Terry Graziano and the mystique of hats

Terry Graziano and the mystique of hats

Photo: Katharine Egli

Image and story originally published in Taos News

There is something about hats. They can change a look in an instant from shy to coy to sexy to…potentially dangerous.

Hats have been around for a long time serving different purposes, from purely utilitarian to status symbols and fashion statements.

“They can complement any outfit,” says Terry Graziano, a hat designer who has been making hats professionally since 1991. “Hats can change your mood, making you feel bolder or prettier, and even affect the mood of those around you. I am a little shy, but wearing a hat makes me feel more outgoing. They are great conversation pieces!”

Graziano became interested in fashion through her involvement with theater. She went to college for performance arts, but then discovered she didn’t want to be an actress.

“I worked in the theater for a while, as an administrator, and also did costume design for shows,” she said. “Then I started creating head pieces and found them fascinating: the colors, the textures, the infinite possibilities that they offered…”

The world of fashion soon became her main focus and she began producing her signature line of hats.

Evolution of a business: from craft fairs to an online shop

Graziano participated in many craft fairs at the beginning of her career.

“They were a great way to learn what different people liked, how to fit them properly, and to streamline my production process,” she said. “Fairs were also a fun experience.”

She also sold her hats in boutiques and department stores all over the country.

Then the Internet changed everything.

“It certainly affected the way I do business today,” she said. “I sell mostly through my website. Last time I checked, I had sold to twenty-two countries and forty different states. I was amazed!”

Today Graziano makes her living as a fulltime hat designer.

The versatility of hats

Graziano has created about fifty hats models, all fully lined for comfort and durability. But they “multiply” because she purposefully designs each style to be worn many different ways.

“That’s why designing one can take me from a few days to a whole month,” she said. “With each hat you will get at least four different looks, and some many more than that. I also create them in a manner that they can be adapted to a variety of fabrics for different seasons and occasions.”

She demonstrates how to wear the same hat to achieve different effects.

“Tilting the front will create an artistic look,” she said, “while tipping the brim over an eye makes you look slightly mysterious.”

The all-important silhouette

Getting the right silhouette is fundamental when designing any kind of garment, including hats.

For most designers, a piece begins with a silhouette.

“This is the first thing I take into consideration when I create a new model,” Graziano says. “I don’t sketch or draw, just picture the silhouette in my mind and work with the fabric until the idea is complete.”

Functional pieces

All her hats are “absolutely functional,” Graziano says. She doesn’t use any embellishments like feathers or beads.

“Everything that is part of the hat has a purpose,” she said, “including the ability to adjust them for head shape and size.”

Her hats are also eco-friendly as she uses only designer mill-end surplus fabrics to create them.

Can anybody wear a hat?

This is a question that Graziano hears often. Her answer is always an encouraging “yes.”

“Saying that you can’t wear a hat is like saying that you can’t wear a shirt,” she said. “Anyone can wear a hat and look great. It’s just a matter of experimenting and trying lots of different styles until you find one that makes you feel good.”

Finding the perfect hat

She recommends taking into account the face shape to find the perfect fit.

“Women who have a square face should wear a hat with a round or tilted brim,” she said. “For round faces, tall hats are good, since they help elongate the face. Those with oval faces are lucky… they can choose any style they want!”

It is also a good idea to make sure that the hat is in proportion to the entire body shape and height.

“Look at yourself wearing the hat from different angles in a full length mirror,” Graziano said. “And get the right hat size, of course. You don’t want it too tight or too loose. That’s why I make my hats adjustable in size so that you can create the fit that feels comfortable for you.”

Artistic influences

There are two artists that Graziano credits to having influenced her vision and fashion aesthetics.

One is Elsa Schiaparelli, an Italian-born designer who lived and worked in Paris in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.

“She fused art and fashion and had a terrific sense of humor,” Graziano said. “She had a surrealist bent in both her clothing and accessory designs, and created hats in unusual shapes, like a shoe. She was bold!”

The other is Claire McCardell, an American designer who created functional and stylish sportswear.

“She used ‘humble’ materials and natural fiber fabrics like denim and cotton, but made them look entirely new and elegant,” Graziano said. “She is credited with establishing the ‘American Look.’”

Express yourself through style

Ultimately, Graziano sees hats, and fashion in general, as powerful means of self-expression.

“There was a time when most people wore hats, but that isn’t the case anymore,” she said. “Now, wearing one lends you an air of individuality and character, so have fun, use your imagination and express yourself through your very own style.”

To find out more about Terry Graziano visit her website http://www.terrygraziano.com.  Private consultations are also available in her studio by appointment.