Book Review: Studio Secrets Millinery

Image from Amazon.com - click for the original

As I’ve mentioned it once or twice before (!), I’m currently taking a millinery class, and of course that means I’ve been taking a look at different millinery books!  When I first flipped through Studio Secrets Millinery by Estelle Ramousse and Fabienne Gambrelle I was really excited.  So many other millinery books are really focused on dressmaker hats (sewn hats) and just flipping through it, I saw head blocks wired edges and felt, so I had high expectations.

The book starts off with profiles of the one of the two authors, along with a brief profile of her mentor.  The photographs are nice, and show some of the ‘behind the scenes’ that I really liked to see, however the hats themselves aren’t as ‘fabulous’ as I would like to see.  The hats are very wearable and sellable – which shops actually need to be (!) but I also want to see the fabulous inspiration hats as well – the slightly less wearable hats that are full of wonderful ideas to distill.

After the profiles are 12 pages devoted to making…. a (sewn) headband.  They have highly detailed instructions with very clear photographs making the headband, but the surprizing thing – there aren’t any photographs in this section actually of the finished headband.  I found this really unusual, and a bit annoying. I like to see the finished version first before the instructions (to see if I really want to read the section much further) and I also like a finished version at the end as well if possible – possibly a variation or something like that.  Not having a finished version at all – especially with 12 pages of instruction – seems very unusual.

The next hat is a (sewn) cap, a sewn beret, a bibi on a pre-made foundation, and a sewn wide-brimmed hat.  Each of the hats had the same level of attention paid to the steps and photographs which was nice to see.  However again none of them showed the finished product anywhere in the instructions.  I found this really strange – it was obviously a choice versus an editorial ‘oopsie’, but I found it a difficult choice.

The next section is customized ready-made hats.  These also have detailed instructions and good photos, but I didn’t care for this inclusion, as it seems like filler in a book about millinery, rather than something that needed to be included.  I could have imagined something about re-shaping an old hat, or re-sizing a hat being included perhaps – but adding beads to a store-bought knit hat (touque) seems a bit like an afterthought.  It feels as though someone said “hey, this book is X pages and we need XX to make the folio, so do up another three pages, ok?”  There is also a hat made from jeans.  The less said about this one, the better!

Cloche made of stiffened jute

Next, we get into the ‘good stuff’ – starting off with a felt chignon, then a cloche made of stiffened jute covered with velvet and leather.  Both projects have high levels of detail (though not 12 pages!) and good photographs, but again, the projects are missing those finished versions.

Finally, at the very back of the book, are photographs of the finished hats.  They’re well-styled and photographed, but I really would have liked to see them at the beginning of each chapter or at least at the beginning of the book itself.

One note, there are NO patterns in the book whatsoever – there are some ideas for how to draft the pattern yourself for some projects, and for others there is much less – just a picture of the pattern pieces to guide you in creating something similar.  I’d suggest picking up commercially available patterns at least to get you started unless you have experience with pattern drafting.

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2 comments on “Book Review: Studio Secrets Millinery

  1. heather b says:

    Dawn,
    I thought this was a very accurate book review. I have this book and was very excited to receive it, but feel a little disappointed about the actual content. The instructions given aren’t very precise. I would say they give you a very general idea how to complete the hats in the book. I think it has some very good basic hat styles to start from, but if you can complete them from the instructions given I’m not sure. I started making the Chinese-style cap and gave up. I just didn’t feel like it was going well. I had too many questions and actually started rewriting the instructions because they didn’t seem to be in the correct sequence. Maybe information got lost in translation.

    I am currently working on projects from Classic Millinery Techniques by Ann Albrizio. I think this has better instructions for learning how to design hats with a flat pattern.

    From the Neck Up by Denise Dreher is a great millinery reference book full of information. If I have a question about anything I can usually find the answer there.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I look forward to visiting yours to see what you’re working on.

    Heather B.

    • Dawn says:

      I’m sorry to hear that your cap was abandoned… The shape is really interesting, but I agree, I think the instructions are lacking something.

      I’m really enjoying From The Neck Up as well – though sometimes I have questions that I’m not finding in there either (most recently I was looking for information on secondary structures for extra-wide brims…) It’s all a learning process!

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