NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – At Suzanne Couture Millinery on the Upper East Side, the hats are as detailed as works of art.
“Most of my hats are special occasion hats,” said owner Suzanne Newman, who handles every aspect of custom hat-making from design to weaving.
The hats are in highest demand for events such as the Kentucky Derby, the Royal Ascot, and the Central Park Conservancy’s Hat Luncheon.
“March, April, and May are the three busiest months of the year because of the weddings, the luncheons, the horse races,” she said.
Some of her hats are worn to royal affairs.
“I have had a couple of hats go to Meghan Markle’s wedding and Eugenie’s wedding,” she said.
Newman says that her prices, which start around $400, reflect the caliber of the craftsmanship.
“They’re all one of a kind, and nothing’s mass-produced,” she said.
Newman’s collection ranges from the understated to the dramatic.
“What you wear to a horse race can be much more elaborate than what you wear out to a luncheon or dinner.”
She hopes the wearer feels confident in a Suzanne hat.
“It’s something fun and creative to wear and show your individuality,” she said.
Her custom designs take into account both personal style and the dimensions of the client’s head.
“I am able very quickly to decipher which hat will look good on a certain person,” she said.
And with some styles, you can’t go wrong.
“A woman always looks lovely in a big-brimmed hat,” she said.
There is etiquette associated with headwear, for instance, at a wedding.
“I think you can’t be there and outshine the bride,” she said.
Functionality is key.
“You don’t wear a hat to a dinner where the brim of the hat exceeds the width of your shoulders so that the waiter bumps into you, or you bump into the person next to you. You don’t wear a big hat to the theater so nobody can see behind you,” she said. “That’s what gives hats a bad name is when you’re wearing the wrong hat with the wrong outfit to the wrong occasion.”
Styles tend to fall in and out of favor.
“Whatever Chanel puts on the runway is what everybody wants,” she said.
Even the way a hat is worn can change—a boater hat, traditionally perched toward the forehead, is now often worn on the back of the head.
“I think Coco Chanel would turn over in her grave if she saw that,” she said.
As trends come and go, overall interest seems to be growing.
“There’s much more interest in hats now than ten years ago,” she said.
She credits stars like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Lady Gaga for popularizing creative headwear.
But it’s not just for celebrities—Newman says hats are for everyone.
“It’s all about attitude,” she said.
Suzanne Couture Millinery
136 E 61st Street
New York, NY 10065
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