Hats by Laura Whitlock

March 27, 2009 3:41:38 PM PDT
The event "Chapeaux in Bloom" features hats made by Chicago milliners Laura Whitlock and Loreta Corsetti. (News Release) Join Loreta Corsetti and Laura Whitlock as they present collections inspired by the renewal of spring and all that it signifies. A time when reverie meets reality, extravagance flows toward function. A time to you lose yourself in a whirl of silk tulle, or find crisp linen for bright days. A time for a sparking bit of beading and a delicate vintage blossom for a special occasion or an airy straw for a trip to the beach. Enjoy a champagne cocktail as you treat yourself to the season's most practical indulgence.

Chapeaux in Bloom
At Loreta Corsetti Millinery Atelier

1137 North State Street (at Elm), Suite 2R

Saturday, March 28 & Sunday, March 29 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

To RSVP, or for further directions & information, phone 312-640-6004 or email llwhitlock@yahoo.com

About Laura Whitlock

Milliner Laura Whitlock draws upon skills she learned, "Creating hats for characters from Juliet to Cleopatra to Lady Bracknell," to create period inspired hats with a decidedly contemporary flair. Laura refers to the fact that she began professionally as a milliner for theatre. "After receiving my BA in Theatre, with an emphasis in costuming," Laura explains, "and a lot of art history thrown in, I worked in regional theatres including San Diego's Old Globe, The La Jolla Playhouse, and The Denver Center. I was fortunate enough to hone my skills with some of the finest theatrical milliners around."

Since settling in Chicago twelve years ago, Laura has continued to create hats for the stage as well as for film. Her local credits include work for The Court Theatre, The Lyric Opera, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. For the screen, she has created hats for The Babe, The Hudsucker Proxy and My Best Friend's Wedding. Laura also teaches millinery and costume crafts to students at The Theatre School of DePaul University.

This costuming background sets the stage for her own line of hats, Laura Whitlock Millinery, which she founded in 1990. Her work includes pieces in fine fabrics from warm wools to lush velvets to airy silk organza, finished with impeccable hand workmanship. She creates hats, which range from cozy, practical winter cloches to fantastical floral cocktail whimsies. Laura is proud to list among her accomplishments having been a past president and a founding member of The Millinery Arts Alliance, Chicago's only organization of professional hat makers. She was thrilled when the organization was named Victoria Magazine's "Women Entrepreneurs of the Year" for 2002.

Laura's current collection of hats can be seen by appointment at her studio by telephoning 847-675-5150. Laura's collection is also available at all MAA events.

The Millinery Arts Alliance

The Millinery Arts Alliance (MAA) is one of Chicago's premier organizations of professional hat makers and recently voted Victoria Magazine's "Women Entrepreneurs of the Year" for 2002 (by a nationwide poll consisting of the magazines devoted readers). In the summer of 1995, several of these milliners banded together with a two-part goal: To continue the vanishing art of couture millinery and to provide hat lovers events at which to display their finery.

To introduce this group to the public, the milliners created La Fête des Catherinettes, the first American celebration of the traditional French festival of hat-makers and their patron saint, Catherine of Alexandria. The event was to consist of an opening night soiree, followed by a weekend of trunk shows at local boutiques. In looking for a venue for the opening reception, the MAA learned that Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Chef Jean Joho were set to open a new French restaurant, Brasserie Jo. It was to reflect the elegant atmosphere of 1940's Parisian nightspots, the perfect backdrop for the milliners' creations. The party was enormously successful, raising funds for The Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, and attracting a crowd of glamorously hatted devotees of French-inspired style, both culinary and sartorial.

In fact, the visual effect of the restaurant filled with so much inimitable millinery inspired Richard Melman to invite the MAA and its clientele back on a regular basis beginning in February of 1996. Every first Thursday night of the month, they present Les Chapeaux at Brasserie Jo. Each outing, a different milliner showcases her latest designs, with the hats available for purchase. Patrons who wear their hats to dinner receive a complimentary "Chapeau au Chocolat." Chef Joho created this charming hat-shaped dessert especially for the event. Other millinery mavens stop by for drinks at the elegant bar, and to admire one another's fabulous toppers. 2003 marks the eighth year for Les Chapeaux at Brasserie Jo.

