Jill Courtemanche Millinery

A Millinery Transformation

Fashion, panama straw, summer hatsJill Courtemanche1 Comment

I always tell people when they buy one of my hats, that they have to wear it and by that I mean to really wear it and take it on adventures far and wide. It's made from quality materials and it will stand up to life. Along with that, I also offer the caveat that if your hat has too much fun on its travels, as sometimes hats will do, just bring it in and in most cases we can revive it, not withstanding a battle scar or two.  


Here is an example from my own collection. One of my favorite hats for both sun protection and style is the "La Plage". This one is the original production sample that I made 4 years ago. It's traveled all over with me and seen it's fair share of beaches and manhandling by my kids. Like a great pair of jeans, the more I wore it the better it felt and the fraying band and cracks in the straw just gave it a bit of character along the way. But like all good things, her time had come and I could no longer feel good telling people I was a milliner while wearing a hat with a giant hole in it...

The good news is, my beloved hat and I did not have to part ways entirely. She was made from a high quality Panama straw and although the crown of the hat was not reparable, the brim was still supple and in great condition. So, "off with her head", I removed the crown and replaced it with a lovely linen crown and then I added a soft wire and ribbon binding to the edge of the brim. Volia, my beloved "La Plage" transformed herself into my new favorite packable hat, "Voyager"

Click through the gallery below to see the process from start to finish:

Kentucky Derby 2017

Horse Racing, FashionJill CourtemancheComment

Hands down, the Kentucky Derby is the busiest time of year here at JCM but also the most exciting! I love making custom pieces and challenging myself to create hats that enhance clients fashion choices while staying true to my design esthetic.

I thought it could be fun to share some pictures and behind the scenes from the lead up to Derby Day or as I like to think of it, the kick off the American Horse Racing Season (it's a long road to Breeder's Cup in November)! 

First we started out doing a fun collaboration with Lou What Wear, a fashion blog based in Louisville. I sent Danielle some hats and she mixed them with her fashion sensibilities to create a series of posts that really enhanced the hats and generated some beautiful photos which you can see below. She also did a nice interview with me that you can read here

Next up I did another collaboration with San Antonio Fashion Blogger and Stylist Kimberly Frick. I have followed Kimberly on social media for a while and inspired by her bright and playful style, I created a special, limited edition collection. We were both excited by the pieces and decided to hold an Instagram contest where we gave away a fascinator for Derby! See Kimberly modeling her hat as well as out Instagram winner, Ashley Grace Johnson of  Texas Fashion Spot in her fascinator on Derby Day below!

The best part of the madness is always seeing clients dressed and ready to go on Derby Day! Wether it is a Derby Party or direct from the track for the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby the pictures never disappoint and I love seeing the complete outfits! A huge thank you to everyone who sent me pictures, they really do make me smile!

This year I spent Derby Day at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa where I had the pleasure of assisting women decorate hats for a Kentucky Derby themed party. It was a really fun event that was beautifully decorated with all best "Run for the Roses" details!   

Time to start thinking about next year...


Moneygami Hat, it's a thing!

Charity, Collaborations, FashionJill CourtemancheComment
Jill with Leslie Gladstone from Angel's Foster Family Network as pictured in Giving Back Magazine

Jill with Leslie Gladstone from Angel's Foster Family Network as pictured in Giving Back Magazine

There really is nothing better than having someone arrive at your door with an envelope full of money and a request that you make them a hat, out of that money!

I look forward to making a "money hat" for the Gold Diggers Association every year for their annual Hats Off Luncheon in San Diego. In the past I have made flowers and butterflies out of the cash but this year I decided to use the money as the actual hat which made for a fun challenge. 

Scroll through the pictures below to see the process and all of the elements we used to make this moneygami piece as well as the finished product being modeled by a member of the Gold Diggers for the event.

This year I also had the pleasure of attending the event and judging the hats made by the different charities. It was amazing to see some of the showgirl style pieces that were made and even more fun to watch the models present them on the runway!

JCMillinery + YELP

Solana Beach, Collaborations, Horse RacingJill CourtemancheComment

Truth be told, I love hosting parties. The prep and the planning, the details and jushing, it's kind of a happy place for me. So when Yelp North County called and asked if I would like to collaborate with them on a special girls night out in my shop to celebrate the opening of the Del Mar Racetrack (otherwise know as the official start to hat season), I was totally in! 

