“A topper is a topper and you can’t top that.” -Roger Miller, “The Hat”
It’s a shame to see so many Chicago heads emblazoned with the logo of a sports team. Baseball teams show regional boundaries. Football provides a unifying ursine presence. Would that the City of Big Shoulders show a little more pride atop its noggin? Fortunately, there are milliners to provide the service.
Cassel Goorin began selling hats in Pittsburgh in 1895. His sons moved the business to San Francisco in 1949. Now the Goorin Brothers have Chicago stores in Lakeview and Wicker Park. Lady or Gent, you can’t go wrong with their Heritage Collection. Tina Flapper is a very fine cloche, and her sisters are also diesel-punk evocative. The Flying Private and White Rabbit are timely variations on the top hat.
Hats Plus offers an extremely wide variety of toppers. Colors and styles abound at this Portage Park shop at the Irving Park/Milwaukee/Cicero six corners. Prices are generally quite reasonable. If you’re looking for a hat you can use for modification (adding gears, moving clock parts, or a hand-cranked lamp), turn the Milwaukee corner and visit Fantasy Headquarters. Hats and costumes abound. Just avoid rolling your eyes at the steampunk display.
The Oakton Street Antique Center in Elk Grove, IL, has a pretty good selection of Victorian or Edwardian styled ladies’ and men’s hats at reasonable prices and in good condition. Shabbier hats could use a good home, too. You can fix or mod a hat with some damage (and a lower price) and give it a new life!
If you’re going to mod or make, Hobby Lobby has a small selection of doll hats that can be used for tiny top hats and fascinators. They range from toppers to wide-brimmed (for a doll) straw hats. Add some clock hands, damask ribbon, fabric or an assortment of the steampunk themed accoutrements that they have started carrying. The hats are as easy to sew through as sewing a button. Grab a hot glue gun, watch a YouTube tutorial and with a little practice you can come up with some unique designs.
If you want to up the ante, take a millinery class. They are available at Eia Millinery Design, The Fashion Design Departments at the College of DuPage, Columbia College, Illinois Institute of Art and the International Academy of Design & Technology.
(by Joe Mason and Renee J. Knowles Lebbing)