For La Fête des Catherinettes 1999, the MAA sought to integrate the soiree and trunk shows into a single millinery spectacular. The event was held at Kass Meridian in Chicago's River North gallery district. The evening featured a stunning array of creations from the MAA designers. Partygoers tried on hats to their hearts content, all to the lilting melodies of a strolling French accordionist. Once again the beneficiary was the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization.

In 2000, La Fête des Catherinettes returned to Brasserie Jo as the Thursday evening of its annual Beaujolais Nouveau Festival. Patrons were able to sample the first wine of the season along with the freshest chapeaux. Buoyed by the success of La Fête des Catherinettes, the Millinery Arts Alliance has gone on to create numerous events for the hat lover. In 1997, they began a series of Afternoon Hat Teas at the Drake Hotel. Patrons are encouraged to wear their finest chapeaux for the elegant English tea in the hotel's charming Palm Court. MAA members are always on hand with their latest seasonal collections.

Beginning in 1997, MAA hatters also began participating in another event at Brasserie Jo, which has quickly become a springtime tradition, the annual Mothers' Day Brunch. That same year, MAA members joined the Easter Brunch at another of Chicago's noted hotels, the stylish Ritz-Carlton. At both events, the milliners show their finest creations for spring as well as judging a contest for the most charming chapeaux.

The Millinery Arts Alliance has produced wonderful runway fashion shows featuring their unique creations. In 1997 and 1998 they were invited by The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs to put on a noontime runway show of millinery under The Picasso in Daly Plaza. 1999 gave the milliners a chance to spread their artistic wings as they presented Surrealist Chapeaux," worn by muslin-wrapped models at The New Art Examiner's twenty-fifth anniversary bash. Pieces included giant dragonflies from Loreta Corsetti, and potted live daffodils in a creation by Lisa Farrell.

The work of MAA members has been selected for numerous juried exhibitions at venues including Mindscape Gallery in Evanston, The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, and Around the Coyote Art Festival.

On the retail front, Millinery Arts Alliance members have participated in group and duet trunk shows at stylish Chicago stores including Adelaide, Only She, Nordstrom, and Marshall Field's. They have produced events at galleries and hair salons. MAA hatters also present numerous private showings at the homes of their most devoted clientele.

Members of the Millinery Arts Alliance have sought to give back to the community as well. In addition to raising funds for Y-ME, they have participated in charity fundraising events for organizations including The Hephzibah Children's Association The Eleanor Women's Foundation, Barat College, The Infant Welfare Society, The Chicago Historical Society, and The Chicago Architecture Foundation. They have been seen stylishly hatted and hard at work manning the phone bank for Chicago PBS affiliate, WTTW's Winter Fund Drive.

The Millinery Arts Alliance maintains The Hatline, a twenty-four hour hotline for information about all upcoming events. The Hatline lists the current Les Chapeaux at Brasserie Jo schedule, updates millinery devotees on happenings such as the Drake Teas, and acts as a message center for those who wish to join the MAA mailing list and for clients seeking referrals for custom hats. To keep abreast of all the current goings-on, hat mavens call 312.409.6311.

In addition to this ambitious schedule of events, the Millinery Arts Alliance works as a trade organization for its members. Though their businesses are managed separately, members share resources for hard-to-find millinery supplies, do group ordering of items such as hatboxes, and frequently bounce ideas off one another. They chose to put the word "Arts" in the organization's name to keep their focus clear. These are not hat manufacturers, but couture milliners in the truest sense. They create their hats by hand on a necessarily limited scale. Many MAA members have commented that it's refreshing simply being around others in the same business. Laura states, "I love that a group of women in competitive businesses can work together as we do.

For more information, visit MillineryArtsAlliance.com