First, we decided to break the event into two nights so we could create a more intimate setting and give each elite Yelper a chance to work with me and create a fun, feathered headband as a keepsake. Secondly, we called some of my favorite local vendors and asked them if they would like to join in the fun (which thankfully they did)! Last but not least, we called in a photographer to capture all the magic. 

Scroll through the pictures and see how we transformed the Solana Beach JCM shop and parking lot into a fabulous event space. I love how much fun all of these amazing women had playing dress up for the evening, and I think it is safe to say we all had a blast celebrating the racing season here in the Cedros Design District


A huge THANK YOU to our friends at Camera Camper for providing the most amazing photo booth experience ever, (I mean oh so SoCal and oh so fabulous), Lockwood Table for providing delectable nibbles for the evening, Bang Pop Shop for blowing my mind with the most couture cake pops ever (I mean those cake pops are wearing fascinators) and of course to the amazing team at Yelp for bringing the whole thing to life! 

Behind the Scenes with KPBS

Solana Beach, PressJill CourtemancheComment

If you have spent 5 minutes chatting with me in the shop, you know I love nothing more than to talk about millinery, it's place in fashion and how passionate I am about being able to do something I love. So you can only imagine how excited I was when the lovely Maya Trabulsi, a reporter for KPBS called me and asked if she could do a story about me and my shop (the answer of course is that I was over the moon)!

Maya had lived in London and developed her own fascination with hats so it was really fun for me to spend time with someone who walked in the door, armed with a vast knowledge and appreciation for the craft. We spent the morning chatting about hats, how they are made, my background and what brought me to millinery. One of the most fun parts for me was personifying all of the noises that go on in my studio on a daily basis since they were not just shooting footage but recording for the radio as well, (seriously cool)!

The original piece aired back in July right before Opening Day at Del Mar Racetrack but it is re-airing nationally this Saturday, September 12th on PBS's Spectrum (check you local listings for the channel and air time). Better yet you can view it on-line here but if you do that you miss the amazing teaser that Maya put together which was my favorite part of the piece!

This was such a memorable experience for me. I have done tv before but it has always been live, in studio news segments. This was the first time I had the opportunity to sit down and watch it as a spectator with my family and friends. It truly has been a milestone for me and my career and as always I am thrilled to have a platform to educate people on how amazing millinery is and what it means to me as an artist!

Update: On June 11, 2016, Maya Trabulsi won an Emmy Award for her work this piece, congratulation Maya!

Here are a few behind the scenes pictures from the shoot:


San Diego Polo

Polo, Solana Beach, FashionJill CourtemancheComment

Polo is one of my favorite outdoor events of the season and I am so excited to once again be partnering with the San Diego Polo Club for some fun events!

Jill Courtemanche Millinery will be doing a series of three Pop-Up Shops this summer at the SD Polo fields and the first one is this Sunday, June 28th from 12:00 pm - 5:00 pm! We would love to have you join us as our guest and we are giving away free General Admission tickets (while supplies last). Simply call us at 858.876.6353 or shoot us an email and we will give you all the info!

Not sure what to wear to a day of polo? Check out Zen Fashionista, Sonya Berg's guest post on the SD Polo Blog for the scoop or better yet, hunker down with some popcorn and re-watch the polo scene from Pretty Woman (that's what I would do)!

Additional Pop-Up Shop Dates for SD Polo are July 5th & August 30th, I hope to see you there!

Adventures in Louisville

Travel, Horse Racing, FashionJill CourtemancheComment

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Louisville, Kentucky to showcase my hats at some pre-Kentucky Derby shopping events. This was my first time in Louisville and I can tell you, this is one charming city!

Much to my dismay it was snowing when I arrived and when I drove into town I was surprised to find it deserted. Wondering what I had gotten myself into, I headed to the recently opened hotel bar, Eight Up for diner and found the snowy night had brought out the best of southern hospitality. In between the delicious lamb bolognese and chatting with the locals I learned the first of 3 amazing things about Louisville, they know how to make a cocktail. My standard cocktail is a French martini and it usually requires some back and forth with a bartender but these guys nailed it, and it looked as great as it tasted.

