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The Hats Have It


For the last 119 years, at least half the competitors at the Devon Horse Show and Country Fair have had exceptionally long faces. And they rarely smiled. That began to change in 2013, when the show hosted its first Ladies Day Tea and Hat Contest. 

Women turned out in droves for the competition, which was judged by TV fashion expert Carson Kressley. He returns on June 1 for his third year to lead a team of judges in critiquing the newest creations. 

Tiffany Archard Arey and Robin Sweet.

Tiffany Archard Arey and Robin Sweet.

Among the women participating in last year’s event was Tiffany Archard Arey, 2014’s winner. Arey first started creating hats in 2011. “I make them for myself and for family and friends. I’ve also created some that were auctioned for charity,” she says. “Devon has certainly cemented my love of millinery. I’m getting ready to launch a home-based business (Tiffany Arey Millinery) to create custom hats as well as some ready-to-wear pieces for an expanding clientele.” 

One of last year’s category winners, Amy Holzapfel took her inspiration from the bird of paradise flowers her father would give her on special occasions. “At the time, I thought they were quite odd,” Holzapfel says. “Now, however, I treasure them. I knew I wanted to use the birds of paradise in my hat and I knew that I wanted it to be organic looking. I found the dress after the entire hat was done.” 

“The process was a labor of love,” she adds. “I started with a hat that originally was so large that my husband said I looked like a walking rain forest. I scaled back and decided to go with a fascinator. The piece weighed around five pounds, which doesn’t seem very much. But when it’s on your head, it feels like a ton.”

Like Holzapfel, Arey began her work back in January or February. “I had a wooden block made so I could stretch and shape the

Stacy Lustgarten and Alyson Abbas.

Stacy Lustgarten and Alyson Abbas.

straw that formed the large saucer. I also began looking for fabric to make the flowers for the hat. I try to start making my hat for Devon early, praying that I can incorporate some elements to link it to the contest theme once it’s announced in April.

Arey’s 2015 hat was a sinamay straw saucer/slice named “A Little Slice of Devon: Cheers to 119 More.” It featured Devon’s iconic blue and incorporated a large spray of feathers and spiraling ostrich quills to evoke the pop of a champagne bottle. “I wanted it to feel like an explosion of Devon happiness,” she says. 

As a reenactor, Coatesville’s Pam Bastings had the perfect costume on hand, and it happened to be Devon powder blue. It was her first time in the hat contest—though, in 2014, she won the blue ribbon for the best decorated box in the grandstand, where she and her guests wore Downton Abbey attire. “I’ve won two blue ribbons without showing my horse,” she laughs. “We’re really happy when it’s Devon time—but I’m also glad to see it end because I’m
so exhausted.”