at website:  

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