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Archive for June, 2011...

Filed under Casual Hats, Cowboy Hats, Dress Hats, Hats
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 Straw hats can be very practical protection from the sun.  We covered that aspect in the last blog.  But straw hats can also be very fashionable and that is where we are going next. 


Raffia is durable straw with a great deal of flexibility.  It doesn’t dry and crack to the extent that Moroccan straw does and it creates headwear with quite a range from cowboy hats to high fashion boutique headwear.  The straw, originating in Madagascar, is lightweight and has a natural light brown color.   A favorite material in cowboy hats, raffia holds up in the weather and can achieve different looks from a coarse, thicker construction to lighter weaved designs that usually have wired brims that enables shaping. 

The raffia cowboy hats are often distressed with coloration that creates a well-worn look.  Prices of raffia cowboy hats from China saw a sharp increase this year, which resulted in many retailers turning to lindu straws or palm straw cowboy hats for economical western headwear. 

Raffia is also a player in high fashion straws for boutique headwear.  Both wide brims and kettles are popular in this category, but if we have to say one hat style is dominating the trends this summer, it would be widebrims. 


Wheat straw hats can have a wide range of price points.  The straw, which has a very light color, almost looks bleached.  Fifteen years ago, these hats discounters offered these hats in their millinery displays, but wheat straw hats have gained a lot of respect since then. 

The straw is first weaved and then continuously sewn to create the hat—a process called sewn-and-braid or sewn-and-weave.  One reason for the elevation of respect in these hats is the older generation that weaved the straw is disappearing and nobody wants to take the job today, so there is a shortage of weaved straw. 

Actually if we look back to the heyday of headwear, we will see Milan straws are made this way.  Milan straw used a fine weave sewn in narrow bands.  This could require three times as much straw as a wider weave in making the same hat.  Some high fashion hats on our site use this fine weave and wholesale in the high twenties. 

One customer called and asked if this is wholesale.  How can this straw hat be $27.00?  I showed her a similar hat tht was $8.00, but used the wider straw weave and explained all the extra weaving and sewing required to create the fine straw look that high-end boutiques want.  Unless customers will pay over $50.00 for an extraordinary straw hat, shops need to stay with the wider weaves that are far less expensive.  Either way, these straw hats are harder to get today and will no doubt continue to go up in price. 


Speaking of Milan straws, polypropylene is mainly used to achieve the look today.  Yes, this is a synthetic and not a natural straw, but the material has been identified with dress hats all the way back to the 1950s and probably before. 

The hats have firm body and a close sewn-and-weave construction that comes in endless shapes for church hats or special event headwear.  The color range is fabulous so matching suits or dresses is easy.  Polypropylene hats are as popular today as they were decades ago, showing up at the royal wedding and other major events for dress hats like the Kentucky Derby. 



Dress hats in sinamay have certainly taken center stage.  They are a favorite of Queen Elizabeth, making them a favorite of Britain and a huge influence on millinery everywhere.  Royal wedding watchers saw plenty of sinamay hats. 

Sinamay can be natural or synthetic.  The natural sinamay is spun from fibers of a banana tree called abaca’.  Originally, sinamay was material for making rope, but today uses include fabric, carpets, bags, and other handcrafts. 

Sinamay hats have mushroomed in popularity in the last few years, used mainly for dress hats suitable formal events and church wear.  The color range is wonderful and the stiffened fabric can create stunning shapes from conservative smaller brim hats to lavish widebrims that angle or roll down. 

Straw hats is one of the main internet searches for headwear in the summer, but straw hats can cover quite a range as this blog and the previous one show.  For the shopkeeper, straw hats can be a key item for summer inventory, so analyze your customer base and stock the hats that most appropriate for your clientele.  For many shops headwear is a very big plus in the summer months.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Filed under Casual Hats, Cowboy Hats, Hats, Uncategorized
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 The search for straw hats really spikes in the summer months.  Google’s keyword tool shows searches jump to a whopping 60,000+ per month this time of year.  The results served up for straw hats are all over the board because there are so many different kinds of straws.  So let’s sort them out.