              Gallopalooza - horse themed street art

              Gallopalooza - horse themed street art

From there I had some free time so I headed over to NuLu, an arts district filled with galleries, small shops and cafes. This is where I learned the second amazing thing about Louisville, they play great music. I am not sure if it was because they needed a boost to get them through the storm or that's just how they roll but every place I went was playing great music and always just a touch too loud so you could really feel it. A few places I would recommend checking out: Please & Thank You, Scout and The Green Building.

My last stop was at a great antique market down the road, Crazy Daisy. I found some amazing vintage iron shoe lasts which I bought to repurpose as display fixtures in the shop.

                      The French Martini at Eight Up

                      The French Martini at Eight Up

The next morning I was up bright and early to do a segment on WHAS for Great Day Live all about hat trends and what's hot for Derby Season. It was so much fun and once again everyone was so lovely! You can watch the segment here.

While I was there I couldn't resist popping one of my hats on their Gallopalooza horse. I am a sucker for street art, and these fantastic horses were all over the city. Their bright colors and bold designs definitely stood out against the snowy backdrop and gave the city some much needed spring color.

That evening I was delighted to be a vendor at the Wine, Women and Shoes event at The Henry Clay benefiting Family Scholar House. Everyone was dressed to the nines, incredibly charming and clearly out to have a good time. It was a great evening for a great cause and I am so happy they invited me to be a part of it!

On Sunday I did a trunk show with the amazing ladies at Clodhoppers. I couldn't believe it when I found out that Louisville does not have a major department store, this seemed impossible to me but I quickly came to realize that with stores like Clodhoppers, they don't need one. This boutique is filled with great designers like Milly, Alice & Olivia and Mara Hoffman and the ladies really know their stuff. It was really fun to watch them style clients in great looks for Derby and then turn them over to me to create a custom hat to match. I am thrilled to be working with these ladies and thrilled that they will be carrying my hats and fascinators through derby season.

That night was my only night to really go out for a proper diner and the foodie in me had been asking everyone for the two days prior what they thought the best restaurant in town was. The name that kept coming up was Jack Fry's and I can tell you, I was not disappointed. In spite of the crowd, I was lucky to snag a seat at the bar and it was here that I learned the third amazing thing about Louisville, the people are beyond gracious. I shared some great conversation, food and more amazing cocktails with groups of total strangers who love their city. It was a super fun way to end my trip and if you ever find yourself at that bar, the shrimp and grits is heaven.

The Money Hat

Collaborations, Solana Beach, CharityJill CourtemancheComment

For the past two years I have had the pleasure of creating what is known as "The Money Hat" for the annual Gold Diggers, Hats Off Luncheon here in San Diego.

This is a wonderful ladies hat luncheon where local nonprofits compete for grants by making hats which represent a yearly theme and their organization.

It's an all around hatty affair so as you can imagine it's right up my alley! 

For my part, the ladies of the Gold Diggers show up with a handful of cash, $500 to be exact and give me free rein to make any hat I wish using the cash as a trim! This hat is used as a door prize for the most fabulous spectator hat at the luncheon, (now that's a reason to get dressed up). It's such a fun project and one that gives me a chance to forget about function and just have fun with the design.

For last years hat, (pictured above) I made roses out of the cash and for this years hat (pictured below) I made butterflies out of $50 bills. 

Paris - la deuxiéme partie

TravelJill CourtemancheComment

It only seems fair to share some "behind the scenes" info from my time in Paris! I am a creature of habit and tend to never forget where I had a good meal, (seriously, you can ask Cassie how many times on our trip I said "Oh, right next to that place there is a café with an amazing...", or "I think just around this corner is a pastry shop where I remember having an amazing...". There is no doubt that I can navigate Paris on food memory alone! 

So here are a few of the delicious morsels I ate:

Top row: A ham & cheese omelet at a bistro in the Marais (my first meal on any trip to Paris - always), the religieuse au chocolat at Laduréé, coffee and croissants at Café Flore, A seriously delicious country tartine at Au Petit Suisse, coffee and viennoiserie at Eric Kayser (the pink is a Brioche aux Pralines Roses and it's a must!)

