The Skinny Scarf; Your Affordable Entrée into Vintage Fashion Collecting

DSC_0727It is often said of fashion that everything old becomes new again. This fall, what’s new is the skinny scarf. Except for a brief showing on the Prada runway in 2014, the skinny scarf has not been seen since the seventies when it was de rigeur with granny boots, middy dresses, and floppy hats. So effective was the little silk accessory in creating that ‘70s silhouette that even the blouses with their necktie bows, mimicked them.

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Short skinny scarves also made a showing in the 1950’s with women borrowing from beatnik style to tie a hank of silk or cotton around their neck or in the hair. This was a popular look with poodle skirts, pedal pushers and sweater sets.

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Singers favour skinny scarves in winter and summer, in order to protect their vocal health. That’s why this rediscovered fashion favourite is known in some circles as the Jimi-Hendrix. It could just as easily have become known as the Jagger.

I managed to come from a trip to the east coast this summer with 11 of these retro and vintage beauties in perfect condition.  And I bagged them at $0.99 each digging through some bins at a Frenchies location.

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Labels to Look For: Echo, Vera and Christian Dior are just 3 of the amazing designer label silk scares that are hiding out there in thrift stores and vintage clothing emporiums. Even at retail vintage prices ($16 for  a lovely Givenchy I spied at Vintage Soul Geek in Hamilton, ON) a vintage scarf is an affordable way to start a vintage costume collection.

Rescuing Unwanted Vintage

1,000 Hats
Norma’s collector’s guide to Vintage Hats

When I first began rescuing discarded millinery pieces from the bottom of thrift store bins in 1998, I learned that many a would-be museum donor had been turned away from mainstream museums. I heard again and again that their attempts to gift these facilities with their vintage and antique hats were all but laughed at. Most were directed to theatre groups, and told that the museum in question had no room to store hats (a legitimate concern), but these self same caretakers of our cultural history, were regularly exhibiting period costume ensembles without the complementary headwear they were originally designed to be worn with.

This, to me, is evidence of how far hats fell out of fashion, in the latter decades of the 20th century. Many have forgotten that until the 1970s, no self-respecting woman would be seen at a function without a hat. The many strict social imperatives around the wearing of a hat rightly contributed to the decline (some say demise) of the North American millinery trade, an important marker in fashion history. But this decline is an important cultural milestone in fashion history. For museums to ignore hats, that fashion accessory so iconic of the great age of millinery (1770 to 1970) is to do a dis-service to those who have grown up never wearing or even seeing a high-fashion hat.  492e537416300ffb7a13caceaf8fcb3d

Over the years, I have collected over 2500 high fashion 19th and 20th century hats, using them to establish the Mobile Millinery Museum, a unique travelling museum whose working hats have entertained thousands and raised funds for diverse worthy causes. A good portion of the collection can be viewed in my book, 1,000 Hats.

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The museum has expanded to house a vintage costume archive, so as I continue to accept donations of long-ago hats, I am also collecting and preserving all manner of outdated clothing from Granny’s girdles to 19th and 20th century men’s, women’s and children’s clothing from all eras.

If you’re looking for a home for your unwanted vintage and antique clothing, accessories and textiles, look no further than the Mobile Millinery Museum and Costume Archive where we preserve, catalogue, exhibit and treasure all manner of fashions from a by-gone era. 



Contact: 905.220.2762

90 Hats for 90 Years, A Celebration of the Queen’s Birthday

Queen of hats

On April 21, 2016, HRH Queen Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday, becoming the first British monarch in history to reach that milestone. Britain and the Commonwealth will mark the occasion in June with a series of public events.

The Mobile Millinery Museum is celebrating the event with a special exhibit and fashion show titled 90 Hats for 90 Years. this is an opportunity for audiences to view double the usual selection of historic hats as well as a smattering of royalty collectibles, up close and personal.

In addition to 90 Hats for 90 Years, we also offer the following vintage costume presentations:

  • Say “Yes”​to the Wedding Dress Exhibit : As seen in Today’s Bride Magazine and the Hamilton Spectator, this presentation features a collection of antique and vintage bridal fashion, showcasing iconic wedding gowns from the 1860s to the 1980s. Many of the gowns are featured in the book Accessorizing the Bride; Vintage Wedding Fashion Through the Decades and were included in an antique bridal exhibit at Toronto’s Casa Loma.


