by Andi Teran
Revered milliner Barbara Feinman has a simple motto: "If you want to stand out, wear a hat." At a time of year when most of us dig deep into our closets for last year's pilly knit cap, why not make an eye-catching statement with your own made-to-order headgear instead?
Hidden between the vintage shops along East 7th Street, Barbara's eponymous boutique and atelier showcases everything from fuchsia fedoras to kicky leopard print berets. Every inch of wall space is devoted to a colorful array of hat styles and shapes, making it easy to find the perfect topper. If she doesn't have that cloche in that color, Barbara will custom-make it for less than $200or, as she puts it, "the same price as a pair of boots."
Trained at the Fashion Institute of Technology, Barbara stumbled upon and fell for millinery so completely that her friends often wonder when she will "stop talking about hats." First operating out of her apartment, Barbara supplied retailers around the country, and opened her East Village boutique in 1988 with the credo, "Couture Hats at Ready-to-Wear Prices."
Today Barbara works behind a curtain in the back of her shop, always accompanied by her pup, Trixie. She keeps her stock rotating consistently while doing custom orders for stylish downtowners and ladies-who-lunch alike. "Having a retail store," she assures, "makes me a better designer.
Barbara's new black and silver grommet biker hat—tres Edie Sedgwick—lures modish passers-by in from the street, but her whimsical and retro creations cater to all types. While fedoras and cloches remain best-sellers, her new multi-colored "confetti" cocktail hats and jewel-toned feathered confections are gaining popularity as New York nightlife surges back toward its more flamboyant past. For the street, a deep teal fedora with a fanciful peacock plume begs to dress up a winter wool top-coat.
From two-tone, peek-a-boo numbers with razzle-dazzle detail to eye-skimming top hats trimmed in velvet, each Barbara Feinman piece is unique and utterly wearable. Besides, when they have names like Ingrid, Audrey, and Louise Brooks, how can you not imagine wearing a green velvet cloche with your little black dress?
Photographs by Andi Teran
Was a ball-topped beanie ever chic? Instead of donning a worn wooly watch-cap this season, take a trip to Barbara Feinman Millinery and put a lid on winter's fashion doldrums.