Interview With The Experts: Milliner Paula Lawlor

17 Feb

Hailing from Dublin Paula Lawlor shares her top tips for when it comes to choosing that all-important hat to wear at Ladies Day.

Paula  Lawlor

Creative from a young age, Paula redesigned and refashioned her clothes. When heading off somewhere fancy Paula and her mum Patsy would put together a headpiece for themselves. Paula also studied at St Martin’s College of Fashion in London, and combines her millinery business with fundraising for Sweney’s Pharmacy.

What kind of work have you done so far?

Wine_piece6SMALLIt’s has a lot of bridal pieces, the odd piece bought from the window in Sweny’s, but the majority custom made to the brides ‘hearts desire’. When making a custom piece I am so privileged to see the dress early and together with the bride make a piece to finish/ accompany and enhance the dress.

I have made a few pieces for racing season, runner up Ladies Day at the RDS Horse Show 2012. Currently have orders for the Dubai World Cup Races, Galway Races and the RDS Horse Show. I always have hats and pieces in Sweny’s that are appropriate for the time of year. A selection of pieces for wedding guests/ brides and the races will be in stock shortly.

How would you classify your style or look?

My personal style and look is derived from the 40’s and 50’s, the Hollywood glamour era. I think I’m drawn to that era because ladies wore hats day and evening. I like to wear something in my hair during the day, for myself I have pieces to jazz up a day outfit, a turban is a glamorous solution to a bad hair day and l always wear a piece if I am going to the theatre or a dinner out.

I personally cannot wait for a wedding or the races to express myself. I am vintage inspired however, I adore a simple and sculptured piece I have made from copper, it is so comfortable to wear and the copper medium offers me a great opportunity to explore sculpture and drama with no embellishments. 

Hats or Fascinators?

Gold_piece2SMALLThey are equally valued in my wardrobe. I find I am drawn to hats in the autumn and winter when a felt trilby is cosy and adds to the autumnal atmosphere. Every stylish lady and gent should have a trilby.

Even on an Irish summer’s day, a trilby is gorgeous with denims and a t-shirt. My brother wore a trilby at his wedding; he looked so stylish and dapper. I have a suitcase full of vintage fur and felt hats to keep my cosy during the winter.

The races are a wonderful opportunity to wear a big brim and enjoy the expanse and elegance you feel. Weddings are also opportunities to wear a hat although a wide brim can get in the way especially for the Mother of the Bride; the brim gets in the way of ‘meeting and greeting’. I have made wide brimmed mother of the bride hats but have elongated the brim so the brim’s width at the face is altered to suit.

Weddings are an opportunity to explore hats with height and sculptural shapes. I wear pieces myself to dinner or the theatre; they wouldn’t be called a hat as such, a customised size to suit the occasion. 

Why do you think hats are so popular for the races?

Hats will always finish an outfit, and when you attend the races, socially it is expected to wear a complete outfit. In this fashion era hats are not required and a racing opportunity is a ladies’  licence to wear a style requirement.

What trends will be coming into millinery for Spring Summer 2012? 

003-1Millinery trends will always complement fashion trends of the season. For 2013 citrus and pastel colours will be popular. Kate Middleton has influenced a lace revival; we will see a lot of beautiful lace colours. Lace is not limited to bridal headpieces, Ladies Day hats can use lace in wonderful ways, with minute wiring and stiffening lace can be structured.

Do you think it’s easier to build an outfit around a hat, or find a hat to go with your outfit?

Hat or outfit, which first? Well I have done both and looked after clients who have offered each situation. If I was asked for my preference from a client I would ask them to come to me when they have their outfit or maybe they have their accessories and we can work from there. The outfit will reflect the style/size and colour of a piece and whether we can use embellishments, limit embellishments or not at all.

What attributes do you think a winning Ladies Day hat has?

003A ladies hat must have a sense of occasion, it must be memorable if entering a best dressed competition and must focus the style and compliment to the outfit. The hat must be to the wearer’s liking, when you feel wonderful wearing a piece you will wear it with style and poise, this confidence will be the magic ingredient to any outfit. Consider the season and the weather. A summer hat will be made of a lighter material (buckram or straw) than a winter piece (felt); the season will also determine the colour you choose to wear.

What tips would you give to women when choosing the right hat for them?

Personally a lady has some issues to address. If you are petite or a larger sized lady a huge hat with large brim may be your image to wear but practically will not suit your stature.  Think of structure and height, it will elongate your figure; you can be dramatic and carry a tall sculptured piece with ease.

Always try on sizes and styles, don’t invest in a hat just because the colour matches your outfit. A big part of an outfit and the wearing of a hat has so much to do with confidence, if you feel a million dollars in an outfit you will have poise and style, that magic ingredient is in us all.



Blue_hat3SMALL For more information visit  Paula’s website.


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