Have you ever looked at someone wearing a hat and thought WOW!? Now that’s different.

I don’t really know what happened, to be honest right here….. looking straight at Ingrida Arlauskaite backstage, I thought, THAT HAT will make me more cheekboney instantly, you know? Have you ever made that mistake? Seeing something on someone else and instantly thinking that it will suit you? I did exactly that here except that I conveniently forgot the bit about me not being tall or a model and also the bit about my little body having to prop up this statement hat.

How would I protect this fur felt Panama?

Crazed with the desire for Noel Stewart’s fur felt Panama hat…. or you know…whatever hattish professional terms he uses. I knew that if I got it, I’d have to really look after it and keep it perfect for as long as possible so I set out early on Saturday morning for a Portobello market David Attenborough type hat excursion (you know…. turning every single thing over, looking for newness and answers) but this time with a touch of Columbo questioning, to ask dealers how would I protect this fur felt Panama once it was mine?

From knowledgeable Lil who supplies millinery tools and wooden hat blocks to milliners, “lightly stuffing the hat crown (the roundy bit) with acid free paper will help a hat keep its shape, and if it’s a wide-brimmed hat (IT IS LIL, IT IS) store it upside down (the crown down) in its hat box to take the pressure off the brim which may curl.” (This is direct advice from LIL a vintage dealer, nothing to do with me.)

And if you use acid-free tissue paper – it’ll slow the colour fading and the next time you take your hat out of its box, it’ll look approx 12 months younger. (This advice is not Lil, it’s just me getting over excited about the magic preservation properties of acid free paper. It’s a great packing aid and can be found at most dry cleaners.)

Best advice of all came near the end of my visit… “if a wide brimmed hat is a little bent out of shape, leave it in the bathroom over a day or two – the steam will help rejuvenate it and you can spruce up the surface (of felt and suede hats) using a wire or suede brush (available from shoe repair stores). Gently brush in the same direction as the grain.”

It’s been twenty four hours since I quizzed Portobello’s vintage dealers about felt and wool and all hat-ty type things, showing them a picture on my iPad of Noel Stewart’s wide brimmed hats and telling them how he was an apprentice at Dai Rees and at Stephen Jones for Christian Dior Couture and has made hats for collections by Roland Mouret, Erdem, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Louise Amstrup, Hussein Chalayan and Roksanda Ilincic (who’s collection he had created the fur felt Panama for). *Sigh*

It was the final dealer I spoke to at Portobello who kindly pointed out something most useful regarding the wide brim of ANY hat. I leaned back calmly Columbo style to ask her ‘just one more thing’ before departing….. “um have you any experience with wide brims and high crowns?”

She thought for a moment and said “a wide brimmed hat casts a long shadow which creates a secret darkness and an air of mystery to the top half of the face around the eyes.” Looking closely at the pictures, she was right….

Lucia Pica who created the make-up look at Roksanda Ilincic worked with this mysterious play of the light in mind and accentuated the face with light reflecting make-up, plus she used mascara to open the eyes, added a sheer, light shadow to help the lids shine through and stopped the mouth getting ‘lost’ by giving models a strong cherry lip highlighted with a light-reflecting gloss.

There were no more excuses left for me….except what I’d wear with it? I decided that I simply needed to look carefully at the proportions created by milliner Noel Stewart and designer Roksanda Ilincic when they partnered this wide-brimmed Panama with loose, flowing, draped silk cocktail trousers and a boxy Chanel-esque jacket and I’d be OK. The look is very sort of languid and loungy and cocktail-ish-y here.

Two minutes later Noel Stewart’s fur felt Panama shape showed up again, this time on model Charlotte Wiggins wearing a more tailored Roksanda Ilincic shape (a dress that looked like a separate white top and navy skirt, the join camouflaged at the waist by a brown ribbon belt.) Well this was even more OK because this shape is even easier to wear.

I’ve just looked and squinted and looked some more at the pictures. Looked really hard. And a wide brimmed hat suddenly doesn’t seem so scary anymore, but with all this in mind, any new addition to my wardrobe that causes a serious change needs further investigation. ‘Um, just one more thing?’ Do you get like this?