Local milliner, Melissa Vap, shares the story of how her career began, describes the similarities between hats and horses, and tells us where you can pick up one of her wonderful designs.
Q: How did your millinery career begin?
My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was a little girl. I worked on Wall Street and used to walk home in the evening. I studied all the window displays at Saks and Bergdorf’s and along Madison Avenue. I love fashion!
I began designing hats a couple of years ago. I had been invited to a wedding in France, and there wasn’t much of a selection in New York. I had to have one—but I had to wait to get to Paris to find one—at the last minute.
At the wedding, I fell in love with the hats. As each French woman moved around the room, it became obvious that her hat revealed her personality. The excitement and the confidence were real—as was the fun.
After that wedding, I made my first hat.
Tombé noir ($620)
Q: Where are your hats available to purchase?
I ‘m having a trunk show at Sassanova in Baltimore on Saturday, May 11. My hats are currently available at Sassanova. Each season’s new hats can be seen on my website, melissavap.com. I also take private appointments and have sold at other trunk show benefits.
Q: Describe your design style.
Geometry and lines—with a touch of romance.
Q: What's your inspiration for designing for Preakness.
Suivez-moi-jeune-homme…follow me young man.
For the Preakness you need a statement hat. It needs to complement your face and personality. It can be bold or diminutive, but it has to be seductive.
Faille vert ($300)
Q: Why are hats such a strong staple for horse racing events?
Hats are like horse races—they have a long and rich history, and they are a flash of brilliance. They take an every day and make it special.
Relevé rouge ($460)
Q: Describe the construction process of your hats.
Hat making is labor intensive. Each Melissa Vap hat and headpiece is created by hand using traditional millinery tools and techniques and the finest silk, straw, and felt material. Hats are shaped on wooden forms, adorned, and meticulously sewn together.
Q: How do you maintain your aesthetic while changing with the trends in fashion?
It’s all about line and extension. Form and color change with the season.
Pas de deux ($325)
Q: Does Baltimore embrace the use of accessorizing with hats as much as other areas?
Absolutely, the Washington-Baltimore area is full of independent, confident, and fun-loving women who enjoy expressing their personality and individual style. Hats take chutzpah.
Everyone thinks that New York dominates the fashion scene. New York is tall buildings and racing yellow cabs—glitz and grit. The Washington/Baltimore area has sharp grace—grassy lawns and grand monuments, sailboats, and horse paddocks.
Q: What's the ideal look be for Preakness?
There is no ideal—it’s all about the individual!