Bottom row: Chicken with morel mushrooms and a caramel soufflé at l'Auberge Bressane, the goat cheese tartine at Le Bouillon, a chicken salad at Cuisine de Bar, and a steak frites at Chez René (get the chocolate mousse - but I should hope that's a given).

A few of my other favorite food stops in Paris: for caramels Fouquet, for a cocktail Ferdi or the bar at Hotel Costes, for grab and go to picnic La Grand Epicerie.

Of course I didn't just eat! I also spent a lot of time just walking around, people watching and exploring. Here are a few of the things that caught my eye:

Top row: Notre Dame at dusk, Pont des Amoureux covered in love locks, flowers at the Hotel Costes flower shop, le tour d'eiffel (and a perfect fall day).

Middle row: In general I just adore vintage cars regardless of the city they're in, lightening in the pyramid of the Louvre, street art, le tour at night.

Bottom row: Street art, the wall of the Concorde métro stop, my favorite fountain in le Jardin des Tuileries (I got engaged here many years ago), and christmas decorations hanging from the cupola of Galeries Lafayette.

I will leave you with a photo from one of the most special moments of this trip! I will let the story of how we got here remain a mystery (although clearly it was happenstance, because if I would have known it was going to happen I surely would have put some bloody make-up on), but we were lucky enough to be escorted into the private apartment of Coco Chanel, at 5 rue Chambon. Just seeing this mirrored staircase, the scene of so much Chanel history was pretty thrilling and the experience was truly something I will never forget. 

Until next year Paris! xo j-co

Fall in Paris

TravelJill CourtemancheComment

Paris is hands down one of my favorite cities! There is nothing like drinking in the food, fashion and culture first hand. I have been lucky enough to spend a fair amount time here over the years and the city holds some of my greatest memories (I got engaged here, it doesn't get better than that). This time around I had the pleasure of making the trip with one of my best friends and fellow milliners Cassie MacGregor from The House of MacGregor in Dallas, Texas.

One of the things that makes a JCM hat a cut above is that I work hard to source the best materials and one of the best places to buy those materials is Paris. There are still many ateliers where gorgeous silk flowers are being made by hand, entire shops dedicated to selling gorgeous ribbons woven in France and basement studios where one can find rabbit fur felt in the most divine, saturated colors. Everything is so beautiful, the colors and textures so rich and the added bonus of working one on one with the women who bring it all to life, it's just such a treat!

On this trip I focused on shopping for an array of beautiful straws and one of a kind trims to make hats for the Kentucky Derby and Opening Day at Del Mar. I filled the coffers with the most gorgeous flowers and feather trims to create stand out hats and to give clients shopping for custom creations an endless selection of options to choose from.

Wander through the pictures below to see some of the treasures I brought home as well at some of the artisans at work creating their beautiful pieces. It was an incredible, fun filled and inspiring trip and one that is sure to have a large impression on the spring / summer collection!

Don't worry, there is more to come on my trip to Paris! In my next post I will share some of my favorite places to eat and shop, because let's face it all work and no play, is no way to spend your time in Paris. xo j-co

Royal Ascot 2014

Royal Ascot, Collaborations, Horse RacingJill CourtemancheComment

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of being invited to be a guest commentator on The Royal Hats Blog for their coverage of Royal Ascot 2014. It was so much fun to channel my inner Joan Rivers and be the voice of the American milliner!

Royal Ascot is an event where hats are the main topic (almost as much as the horse racing itself) and the Royal Family is no exception to the frenzy. They debut new hats each day and these styles help to set the trends in millinery for the next season.

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Princess of Jordan, Sheikha of Dubai on Day 3 of Royal Ascot

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Princess of Jordan, Sheikha of Dubai on Day 3 of Royal Ascot

If you are a millinery enthusiast like me you will enjoy reading through the links below and perusing the pictures of the Royal Family at their best. It is also really fun to see how our opinions varied on each hat and which ones we liked the best. I loved reading which hats British milliner Katie Vale loved that I cringed at!

