Sunday, March 20, 2016

Asian Inspiration

Anna May Wong, circa 1930's.
The exotic allure and fascination with the Far East have inspired fashion designers throughout the 20th Century. American couturier Valentina, who loved the clean lines of Asian design, was mad about the conical hats often referred to as coolie hats. Originating in Southeastern Asia, the simplistic style of the conical hat was primarily used as protection from the elements. This style hat is most often associated with beach wear, but it is also a chic look paired with a tailored dress or suit.

Valentina design, circa 1940's. Photo courtesy

A marvelous red "coolie" hat, circa 1954.
Photo courtesy Couture Allure

Sophisticated 1950's suit topped with a dashing "coolie" hat.
Photo courtesy

The traditional "coolie" hat was made of straw or bamboo; however sumptuous silks, luxurious velvet, brocades, and other fabrics have been used by fashion designers and milliners throughout the decades. Often these peaked, conical hats were left without adornment, but trimmings such as bows, beading, flowers, tassels, feathers, and embroidery were also used.

Beach wear, circa 1938.
Note the matching coolie hat with the edges trimmed with contrast binding.
Photo courtesy

How-to instructions for a cute beach hat from a circa 1940's newspaper.
Courtesy thewartimewoman

Miss Gene Marshall
Gene Marshall is a vision of fashionable allure in an Asian-inspired ensemble from the costume vault at Monolithic Studios. The jacket from Integrity's "Cherry Smash" (with added button detailing) is paired with a black skirt and red gloves, both from Robert Tonner. The delightful conical hat of black and white dotted silk faille trimmed with a contrast black binding and chin-strap completes the ensemble. The peaked shallow crown is topped with a circle of red ruched satin from the original "Cherry Smash" bandeau style hat. Jewels are from Ashton Drake. White Orchid Gene Marshall is from Mel Odom and JamieShow.

You can easily make your own Asian-Inspired "Coolie" Hat for Miss Marshall & Company just in time for Spring. Click HERE for instructions.


  1. favorite styling influence! I adore all things Asian influenced and love the coolie style hat! They are so easy and fun to make for our favorite gals....thank you, Melissa for the great instructions and beautiful ideas! I love the addition of your hat to Cherry Smash...I will have to make a cute coolie hat for it! Megin

    1. Thanks for your comment Megin! They are so much fun to make. Melissa