Monday, January 18, 2010

Hats Off To The Lady In The Hat

I used to think I wasn’t a hat person.

That was until I spent an afternoon with Ellen Christine Colon-Lugo and her impressive collection of hats in her shop.

I confessed my fear of hats to the hat lady and she told me to see my therapist.

It wasn't what I was expecting.

I ventured downtown to the Chelsea shop because my good friend Stephanie drove up from northern Virginia for her hat fitting with Ellen Christine. I've heard of dress fittings, of course, but never a hat fitting. So I tagged along to see what happens. Stephanie recently bought the grey 1950's style half hat (pictured below) to wear as her center piece for the Joint Armed Forces Officers Wives luncheon she's attending next month in Washington, D.C. (Stephanie married a hunky retired marine). I asked Stephanie if the hat was part of an overall look and she said she didn’t have anything else to wear yet but the hat.

Stephanie's latest hat from Ellen Christine. Next she has to find something to compliment the hat.

Stephanie with Ellen Christine. Stephanie also bought the pink feather hat to wear to a Western-themed birthday party. She said she's going to also wear it to brunch.

Ellen Christine’s ever-so chic shop was one part pure fantasy and one part old-world charm. Beautiful displays of handmade hats couples with vintage scarves and jewelry eras gone-by had stylish women coming in the busy shop all afternoon. I was greeted by daring plumes of feathers, gorgeous silk lace and bold vintage appliqués. I soon forget my ordinary black leggings and cardigan and was quickly transported back to a time when dressing was truly an art form.

Ellen Christine eventually warmed up to me after her little puppy made an appearance and I realized the hat lady and I had something in common. We both had pets with the name Sam.

Me and The Hat Lady both have Sams in our lives. Mine is of course way cuter.

For the newbie like me, the hat expert as she well deserves to be called advised me to start with the beret, move on to the cloche and advance onto the fedora. Of course her hats go on from there and your imagination will be blown away by her brilliant designs. I was drawn to the 1920's era cloches and Ellen Christine recommended one with a short brim. She placed this amazing purple hat with a matching silk-dyed ribbon and it brought an instant smile to my face. She obviously has a keen eye for hats and it was truly a great experience to try on hats with so much creativity.

Me with a pretty purple cloche and an infinity scarf of my own design.

To find your perfect hat, click here to see Ellen Christine's quick advice.

Hats became part of Ellen Christine’s passion when she was a child attending Catholic school. She said that while she HAD to follow the school’s strict dress code during the week, she and her friends were allowed to tap into their creative side on Sundays.

According to her Web site, Ellen Christine began her practical design experience in her hometown of Philadelphia, where she apprenticed herself to an Italian tailor with main line clients, and in Boston, where she helped put together a costume shop for Strutters, the trendsetting antique clothiers. Her prize find was a wealthy socialite’s hoard of hats.

It was an opportunity of a lifetime, she said. Those hats were my school. She went on to perfect her craft by taking apart and reconstructing those 350 crushed lovelies.

Ellen Christine moved on to New Year, where she continued her love her hat-making while pursuing her masters and doctorate in costume history at New York University. At the same time, she freelancing as a stylist and costumer, including working with Beauty and the Beast and restoring wedding gowns.

Stephanie was drawn to the colorful feathers of this top hat by Ellen Christine.

Ellen Christine and a staff of four merry hat makers make the hats by hand so you can enjoy a truly one-of-a-kind hat. She also has a stunning collection of bridal hats. Her knowledge of history is also impressive and she will be sure to educate you along with your purchase.

You can find Ellen Christine and her shop at 225. W. 18th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. The experience left me feeling like I opened up my grandmother's treasure chest.


  1. Loved the hats. Stephanie's hat was great, and so was your cloche. Love those styles. Reminds me of the old movies. Sam looks pretty good himself. oxoxRainie

  2. Is that a handknit infinity? Have you written out the pattern? Care to share?

    BTW: The cloche looks great on you!!!

  3. That hat looks great on you! I love hats, but I never look good in them. I always wanted to go to the Derby and wear one of those huge ones!