Hatmaker Kelly Dunlap Creates Hats for Vancouver’s Fashionistas and Bard on the Beach

Tip your cap to Vancouver's Saucy Milliner.

Credit: The Saucy Milliner

Hat maker Kelly Dunlap A.K.A The Saucy Milliner

Hat revivalist and milliner Kelly Dunlap A.K.A ‘The Saucy Milliner’ creates art for your head

From a child who had a tickle trunk full of hats to a fulltime milliner, Vancouver designer Kelly Dunlap has turned her passion for headwear into a successful enterprise.


In her charming Kitsilano studio, Dunlap talks to me about traditional hat making techniques, working for Bard on the Beach and why she’s The Saucy Milliner.


Hand made hats inspired by times gone by

Kelly Dunlap’s dazzling summer collection will take you back in time.


Dunlap’s summer collection of simple cloches, vintage cocktail hats, hand-formed straw fedoras and extravagant feathery fascinators are inspired by times gone by. “I love embellishing a new creation with little bits of the past,” Dunlap says, as she shows me a fascinator trimmed with 100-year-old French silk veiling.


Even the name of her business comes with a touch of nostalgia. “The Saucy Milliner,” Dunlap explains, “is a bit of an homage to my fedora-wearing Grandpa. When I would misbehave he would say, ‘Are you being a saucy pup?’ which of course, I was.”


Passionate about traditional millinery techniques, Dunlap uses steam and her own body weight to hand block felt and straw over antique wooden hat blocks to create authentic vintage shapes. She then finishes her creations with antique veiling, lace and up-cycled vintage trim.


Hats for Shakespeare: A Millinery Adventure

Traditional antique hat blocks used to produce the perfect authentic silhouettes. (Image: The Saucy Milliner)


Her attention to detail and passion for traditional technique was just what the costume team for the Bard on the Beach were looking for, and when offered work making hats for The Merchant of Venice and As You Like It, she jumped at the chance.


Making hats for The Bard was an adventure for Dunlap, in more ways than one. “It was a joint effort,” Dunlap explains. She blocked and constructed a number of hat bodies using traditional techniques, which the Bard’s costume department then trimmed and decorated.


Dunlap turned her studio upside down as she constructed hats for the likes of Portia and her maid in waiting, Rosalind; Touchstone and Duke Senior and even made an emergency dash to Seattle to pick up a hat block needed to produce authentic cavalier silhouettes.


As you like it: Customized hats for Vancouver’s saucy pups

With the all hat hype generated by the royal wedding, Kelly Dunlap is expecting a busy summer season. (Image: The Saucy Milliner)


When she’s not producing pieces worthy of Shakespeare, Dunlap works with her fabulous Vancouver clients to design personalized one-of-a-kind hats.


“It really warms my cockles when I can create something unique for someone who appreciates the process and the value in buying handmade,” say Dunlap.


The hatmaker says she is continuously learning and plans to travel to London later this year to study under Rose Corey, Royal Warrant holder and milliner to the late Queen Mother.


A true hat revivalist, Dunlap believes that not all hats have to be extravagant or for special events. “For me, just having a head to perch a hat upon is enough of an excuse as any.”


Mad hatter tea parties

Get together with your girlfriends, learn about millinery and make some art for your head. (Image: The Saucy Milliner)


Dunlap explains that “Women used to make hats all the time in their own homes” and this summer she is opening up her home studio for fascinator making workshops.


At the workshops women will be transported back in time with an afternoon of tea and biscuits, gossip and stitching and will come away with a gorgeous fascinator for summer soirées.