GLOVERSVILLE - A local woman is helping keep the traditional art of making women's hats, known as millinery, alive with her small showcase and shop located in the Gloversville Commons on North Main Street.
Donna Cerasuolo, who operates the business Chapeaux de Valse - or "Waltz of the Hats," said she is proud of her status as a milliner.
"All of my hats are original, I make no two hats the same," Cerasuolo said. "For me, it's an art form - I'm not here to get rich."
Donna Cerasuolo, the owner of Chapeaux de Valse, holds one of the hats at her store on North Main Street in Gloversville.
The Leader-Herald/Levi Pascher
As Cerasuolo was finishing the wiring of one of her new hats this week, she noted her hats have won awards including the prettiest and most original women's hats awards at the Friends of Sanford Stud Farm Kentucky Derby Party this year.
"[Cerasuolo's] hats were very elegant and were of designer quality," Friends Secretary Linda Gates said about the award-winning hats.
Cerasuolo also showed hats at the 22nd Annual Hat Contest at the Saratoga Race Course during opening weekend.
Cerasuolo said for the contest she used an umbrella for the foundation of her "Waltz of the Flowers" hat that was large and designed to stand out from the traditional hats at the track. Her oversized creations included pink satin and tulle, flowers, black lace and CDs broken in half, which were used to catch the glimmer of the multicolored flower-shaped lights that accented the large brim.
Although her hats didn't embrace Saratoga's 150th anniversary, she said she was more worried about standing out and making a name for herself.
"I knew when they did the hat show the track wanted a vintage Saratoga theme and I knew there would be a lot of that, so I approached it like I would an audition and [I] didn't want to look like everyone else," Cerasuolo said. "The other hats there may have won the contest, but I was getting a lot of the attention."
The types of hats she makes range from a variety of sizes, shapes and colors but cover all of the traditional hat models including toques, berets, pillboxes, cloches, bretons, turbans, boaters and fedoras. The hats typically cost between $15 to $60 pending on the design and material, Cerasuolo said, but that is a competitive price considering traditional hats often go for more than $100 in the Saratoga region during track season.
Cerasuolo said she typically will milliner her hats, meaning she makes them from scratch. However, she also will adorn existing hats with ribbons or other accessories to alter the way they look and make them stand out.
"I have had a lot of people ask me for my business card and people shout as they drive by to tell me how much they love my hats," she said.
Cerasuolo said she previously was a dancer in the Boston area as well as an instructor at a performing arts school.
"I knew when I couldn't pirouette anymore it was time to reinvent myself, so that is when I started chasing my second interest, which is hat making," Cerasuolo said.
Cerasuolo said she has been sewing and making hats for about 20 years, mainly as a hobby, and she didn't open her first shop until January.
She said she was also glad for the chance to market her creations to the Gloversville High School Class of 1963, for whom she provided three hats to be given out as awards.
Judy Ferrara-Flanger, an organizer of the class reunion, said Cerasuolo's hats were a big hit at the event and have now found new homes in Florida, Texas and South Carolina.
"All of them thoroughly enjoyed their hats and it was a great memento to give them from the area," Ferrara-Flanger said. "We are lucky to have someone as artistic and motivated as her in Gloversville."
Cerasuolo said she hopes to be the Daniel Storto of the hat-making world.
Storto, a glovemaker who operates a shop on North?Main?Street, crafts gloves by hand for well-known designers. Last year, he was commissioned by the editors at Vogue magazine to design and sew a pair of gloves for its 120th anniversary edition.
"My real goal is to be commissioned and have my hats in a magazine," Cerasuolo said. "Like Mr. Storto; he [was] commissioned by Vogue magazine, and I will eventually market myself toward that concept because I am the only one making them, and if I can submit beautiful hats to a magazine like Vogue that is good enough for me."
Cerasuolo said presently most of her business is to tourists walking down Main Street or who visit one of the two boutiques where she has her hats displayed in the Boston area.
She said most of the people interested in the hats are planning a special or themed event or are just from a different metropolitan area where artistic women's hats are more fashionable.
Linda Fennelly, an employee at both of the boutiques where Cerasuolo's hats are displayed in Boston, said her hats are ideal for the area because a lot of women favor that sense of traditional fashion.
"I see a lot of fashion and hats, and you can't really buy what she makes at a department store; they are custom made," Fennelly said.
Cerasuolo said hats can be used as both an accessory to compliment the features of a women or to cover the imperfections that may make them self conscious.
"A lot of women say they don't look good in hats, but I believe everyone can pull off a hat - it is just how you tilt it," Cerasuolo said with a laugh.
Cerasuolo is working on her fall line of hats.
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