Amanda Field is a couture milliner who makes stunning hats and headpieces in her North Yorkshire design studio. She’s launched one-day workshops opening up the magical world of millinery. Kathryn Armstrong went along...

No doubt about it, the glamorous young royals are ahead of the game when it comes to headgear.

Kate, Meghan, Eugenie and Beatrice, not to mention all those fabulously turned out guests at Windsor’s wedding of the year in June (yes, we mean you Mrs Clooney). All making a statement with show-stopping hats and headpieces.

Occasion dressing is on the up. Race days, weddings (summer and winter) and high days of any persuasion; they all become an excuse for a hat to be proud of.

Milliner Amanda Field is delighted of course. She has a passion for hat-making  which she followed after striking out of her corporate career world where she was in her words, a ‘frustrated creative’.

She runs the Amanda Field Studio in Helmsley where she creates beautiful bespoke hats and headpieces to suit everyone and every occasion.

She is charming, elegant and fun and particularly good with the people who are ‘forced’ into the unfamiliar world of hats – you know, the reluctant mother of the bride or groom who tell her with a grimace that they’ve ‘got’ to wear a hat.

“Yes, people come to me worried that they’ve ‘got’ to get a hat and don’t want to or are worried about it”, she says.

“It is about finding them the hat that works so they feel comfortable, then the confidence will follow and they will have a ‘presence’ at their event.”

Let’s face it, the hat isn’t a regular in the wardrobe for most people so it can be daunting to be thrust into the world of the big-brimmed hat or full-on fascinator.

“People want to hide their faces but if a hat is made for them it will suit them and frame their face – and they won’t feel shy”, says Amanda.

As a way of bringing the world of millinery to life Amanda has launched some introductory courses based at the lovely Wedding House at the Talbot Hotel in Malton, North Yorkshire.

She can cater for every level of interest and experience but is particularly excited about the ‘Glamorous Girls Get-Ready’ days which include a hat-making experience, afternoon tea and fizz!

These are aimed at groups heading for a day at the races or would be perfect as a hen party where the bride or groom’s mum could walk away with their bespoke headwear for the big day.

We joined Amanda on one of the millinery events and she explained her own creative background.

Amanda trained with Rose Cory, who was the Queen Mother’s milliner, holding a Royal Warrant.

“Couture millinery is about making everything from scratch”, says Amanda. “Sewing everything by hand on to the base and making every aspect of the hat – such as flowers”.

It also means everything she creates is individual in terms of shape, colour and features – from feathers to flowers to bows and shiny buttons.

You’re expected to arrive a novice but Amanda is a great guide and teacher.

You sit round a table that is the stuff of dreams if you want your creativity spark ignited.

Baskets of buttons, rolls of ribbons, platters of petals and fronds of feathers fill the space, ready to inspire. Colours and textures are lavish and lovely. Around the room are examples of Amanda’s finished pieces to inspire you and though at first it all seems overwhelming, Amanda soon sets the scene, guides you to a comfort zone and pops a neat oval of something called ‘pinokpok’ in your hand.

You might have heard of sinamay as a hat-making material? The delightful-sounding pinokpok is a version of the woven material – made from plant fibres to create a linen weave. It is steamed and stretched to create the starting point for the headpiece – and this is the base of our creation.

Just what we do with it is left to our imagination! The base is navy blue and I decide to go with a theme of navy and silver.

Before I know it, I’m gathering curvy silver-tinged fabric petals and sewing them together around a flower stem which I’ve also just made by rolling some fabric on the bias. By now I am convinced I am channelling the skills of a great aunt, who though I never met, was known to be a milliner of some repute.

A glass of prosecco comes our way and as we take a break our little team shares thoughts on colours, feathers, embellishments – and the skill and strength required to get a needle through this pinokpok stuff!

Amanda keeps a watchful eye, offering advice along the way and supporting our suggestions about what would look good on our headpieces – I forage and find some angular feathers to balance on the base adjacent to my (I think) impressive silver flower.

It’s enormous fun. Like being in the millinery version of a sweet shop.

My own creation really pleases and surprises me – I plumped for colours and a style I thought was ‘me’ (see below right) – but the workshop would be perfect for a wedding or race day guest with an outfit that they wanted to accessorise with their unique stamp.

I can’t think of anything nicer than a mum and daughter or sisters going along to make a headpiece for a celebration day.

The completed headpieces are all overseen by Amanda and ‘ready-to-wear’ straight away – she fits them for you with a band so they will stay in place.

“You’re crafting a hat that will really be a reflection of yourself”, says Amanda.

It’s a delicious day to remember and your couture headpiece holds a value of £200-£300.

Now, where to wear it?

Amanda Field Millinery can organise a range of bespoke millinery days: from millinery introduction courses for 6-20 people to a ‘Beautiful You’ day which will include a makeup artist and personal hat-styling with a photo shoot. She will also organise ‘hen’ days and mother-daughter sessions.

Day experiences at the Talbot from £140. Weekend courses also available.

Amanda Field Studio, 14 Bridge Street, Helmsley 01439 771537. Email [email protected].
Photography: Jim Poyner.

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