Ferniche Millinery's hats go to your head for Ladies' Day
I have never had much of a thing for hats. Maybe it was memories of the hated bottle green beret we had to wear at school.
But the minute milliner Fern Berreen let me have a go with some of her styles, I was transfixed. In the mirror, I saw a different me.
A dramatic deep wine number with a sassy black plume, dared me to wear it, while a little green boat-shaped number, very country and perfect for Gold Cup week, was surprisingly chic.
I needed a hat for Ladies' Day, but where did I start?
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"It's all to do with the shape of your face," said Fern, who runs Ferniche Millinery from her workshop in City Works, Gloucester.
"If you have a long narrow face, you can get away with a shape that replicates that but with softer edges. A rounder face would suit something like a cloche hat."
So what would suit me? Although tall, my features were petite, she said, and I needed to avoid wide brims.
I'd chosen a monochrome outfit for Ladies' Day, and WEEKEND stylist Kate Parker had suggested a black trilby. Fern decided a small two-inch brim would be perfect. A black and white trim and a vintage silver decoration with a little spotted quail's feather added the finishing touches.
At just 23, Fern has established a thriving business. She is lending a hat to Cotswolds designer Melissa Antonious for the races and 10 members of Cheltenham's APT Marketing are wearing her designs.
"I love the idea of constructing things," she said. "I got hooked on millinery after Sean Barrett, who made the Mad Hatter's hat for the film Alice in Wonderland, was a guest tutor at university."
Gloucestershire is spoilt for hat-making talent. Cheltenham is the base for the British School of Millinery, headed by Denise Innes. She is creating a hat for Charlie Gilbert – partner of TV presenter Adam Henson – who is one of the Ladies' Day Fashion Awards judges.
She has also made the six hats on display with the Gold Cup in the window of jewellers Martin & Co in the Promenade.
Fern loves all things hats. Last year, she helped her mum Anna Buckland to organise the first Gloucester Hat Festival. This year they're doing it again on July 12-13, along with a Gloucester Youth Arts Festival from July 9.
"It's great fun," she said, "and brings everyone together."
With that, she adjusted my hat to a slightly jaunty angle.
"Your hat is where your head ends and your imagination begins," she said.
Gloucester Hat Festival, www.hatfestival.co.uk