First straw hats can be for fishing, gardening, farming, or working outdoor.  They can also be for the beach, vacationing, fashion, teas, or garden parties.  The uses are wide ranging and so are the hats and straw materials that fit the bill.


This blog will cover practical straw hats used for work and sun protection and the next will review straw hats from a fashion angle.  The workhorse in the practical category is lindu straw. This rugged straw holds up in the weather and has a tinsel strength that makes it semi-shapeable with out breaking. 

Information is scarce on lindu straw.  There s a city in China called Lindu and a forest in Indonesia.  Either one could be the source for the name.  When we say these hats are the workhorse of straw headwear, it is not an overstatement.  Lindu straws provide traditional gardening hats with round crowns and wide brims, as well as safaris, lifeguards, and gamblers—the practical hats that provide sun protection without worrying about fashion. 

Lindu straw is charting new territory this year because of the price escalation of raffia and toyo.  Lindu is becoming an affordable medium for cowboy hats.  Shaping and distressing the straw results in attractive designs for western hats that remain affordable as the price of raffia moves up. 


Corn is over $7.00 a bushel so farmers are happy and nothing is going to waste thanks to maize and corn stock hats that deliver a straw in a bleached white appearance.  These hats withstand the elements with a durable construction and differ from most other straws with a rather coarse texture and bleached white color.   Popular shapes are fedoras and wide brims. 


Popular for cowboy hats, Moroccan straw is coarse with firm body that can still be shaped.  The straw can dry and crack more easily than raffia, but it has a rugged look and feel that customers love. 


The most common use for bamboo is lifeguard hats or the conical hats seen in the Orient.  The bamboo is split and fairly stiff, creating very durable headwear that can take the elements.  Lifeguard hats often use bamboo for the body that can take a beating outdoors while it protects from the wearer from the sun with its wide brims that angle down.  Usually the hats have a high crown sometimes with a cattleman crease and others that are a pinch front style. 


Palm straw hats, usually made in Mexico, can run the gamut in quality and price.  The number of strands of braid per inch determines the quality with lower number of strands providing economically priced hats.  Cowboy hats most commonly use palm straw and high number of strands can have the fine weaved look of a Panama straw. 

The wider look in weaved straw provides the economical cowboy hats that are capturing a larger percentage of the market, picking up some of the business that is shying away from hats made in China because of escalating prices.  Together with lindu straws, these two materials are mushrooming in popularity because the raffia straws and toyo hats from China have jumped in price this year. 

Palm straw hats have a stiffer body and are semi-shapeable.  Some designs are distressed with a staining process that often uses coco.  Others have a singed pattern that delivers a handsome hat.  Economical palm hats are answering the need for cowboy hats that look good at inexpensive prices. 


Seagrass is a material with a history in hat making.  Actually, there are several species used to make hats referred to as seagrass, but the most common is a marsh grass that habitats the shallow waters in areas of China. 

Perhaps the most familiar seagrass hat is the golfer in twisted seagrass that is lacquered and provides an open weave.  Because of the openings, they often have an underbrim to protect from the sun.  Lacquering delivers a firm body that retains its shape and helps the hats survive a light rain.  Women’s hats often use crocheted seagrass, but the headwear has a flimsy body.  The color is a dark sage green or brown, which distinguishes it from most straws. 

Next blog continues the survey of straws used in headwear, concentrating on more fashionable designs.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Filed under Boas, Dress Hats, Evening Bags, Novelty Hats, Wedding Favors
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 Most retailers that are not located near the beach or tourist destinations appreciate anything that can boost sales in the hot summer months.  With kids out of school and vacations scheduled, the focus is on casual.  For that reason, retailers often overlook the formal side of accessories that fill the needs of June brides.   This three part blog covers the wedding accessories that can pick up summer sales while helping wedding couples deal with escalating costs.  The first two parts covered jewelry, gloves, tiaras, and hair ornaments.  This blog wraps up the bridal accessories that can build sales by filling the couple’s needs at affordable prices without sacrificing elegance.  Let’s start with evening bags. 