  • Our signature Retrospective Millinery Fashion Show: The Mobile Millinery Museum is home to over 2500 historical hats, half of which are featured in the popular coffee table book, 1,000 Hats. Each headpiece is a sartorial treasure evoking feelings of nostalgia and memories of special times. Edith Kennedy of the Uxbridge Historical Museum, called our show “fascinating, fun, and entertaining.” 4ab32e1704411513429481318c32f2e3Many find it the perfect accompaniment to a Mothers’ Day tea, Easter, or Victoria Day celebration.
  • Gatsby Garments, What They Wore to Roar: Roll down your stockings, throw on some beads, and scoop some Bees Knees Punch as we present a retrospective of Roaring 20s fashions. Travel back in time with us to the gin joints and speakeasies, boudoirs, and beaches of the transformative 2nd decade of the 20th century, for an intimate look at authentic fashions artefacts from this unique costume period.
  • Beauty and the Bead: This exhibit features bead-embellished gowns, hats, shoes, and handbags including a silk brocade opera gown decorated with three large, exquisitely beaded blue birds, custom made for a performance of the operetta, L’Oiseau Blue (The blue bird).
  • Black Magic: While the colour black was historically reserved for mourning, or associated with revolutionaries and intellectuals, ever since Coco Chanel’s little black dress, it has been the emblem of high fashion chic. Of the over 2500 historical hats in our archive, several hundred are black. We have selected the best of these beauties for our Black Magic Vintage Hat Show, a presentation of millinery glam, Old Hollywood style.

Pearl & Pine says “Yes” to the wedding dress exhibit

20160209_150818-1Residents of Pearl & Pine Retirement Residence in Burlington were treated to a Valentine’s Day themed exhibit of vintage and antique wedding gowns on Tuesday. A variety of styles and fabrics representing bridal fashion from 1860 to the 1980s was showcased and a sweethearts table set up with audience members’ own wedding photos was enjoyed by all.


Come to the City, go Home with Diamonds

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“Come to the city, go home with diamonds” is the slogan my clever daughter came up with after our day at the Cityline studios in Toronto. We were there as audience members for Cityline‘s Holiday Open House show which airs tomorrow night in prime time. That’s my daughter on the left, rocking the sequins and cane.  She writes a brave and brazen blog about living with MS. (trippingonair) I highly recommend it.

She also encourages me to step out of my comfort zone and venture into the city  with all of its public transit challenges and benefits.

It is advice I plan to take seriously in the new year.  Yesterday was a great start. I got to spend time with my daughter, give my Christmas cocktail hat another outing, and yes, come home with a diamond watch courtesy of the show.  What time is it? you ask: time to look for a new hat. One that will see me through Valentine teas and all of the other fun events scheduled for early in the new year.   download_20151214_203918


Santa Delivers a Millinery Gift Lift


Let’s face it, a pretty hat can be a real spirit booster; in fact, it used to be common knowledge that the cure for a low mood was the purchase of a new hat. In my mother’s day, a woman never went out in public without a hat, and yes, there were many good reasons to dispose of that social imperative, but keeping a skilled milliner in business had a lot to do with one’s sense of well-being.

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After all, who better to help a woman look her best than that designer skilled in the millinery arts who keeps a file on her clients and is able to create a bit of frippery which is not only flattering to her features, but fashionably up-to-date and uniquely suited to her personal social calendar.

So, having said all that, imagine my joy when an unexpected parcel arrived in the mail this week with -you guessed it- the gift of a new hat from my personal milliner, Maria Curcic. I can’t wait to wear it, but this beauty-on-a-band (a black velvet one) will also be going in my newest hat themed exhibit “Black Magic”.

I like to shop in person for my hats so that I can try them on to determine if the fit is right and the style is flattering, but having discovered and gotten to know this creative artist and her work, I am completely confident in her ability to produce pieces that are perfect, sight unseen.. Yes, I buy hats from other milliners including Louise Green of Los Angeles  and Lilliput‘s Karen Gingras. I stop in at Beau Chapeau any chance I get (I’ve even found my book on display there), but I have chosen Maria as my personal milliner. If you think I talk about her a little too much, consider this:  In my capacity as director of the Mobile Millinery Museum  I  have collected and archived over 2500 historical hats (created by top name 20th century designers) so I know quality. 20151207_070519-1

What’s the takeaway? Millinery is a re-emerging art form. Look around, stop into some shops, try on some hats and find yourself a personal milliner, see how great you look in one of her confections. Take it home and wear it. You’ll be glad you did.