Have a read and let me know what you think! xo j-co

Royal Ascot Day 1: The Monarchs

Royal Ascot Day 1: The British Royal Family

Ascot Day 1: The Extended British Royal Family

Ascot Day 2

Ascot Day 3: Ladies’ Day

Ascot Day 4

Ascot Day 5

Tying Up Royal Ascot

The Duchess of Cornwall on the first day of Royal Ascot

The Duchess of Cornwall on the first day of Royal Ascot

Ladies Day is the hot ticket bringing out the most over the top creations and the best of the week. It is such a delight for me to see such amazing fashion and enthusiasm for millinery in one place.

Here at JCM I have the pleasure of creating many hats for Ascot and it is one of my favorite events of the year to design for. Although I make hats for many horse races, Ascot is different in that it has strict dress code that needs to be adhered to for admittance and the event itself is all about the hat (thank you Britain)! That means I get to go all out and dress women in fantasy hats which really bring their outfits to life, and of course this is my favorite part of being a milliner!

Princess Beatrice on Day 5 of Royal Ascot

Princess Beatrice on Day 5 of Royal Ascot

Diagon Alley

Fashion, TravelJill CourtemancheComment

In my continued quest to prove you can where a hat anywhere, I whipped myself up a fun little fascinator for a recent whirlwind trip my husband and I took to Orlando for the preview opening of Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.

The invitation called for "evening resort" and this hat / outfit had to be a lot of things since this trip was also my first time meeting my husband's new business colleagues, and the first time my husband and I had been away alone since our daughter was born (no pressure)! I wanted to have a fun night out exploring the world of Harry Potter while staying comfortable, cool and looking cute. And I think I nailed it! 

A quick Vespa photo before we head to the park.

A quick Vespa photo before we head to the park.

I chose to make a simple fascinator, a smaller version of our popular "Jasmeen" on a headband (perfect for keeping my hair in check in the Florida humidity) that left my face open so I could converse easily. Plus, it was easy to pack for a cross-country flight. I kept it on the petite side so as not to overwhelm the hat-less! I kept the rest of the outfit simple so it all felt effortless, and the best part was I was not the only one in a hat!  A lot of the characters in Diagon Alley had fascinators and hats as part of their ensembles. It turns out the costume designer from the Harry Potter movies, Jany Temime, also designed the costumes for the theme park.

The hat was a hit all the way from Los Angeles to Orlando, to Kings' Crossing to Diagon Alley! 

The complete look: Dress: Calypso St. Barth,  Bag: Jamin Puech, Shoes: Prada, Hat: JCM available by special order

A Glorious Collaboration

Collaborations, Solana BeachJill CourtemancheComment

"Lynnie's Lace" in process in her studio and the finished product in the shop.

One of the things I love the most about finally having a flagship store for Jill Courtemanche Millinery is that I get to meet the most fantastic people and chat with them about their lives and their passions. One of the fabulous women that I have been lucky enough to cross paths with is Lynnie Diede of Lucky To Be In Love.

Lynnie is an amazingly talented designer, painter and illustrator with a great sense of humor and real zest for life. Like me she is completely willing to jump in head first so I knew we were going to come up with something glorious when she agreed to collaborate with me on a limited edition collection of hand-made and hand-painted Panama hats.

My daughter Tabitha and Lynnie's son Holden chillin' at the park.

My daughter Tabitha and Lynnie's son Holden chillin' at the park.

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with leopard print (it's a total neutral). So for our first hat I asked Lynnie to create the perfect leopard print on a rich caramel straw and she totally nailed it! The print is so amazing that all I needed to trim it with was a flexible wire and a wide black grosgrain binding from France. The over-sized 8" brim is the most glorious beach hat and the perfect accessory for a black bikini and the 5" brim is my new daily go to chapeau.

For the next hat in the collection, Lynnie recreated one of her delicate lace patterns on a very finely woven Panama straw and the result is breathtaking. So simple and beautiful, I decided to finish it off with a simple black grosgrain ribbon from France, it's truly the perfect hat for a little black dress this summer.

I am so excited about these hats and I am so thrilled that I was able to work with such a talented artist to create them! All of the hats in the collection are signed and numbered and these designs will only be around for this season, so don't miss out!

xo j-co