Whenever there is a red carpet event, you can expect a showcasing of evening bags.  What does that have to do with bridal?  Well, it tells us what the hot styles are regardless whether its music awards, bridal bags, or bags for bridesmaids.  The last couple of years point to clutches as the number one choice. 

Long clutches have that debonair look that takes us back to the 1960s when Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Grace Kelly brought sophistication to the silver screen.  These elongated clutches are in style more than ever as the most popular choice in evening bags today. 

Satin clutches provides the most elegant and offers color choices that help when choosing bridesmaid bags.  The bride usually needs white or ivory and the rest of the color choices are wonderful for matching bridesmaid dresses.  The most familiar style uses envelope flaps with magnetic closures and the satin can be smooth, pleated, or have a design like latticework. 

Satin provides the utmost in elegance, but trendier materials like faux patent leather, embossed snakeskin, and croc prints are also popular and are useful after the wedding as day into evening bags. 


Other bridal bags use wristlets, soft satin bags, and boxy designs with firm body.  In addition to white or ivory, these bags generally have a wide color selection that matches bridesmaid dresses.  Theses same bags are popular for prom so are even more important in the spring.  While not all bridal parties use evening bags, many do with bags used by the bride and bridesmaids.  The bridesmaid bags are not only an accessory for the wedding day, but often double as bridesmaid gifts.  A nice evening bag selection is not common.  Offering a variety of styles and colors can make your shop a destination for many formal events beyond bridal. 


If anyone thought bridal hats were something of the past, The Royal wedding proved they are still very important and generated enormous interest among prospective brides.   Especially the outdoor wedding, which is growing in popularity, calls for bridal hats.  Even before the wedding bridesmaid luncheons or teas can call for dress hats and when they do, many are in a panic looking for a source. 

You can be that source and hats can open a completely new market you never dreamed of.  Include some bridal and bridesmaid hats and don’t be surprised if customers ask if you can get church hats, homecoming hats, or headwear for teas and luncheons. 


Super widebrims are the dominating trend hats this season.  These add plenty of elegance for outdoor weddings and bridesmaid luncheons.  Most popular is polypropylene wide brim hats with brims that alternated the braided polypropylene and horsehair.  These hats provide white, ivory, and colors in a very fine weave that is continuously sewn to create the headwear.  The result is a Milan straw look. 

In addition, polypropylene dress hats in white that are already trimmed make wonderful bridal headwear as well as dress hats in satin braid, organza, and sinamay. 

The Royal wedding also brought attention to fascinators—smaller hair ornaments often made with lace, ribbon, satin, crystals, and feathers.  Usually worn tilted to one side, the fascinators are major in Britain and those watching the royal wedding saw a parade of styles. 

Fascinators can replace the tiara and work equally as well for indoor weddings as outdoor.  Include some in white because demand is on the upswing. 


Gifts for the bridal party is often challenging because the couple wants to give something nice and meaningful that is also useful.  Bridesmaids are easier.  Already mentioned are evening bags and rhinestone bracelets.  They can accessorize the wedding party and be a gift. 

Another unusual gift that is also useful is writing pens.  A perfect ready to go gift is pewter sculptured pens that come in black velvet boxes with white satin linings.  The weight of the pens reflects quality and a variety of themes fits personalities.  The pens have pewter designs with themes like tulips, golf, best friends, dragons, sealife, and more.  If you prefer a pattern to a theme, choose bamboo, scrollwork, weaved cane and several other patterns.  The nicest thing is no wrapping.  The velvet boxes provide a rich presentation without paper and bows. 

One more idea for New Orleans weddings is fleur-de-lis pins—actually any fleur-de-lis jewelry.  This category even has something for the groomsmen with fleur-de-lis key chains.  A selection of bridal party gifts in your shop can sell for any gift occasion so this isn’t inventory that will stress the shop owner. 



