Jessica DeBuck of Fanciful Delights takes us back to the roaring 20s with her flapper hat creations!
BJDmagazine: Did you always design hats?
Jessica: The very first hats I made were for myself and gifts for friends almost twenty years ago. Then four years ago, I began collecting BJDs. I started designing my own hats for my ball jointed dolls right away.
BJDmagazine: What brought you to design hats for BJDs?
Jessica: Anything from the roaring twenties is my most favorite! I commissioned a couple 20s-style flapper outfits from Val Zeitler that really inspired me to create my very own hats. I wanted every ball-jointed doll I own to wear one as well, so they wouldn’t be left out of all that flapper fun. I wasn’t seeing a very large selection of hats from that particular decade. I decided to go ahead and try my hand to see what I could come up with. It just started turning into a hobby of mine. I took a few hats to my second Dollectible convention (now called GOGA in San Francisco) and they all sold out pretty fast. That’s what started my desire to make more.
BJDmagazine: What size BJDs to you design for?
Jessica: I design these hats to fit SD 9/10 and MSD 7/8 sized BJDs. They fit other dolls with approximately the same head size. I have a couple of porcelain dolls who wear them as well as any ball-jointed doll.
BJDmagazine: Your hats are clearly inspired by the flapper style. What attracts you to the 20s style?
Jessica: I’ve been attracted to the twenties ever since I can remember. I grew up fascinated by stories about my great grandmothers on both sides of the family who were flappers in their youth. My mother’s mother used to make fancy beaded hats. She was a wonderful artist. I even inherited a couple of her beaded flapper dance dresses, along with the original corsage and purse. I also have a nice collection of old silent films. I just admire the clothes and hat designs that were worn. The way the women put themselves together, did their makeup, bobbed their hair, and wore these cute hats close to their faces is simply adorable to me.
BJDmagazine: Do you look at a lot pictures of the 20s to get inspiration for your hats?
Jessica: I have many books about that era. My favorite is Flapper Era Fashions From the Roaring 20′s, by Tina Skinner and Lindy McCord. I also have a large collection of pictures I’ve saved from online searches.
BJDmagazine: What materials do you use?
Jessica: I like to use felt. It is the easiest material to work with. It’s sturdy yet soft and pliable. I find many different kinds of lace which I like to hand dye myself, especially Venetian lace. I also like to decorate with a variety of beaded motifs, decorative pearls, Austrian crystals, velvet leaves and hand dyed rosettes.
BJDmagazine: You have a great color sense. Tell us more about your color choices in your hats.
Jessica: I love to hand-dye my trimmings as often as possible. The trim colors determine the colors of the hat. Hand dyeing is fun and gives me the flexibility to create so many color combinations. I can dip one side in one color and the other side in something else, or simply brush lots of different colors wherever I please.
I start by looking at all the different trims I have. From there, I decide how to blend all the pieces together, and pick out the felt I want, to make a hat that’s pleasing to the eye.
BJDmagazine: Your arrangement of trims, laces, ribbons, flowers and beads is always balanced. Could you advise those of us who want to make hats on how to achieve this delicate balance?
Jessica: Balance is the key to making a hat look complete. I like to stare at the hat while I’m working on it and try different arrangements. Sometimes the hat needs a bigger motif. Other times I move a piece of trim to the side to make room for some beautiful rosettes I just dyed, and so on. My advice would be to make sure there is something interesting going on from every angle. So that any way you turn your doll’s head, you see a pretty hat. What makes my hats different is that I love to embellish them a little more than usual. I make them my own creation, as distinct as possible.
BJDmagazine: You design hats various shapes of flapper hats. What shape hat would you recommend to flatter the differently shaped BJD faces?
Jessica: I find that the cloche style hat is the easiest and that it flatters such a multitude of face shapes. I think my favorite hat of all time is the one Clara Bow puts on after she gets off work to catch her bus in the movie “It”… It’s a really sweet one, with cherries on the side. That particular cloche hat is one of the cutest and most flattering hats I have ever seen.
BJDmagazine: Do you wish women still wore hats? Do you personally wear hats?
Jessica: I do see ladies wearing some great hats, just not as much as many as they did back in the day. I like the fantasy of going back in time for a day to see what it must’ve been like. Having my dolls all wearing their twenties frocks and hats in the present is enough to satisfy my wish. I enjoy wearing cloche hats myself. I also wear wide-brimmed hats during the spring and summer to ward off the sun, or to cover up a not-so-great-hair day.
BJDmagazine: Can you describe your creative process? Do you plan a lot, or do you let the colors and materials guide you?
Jessica: I like to buy the prettiest trims and decorative accessories I can possibly find, and go from there. If I have enough gorgeous purple trims, for example, I’ll just go ahead and create a hat with that color theme. However, I don’t necessarily use just that one color over the entire hat. I use variations of the same color, plus I add different colors here and there. This approach produces some really beautiful and unique results when I’m finished.
BJDmagazine: Why do you choose to make each hat unique?
Jessica: It’s very important to remember that since our dolls are very special and unique to us, that we should make our dolls to stand out from the rest. You can use clothes and accessories to develop a character that is truly unique and outstanding! This is what makes this hobby so much fun. I love seeing someone with a doll wearing a handmade item and or an item they picked out just for that doll — an item that was made or chosen with love, not necessarily the original outfit manufactured for that doll.
BJDmagazine: What are the best style wigs to wear with a flapper hat?
Jessica: The best wigs to go with these hats are, of course, the famous bobbed hairstyle that Louise Brooks made famous. My favorite bobbed styled wigs are from Leekeworld. These are just perfect and really well made. Also I love the look of a doll with long ringlets wearing one of my hats. It reminds me of American’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford, who embodied such innocence and beauty.
BJDmagazine: Do you work on commission?
Jessica: When I first started making hats, I used to do quite a lot of commissions and sometimes still do, depending on my schedule.
BJDmagazine: Are there other eras that inspire you? What other era would you like to inspire yourself from?
Jessica: I’m also very inspired by the 1910s, when plenty of my favorite silent film stars got their start. Actresses such as Mary Pickford, Lillian and Dorothy Gish and so many others. The dresses and hats from that decade are so incredibly elaborate and beautiful. I see my hats as actually a cross between the teens and the twenties, but with my own little twist.
BJDmagazine: What are you planning for 2011?
Jessica: I’m planning on tweaking my patterns a little bit, making more hats, and trying my hand at some flapper-style dresses. I’m perfecting my creative technique, and it feels like I’m almost there. These are all things I’ve wanted to do for quite some time. I think it will be quite fun and exciting to put my creations out there when I’m ready.
BJDmagazine: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Jessica: Making hats and clothes for your sweet dolls can be relaxing, easy, and a very rewarding experience. It can also be challenging and frustrating. Never let a few mess-ups stop you. Try again and again to get the results you desire. I remember when I first made a hat, it didn’t turn out as planned. But I kept at it and didn’t stop trying until I ended up happy with my creation.
This coming Saturday is Christmas Day, and Jessica has a special present for us! Shush…It’s a surprise! So check back Saturday morning (Boston Time).
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