How did I get into Millinery?

Posted on February 16, 2023

I thought that I would write my first blog post on the question that I get asked the most. How did you get into millinery!!

I was always a very creative child and I used to love making things. I wasn’t actually very good at art and drawing but at home I was always making Hama beads (who remembers these!), knitting, arts and crafts or decorating my dolls house. I also loved dressing up and clothes.

I have always loved hats, there was just something about them that intrigued me, and as a child I would go to John Lewis with my Mum and I would ask her if we could go to the hat department. I didn’t really know hat making was a thing or give it much thought, until aged 17/18 I was at the CLA Game Fair at Belvoir Castle with my Father. I met a Milliner called Yvette Jelfs who was selling her hats, beautiful, large and adorned with lots of pheasant feathers. I was chatting to her, asking about how she made them and I said to her I would love to learn. She didn’t do courses but said that I reminded her of her younger self and she liked my enthusiasm. So luckily, she offered me a weeks course at her studio. The downside was…she was based in the Scottish borders! Luckily my cousins live in East Lothian and I stayed with family and they let me use a farm van to drive across the Borders to Yvette’s home everyday, where I made my first fedora hat. I still wear the hat now, 12 years later at Cheltenham Races, it is a classic piece.

So a week with Yvette and I became obsessed with millinery. I started playing around at home, making hats and experimenting and selling a few to friends. I studied Land Management at the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester and without telling my Father, took a student loan out and spent pretty much a whole terms fee on my first set of blocks! I drove one day to Guy Morse Brown in Chippenham Wiltshire and selected my blocks. Apparently, they used to be musical instrument makers and then switched to making hat blocks.

Subsequent internships in University holidays occurred with Kathryn Elizabeth Millinery, Bundle Maclaren and Edwina Ibbotson. When I left University I believed that I was going to pursue Millinery, but an unpaid internship later, living on my friends sofa in London, and I realised that I needed to get a proper job so I ended up working for four years in a fabric showroom in Chelsea Harbour and then interior design.

I was fortunate enough to live in Battersea the four years and when I could I attended weekly evening classes with Edwina. There really is nothing like learning from someone at the top of their game with such a renowned reputation and I am so grateful for all that she taught me.

Lucy Brice Millinery was really formed when I moved to Leicestershire with my boyfriend in February 2020 just before the covid pandemic. He is a Land Agent, and living in a tiny estate cottage with lots of time on my hands I was making lots of hats and putting them on social media. Our cottage was the old post office, and I displayed my hats in the window to brighten up the village and I became known as the ‘hat lady’. My small business grew quickly, and after two years in my marketing job for Schoffel Clothing, I was unable to cope with the two jobs so I took the plunge and became a full time Milliner.

Life has an interesting way of working out sometimes, and everyday I wake up and can’t believe that this is my job – it really is a dream come true.

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