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Sarah's jewels for your crown

PUBLISHED: 13:48 22 March 2011 | UPDATED: 19:02 20 February 2013

Sarah's jewels for your crown

Sarah's jewels for your crown

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis speaks to Suffolk milliner Sarah Valentine

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis speaks to Suffolk milliner Sarah Valentine

If you want to inject a little style into your wardrobe then headwear is the way to go. Fashion shows across the world are currently seeing models sporting box hats, fascinators and beautiful vintage-style headpieces that look stunning and make a statement.
Well versed in the art of millinery is Sarah Valentine of Scarlett Valentine who, from her atelier at the heart of the Suffolk countryside in Great Bricett, delights in creating stylish pieces to adorn the heads of brides, bridesmaids and wedding guests.
Sarah started not in fashion, however, but in computers, working at Suffolk County Council, then for a London firm in Hong Kong.
While working at Suffolk County Council I did a millinery course for leisure really at Suffolk College with Roger Pooler, she explains. I chose it because it was unusual and I was always, as a young girl, into arts and fashion. I decided to give up formal work and went to study at the London College of Fashion, taking a course in millinery.
Her favourite part of the process, says Sarah, is making the structures and choosing the fabrics. Its not just about sewing two pieces of fabric together you have to have a lightness of touch.
Sarah has now spent the last 20 years making hats, launching Scarlett Valentine over a year ago.
Divulging one of her favourite quirky facts about the trade, she says: I love the origin of the term mad as a hatter. Mercury used to be used in the making of hats. This was known to have affected the nervous systems of the milliners, causing them to tremble and appear insane.
The felting process to make hats used fibres from fur, such as beaver and rabbit. A solution of the mercury compound was brushed on to the fur to make them matte more easily. The fibres were then shaved off and the skin turned into felt, which was later immersed in a boiling acid solution to thicken and harden it. The hat was then blocked using steam and then ironed. This shaping process is still used today.
In all these steps, milliners working in poorly ventilated workshops would breathe in the mercury compounds and accumulate the metal in their bodies.
A particular source of inspiration for Sarah is famed milliner Phillip Tracey. His designs are so sharp and so well constructed. They are exquisite. It looks as if the trimming has come from the skies and landed on them. You cant see any of the stitching and thats what I try to achieve.
Im also very interested in unique pieces. Recently I created a red felt button hat trimmed with red felt flowers. I made it over a week and took it to a fair and sold it that weekend it was very striking.
Silk flowers are really quite now and I will be making lots of flowers and flowered headbands in 2011. I also see more brides wearing their hair swept to the side with a few simple silk flower pieces at the base of the head.
I think there is a hat that suits everyone but its about having the confidence. Everyone has different features and a unique style its just a matter of finding the right shape and colour to balance and compliment this.
We encourage people to try on as many styles as possible hats arent all traditionally shaped any more theres a lot more variety.

Contact Sarah at Scarlett Valentine on 07867 7631755 or visit


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