“Great American Women and Their Hats: Costumes From History”

Laura Spears, a recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin’s MFA program in design and technology, has graciously donated a series of beautiful hats that she designed after historical women of inspiration. The hats will be auctioned at NWHM’s de Pizan Honors on October 9, 2013. Over the next three weeks (on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays), we will feature a spotlight on each of the eight hats that will be auctioned. To start off the series, Ms. Spears shares her inspiration for creating the project:

By: Laura Spears

Great American Women and Their Hats: Costumes From History is a project I conceived as a graduate student in the department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin. Each MFA design and technology graduate must generate an original project as part of their master’s thesis. We are encouraged to combine our own passions and interests with our chosen field of study. In my case, costume production for the performing arts.

One of the reasons I was drawn to costuming is my love of history. In a play, a movie, an opera, or a dance, the look of the garments is not drawn from thin air. Each costume is rooted in research, history, and character analysis. A costume designer is truly a historian and an anthropologist.

In order to design and construct these eight hats, the milliners used a process similar to that of costume designers. The hats were all inspired by a character, in this case eight women from American history. Each milliner used primary source historical research, such as photographs, paintings, vintage clothing advertisements, and more in creating their design and executing the construction of the hat.

I was inspired to create this project in order to influence positive discourse about women. Telling the stories and histories of American women is important, because knowledge of their achievements and contributions builds respect for women and creates role models for other women. These hats are a beautiful representation and celebration of the women that wore them.

Five of these hats were created for my master’s thesis. I invited three other University of Texas costume technology students and alumni to contribute to the project as well. Becca Miller, Nellie Kurz, and Emily Robertson each lent their talents to the project in creating one of these hats.

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