Wayne Wichern’s millinery design and teaching career evolved out of his experience as a classical ballet dancer and his interest in fashion and costume design. Wayne is a professional millinery designer whose elegant hats have sold in such fine stores as Barneys NY and Nordstrom. He has created hats for theater productions of the San Francisco Ballet, Seattle Repertory Theater, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. His innovative hat designs are in collections of the de Young Museum in San Francisco and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, WA. His work has been featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Women’s Wear Daily, Victoria Magazine, and Fiberarts Design Book Six. Wayne is a skilled teacher who continually works to inspire and encourage students to pursue their interests in professional design careers.
Millinery is a rather arcane low-tech craft; hat blocks, steamers, and basic sewing machines are the fundamental tools required. Hat blocks are wood forms used by milliners and hat makers to block felt and straw hats by pulling, stretching, and molding the felt and straw materials over the hat block to create the shape. Once the blocked hats are dry they are removed from the blocks, cut, and sewn to the desired shape. They are then embellished with ribbons and fabrics, feathers and flowers, to fashion the finished hat.
In continuing traditional millinery techniques I bring together the incredible skills of woodworkers, straw weavers, felters, and flower and feather trim makers as I mold my materials into wearable works of art.
Hats are a powerful social and cultural marker. In the early to mid 1900’s the daily wearing of hats was a social norm. People rarely ventured out in public without a suitable hat. Today, when you wear a hat you are certain to be noticed. It is always interesting to me to observe the obvious or subtle adjustments of a client’s mental and physical attitude as I set a hat on their head. The hat may well ask for a confident straight-forward comportment, or perhaps a more mysterious or mischievous character is requested of the wearer. Thus the “theater of the hat” as each change of hat reveals facets of an individual’s persona.