Everything so far has been formal and elegant.  Well, now its time for some fun.  Before all the formalities begin, there a night of fun for the girls—the bachelorette party.  For that, the right attire is needed—we’re talking about things like novelty sunglasses.  These could be margarita shaped glasses, oversize glasses, or Diva designs.  The category is loaded with fun designs so each girl in the party can wear a different one. 


Then there are feather boas.  This is one of the most popular accessories for bachelorette parties.  Everyone can have the same color so people know these party girls are one group or mix them up so each girl has her favorite color.  The boas are a 55 gram weight, which is nice and full because no one wants skimpy boas for a bachelorette party. 

If this isn’t wild enough, add some novelty hats.  Every imaginable design can be found from cute bunny or Dalmatian hats to chickens, tigers, fish, and bees.  Plenty of other wild designs from jesters to mad hatters are also in the section.  So offer the girls a chance to cut up by putting together a party selection in your shop.  This can also grow into something for every kind of party from birthdays to Mardi Gras, but where we want to start is with a fun selection for the bachelorette party. 

So give serious thought to new ways to build sales by setting up a selection for June brides.  This idea can help your summertime sales while benefitting the prospective brides by providing elegance at a savings.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Filed under Bridal Accessories, Bridal Gloves, Tiaras, Uncategorized
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With expense escalating in weddings, retailers that can help control costs in a fragile economy are much appreciated.  Last blog covered wedding jewelry and this one looks at bridal accessories that are needed, but often harder to find. 

The average cost of a wedding today is $24,066 according to www.costofwedding.com.  As a retailer, anything you do to help the wedding couple save money while maintaining the elegance is going to be appreciated by the couple.  Not to mention the help this can be for your business’s summer sales. 


Wedding gloves can be optional, but is there any accessory that adds as much elegance as this one?  They certainly elevate the formal walk down the aisle, but finding bridal gloves that are affordable can be a challenge.  Another challenge is variety so the bride can choose appropriate gloves for her taste and the gown. 

You can save the day with a selection of gloves that will usually go unmatched by competition.  Gloves can be fingerless or fingers in and come in wrist length, under the elbow (8 button), over the elbow (12 button), or opera length (16 button). 

Satin gloves are most popular and matte is second.  Satin has more sheen while matte lacks the sheen.  The gown determines which to choose. Both come in all lengths and the brides usually choose white or ivory, while colors provide matches for bridesmaid gowns. 

Lace gloves are seeing a resurgence in popularity.  Choices of color and length are also available in lace.  Actually, lace gloves dominated the bridal glove business in 1980s and slowly gave way to satin as the most popular wedding gloves.  While lace gloves are gradually regaining popularity, satin is still the clear leader.


Special designs that combine satin with open embroidery work reach the utmost in elegance.  Styles and lengths vary plus some are fingerless and others fingers in.  Fingerless can be very practical when eating wedding cake or enjoying hors d’ourves.


Bridal pictures lock in the look of the wedding day for all posterity, so the bride goes to great effort to perfect every aspect, including the hair.  Tiaras add a big boost to elegance here.  We can glance through a wedding magazine like Brides and see hair ornaments in flowers, feathers, ribbon and lace, and headbands.  But the safest and most elegant choice is tiaras. 

Rhinestone and pearl combinations make perhaps the most stunning bridal tiaras.  The wedding tiara of Princess Di captured international attention as the hallmark in wedding day elegance.  Of course, the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara that she wore didn’t have any rhinestones in it, but the combination of diamonds with pearls caught on and influences wedding tiaras to this day, making rhinestone and faux pearl a leading choice of brides. 

Handcrafted tiaras with pearl beading are also a popular choice and work well with veils.  The faux pearl tiaras are shapeable so provide a comfortable fit that can be pinned to stay in place.  Depending on the dress, white or ivory are available. 

