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“Historically hats have been almost always the norm,” hat designer Eia Radosavljevic is saying, peeking out from under the brim of one of her own creations. Radosavljevic, along with seven other hat designers, formed the Millinery Arts Alliance to promote their favorite accessory.

The group is holding its own version of France’s annual Festival of Saint Catherine, who’s considered the patron saint of unmarried women. In the 19th century Parisian haute-couture houses, which employed many unmarried women as milliners, began hosting parties to which their employees would wear elaborate hats designed in yellow and green, the saint’s colors.

Hat designer Christina Bevilacqua says the point of bringing a hat celebration to Chicago is to make it easy for the hat shy “to try on something surreptitiously and fall in love with a hat or get a little taste of what a milliner does. Those people have to be treated in a very fragile way. There has to be a very low tension level and it has to be really casual.” That means educating customers while easing them into the idea of wearing hats on a regular basis.

A certain amount of coaxing is part of the milliner’s art. “We’ve learned little tricks to get people started with hats: a garden hat, something crushable, something not quite as noticeable,” Radosavljevic says. “A starter hat might be in a muted color of black or brown,” or perhaps one that goes with a coat.

The Millinery Arts Alliance believes hat wearing empowers the wearer. “Hats can give you a sense of confidence.” Radosavljevic says. As Bevilacqua puts it: “Hats are an instant makeover. Find the right hat and you create instant style.”

Members of the Millinery Arts Alliance will present their fall collections Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 6 PM at Krivoy, 1145 W. Webster; Made to Fit, 2229 N. Clybourn; W2, 2187 N. Clybourn; and Wear in Good Health, 2204 N. Clybourn. Food and drinks will be served. Call the Hat Line, 708-848-5479, for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathan Mandell.