Rhinestone tiaras, especially with a low profile, add sparkling elegance for the bride’s walk down the aisle.   Like wedding day jewelry, the preferred choice is clear rhinestones in silver plated settings.  Rhinestone tiaras and headbands are the predominant hair ornaments shown in bridal magazines.  Since many brides start planning by glancing through these publications, keeping a selection of rhinestone tiaras is very important. 

Next blog will conclude the review of wedding accessories for June brides—opportunities to build summer sales while helping wedding couples that are on a budget.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Filed under Bridal Jewelry, Bridesmaid Jewelry, Crystal Jewelry, Rhinestone Jewelry, Wedding Day Jewelry
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Normally everyone thinks about casual jewelry and accessories as we reach Memorial Day and summer vacation season begins.  Well, something else happens that is very formal—June weddings.  And today as wedding costs are escalating through the roof, not every wedding couple can afford it.  This is your opportunity to help out while generating some sales. 

Accessories most important to the bride are tiaras, wedding day jewelry, formal gloves, and evening bags.  You can provide all these accessories at affordable prices.  The first step is to group bridal accessories together in your shop to tell a story. 


Wedding day jewelry is most important, so let’s start there.  Flipping through a bridal magazine let’s us see the latest in bridal jewelry trends.  The June issue of Brides begins with four pages showing long earrings with no necklace.  Going further reveals the influence of trends in fashion jewelry on wedding day jewelry—multiple bracelets, statement necklaces, and multiple strand necklaces.  Great stuff for the fashion conscious, but not the wedding day jewelry most brides choose. 

No, the jewelry brides prefer is elegant, classy, and usually delicate.  Rhinestone has an edge over faux pearl in bridal jewelry and sets with a combination of both are very popular.  Clear rhinestones in silver plated settings are the winner for the walk down the aisle.  Delicate sets with simplicity offer an elegance that never goes out of style so the review of wedding pictures twenty years from now reveals jewelry that is still appropriate looking. 

Every bit as popular as rhinestone necklace sets is combinations of faux pearl and rhinestone.  These sets are also simple and delicate.  Again clear rhinestones in silver plated settings with white faux pearl are the most popular choice.  Sets with simple cascades or a fringe of pearls offer the utmost in elegance. 

Faux pearls alone also make wonderful wedding day jewelry, especially with chokers.  This look can be more dramatic without sacrificing elegance.  Something about pearls always spells out elegance.  Very tailored looks with rows of faux pearl close to the neck give the dramatic look in a very graceful way.  For ivory dresses off-white pearls in gold plated settings offer an alternative. 



When the dress does not accommodate a necklace, earrings making the jewelry statement for the special day and bridal earrings when worn without a necklace usually are long and often dramatic.  Cascades, linear drops, and hoops provide bridal earrings that make a statement. 


In addition to rhinestone, brides can choose crystal earrings that make a statement as they deliver sparkle.  The difference is rhinestone comes out a machine as chain with stones already set.   Designers cut the chain and arrange designs that often have a flow of movement.  Crystal earrings use individual stones that are handset.  Both are fabulous as bridal earrings. 



Most brides opt for the traditional look of one bracelet that is most often rhinestone in silver plated settings or faux pearl.  Multiple bracelets are very trendy and popular in fashion, but when it comes to the wedding day, brides usually avoid edgy looks and go for traditional elegance.  Rhinestone bracelets come in several widths determined by the number of rows of rhinestone.  They not only accessorize the wrist of the bride, but also make wonderful bridesmaid gifts. 


Speaking of bridesmaids, let’s not leave them out when choosing jewelry.  Often color is important here—color to match bridesmaid dresses.  Rhinestone jewelry often picks up color with highlight stones to match gowns.  Crystal jewelry offers even more color options in both necklace sets and earrings.  Best of all, bridesmaid’s jewelry is almost always multiple sales.

Color highlights are also available in rhinestone bracelets.  Bridesmaid jewelry may be the most neglected area of wedding accessories so appreciation really goes out for the retailers that serve their clientele in this area.  Following soon is Part II that will cover tiaras, formal gloves, and evening bags.

Comments (0) Posted by admin on Wednesday, June 1st, 2011