Behind-the-scenes with MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®

I posted this photo on my Facebook and Twitter pages this week.


I happened to be putting the finishing touches on a hat that day and wanted to post a photo that showed me final tweaking the trims.

I was amazed by the response to the image. People said they loved getting a behind-the-scenes close-up of my hands actually working on one of my hats and that the photo made the hat making process very tangible and real to them.

Because of the response, I plan to share more pictures of the process of creating my hats and also pictures of my studio as I work.

In the meantime, please enjoy a few images that I do have already of my tiny Cape Cod studio space along with some wonderful images taken of it this spring by photographer Christine Hochkeppel, Cape Cod Times Easter article/slideshow.

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I hope you enjoyed the images.  I will have more behind-the-scenes glimpses for you very soon.

Until next time, thank you for visiting Hat and Horses!


A Hat for Marguerite

I am busy throughout the year designing and creating new hats to add to my collections which include Derby hats, wedding hats, Royal Ascot hats, garden party hats and tea hats. My problem isn’t inspiration, it’s that there are too few hours in the day for all of my millinery visions.

But sometimes the creation of a new hat design is a far more surrendipitous occurence. Just a few days ago I was asking my Facebook followers what new colors they might like to see for another “Mary” hat style.


The Mary debuted for the Derby this Spring in yellow linen with soft lime green taffeta trims and I thought it might be fun to offer her in more colors. I received a wide variety of ideas from my Facebook query and was excited to get the new Mary colors and trims underway.

Just then, I got a call from my friend Marguerite in North Carolina. Marguerite is one of those people whose voice over a telephone wire can literally make one’s day brighter. Over the years, she and I have created some truly amazing custom hat designs, one of our finest being the “Marguerite.”


Marguerite told me that she was in need of a hat gift for a very dear friend: a cloche style, in jewel tones, a comfy casual style that could be worn anytime. I suggested the Mary for her stylish look as well as the brim which offers great sun protection. Hot pink linen and rich black brocade were selected for the fabrics, and Marguerite chose a rose trim style that appealed to her.

In spite of the geographical distance, Marguerite was right here beside me in my tiny Cape Cod studio as I got her friend’s hat underway. I could hear her voice as I prepared the fabrics, stitched the hat pieces together, and then carefully handstitched all of the trims into place. Marguerite is a part of this hat; in every stitch, every swirling curve of the linen/organza rose, every fold of the silk leaves that frame it.

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Thank you, Marguerite, for the chance to create with you again. I hope that your friend loves her new hat which I have named, “Marguerite’s Mary”.

Until next time everybody, thank you for visiting Hats and Horses!


Raindrops and Roses

Fabric rose curls are one of my signature hat trims trims. Created in dupioni silk, silk organza, taffeta and chiffon, they adorn the hats that I create for teas, weddings and the Kentucky Derby.

Inspiration for my rose curls comes from the wild and cultivated roses that grow in abundance here on Cape Cod. Getting outside with my camera to shoot roses at the beach and nearby gardens gives me such a feeling of stillness and peace which I then bring to bear into the creative process as I sculpt my hat trims back in my studio.



Years ago a wonderful rose garden at our town’s community center was created that I love to visit. Lately however the weather has been most uncooperative for outdoor photography due to clouds and rain. The other day, after dealing with cabin fever long enough, I waited till the rain stopped, grabbed my camera and made a beeline for the garden. I thought that if I could just smell the roses, I would be inspired, my senses reawakened.

The trip was full of surprises. For starters, a stone eagle greeted me as I approached the garden, obviously under his protection.


The light offered another surprise. Rose after rose, still wet with raindrops after the latest shower, were bathed in a soft light that made the colors pop even as skies were darkening above. The effect was amazing.

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It was a gift, on a day that only moments before had promised only cloudbursts and thunderclaps. Full of wonder and inspired once again to create my roses, I headed home with my camera filled with images to remind me that there is always beauty and magic in between the raindrops if I just remember to look.

‘Til next time, thanks for visiting me at Hats and Horses!


For the Birds

I have a passion for birds. Here on Cape Cod, we are fortunate to have an abundance of bird life and birdwatchers flock to the Cape all year to catch sight of their favorite winged marvels.

In my backyard there are robins, blue jays, chickaedees, crows and Tufted Titmice along with many others.


In the woods and along the paths on the Cape you’ll see thrushes, hawks and a multitude of sparrows.


By the shore and in the marshes there are ospreys, Red-winged Blackbirds, kingfishers, gulls and Great Blue Herons.




I was not always a birdwatcher. As a youngster I used to giggle at naturalist types with their bird books, binoculars and baggy shorts. I couldn’t help but wonder what was all the fuss about birds?

Then, around about my 36th birthday, something changed. Looking back I’m not even sure how it all started, but for some reason, I began to notice the birds. It started with the red-tailed hawks. Gazing up at them as they glided far above me, I imagined the freedom of being airborne, lifted up by delicate wings and supported by the Cape Cod breezes. My eyes kept going to the skies searching for birds. My husband began to insist on being the driver when we’d go on trips because I couldn’t be trusted to keep my eyes on the road. I was truly hooked, captivated by their varied flight, identifying songs and splendid colors!


Yet this growing passion for birds presented me with a dilemma when I became a milliner. Ladies love hats trimmed with feathers, and feathers bring such elegance and playfulness to fascinators and wide brims alike. Many of my own early hat designs were trimmed with feathers that I bought from millinery suppliers. Yet as my love for the birds grew, I began to feel that those feathers that allowed these birds to soar so magnificently looked far better on them than on my hats.

After some research and a lot of experimentation, I finally came up with an alternative: silk organza feathers. Long strips of organza fabric, shaped just like real bird feathers that could be filled with wire to achieve all kinds of swirling, curving contours.



I discovered that these feathers could also be created without wire, and attached in such a way as to create a wispy, draping effect over a brim edge or peeking out from behind a rose curl. Playful, elegant, animated, just like the birds!


And the response to my unique silk “feathers” has been very positive. This Derby season I created and shipped a record number of hats trimmed with my “feathers” in a wide assortment of colors, shapes and sizes. My customers loved their dramatic effect, and best of all, the one-of-a-kind look that they achieved.

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As a result I have found a way to be true to both passions, the hats and the birds. Out of a personal conviction came a creative solution and a trim design that is now a trademark for my hat company. And for those who prefer hats trimmed with the more traditional bird feathers, there are many wonderful millineries worldwide that offer these kinds of hats. There is something for everyone beneath the great hat umbrella and room for everyone to explore their creative ideas and follow their personal passions. Some may say my silk organza feathers are for the birds. And you know, they would be right!

Until next time, thank you for visiting me at Hats and Horses!


Cape Cod Yard Sailing – Sunday, June 23, 2013

This weekend I want to begin sharing another great passion of mine — YARD SALES!


The truth is, yard sales make me happy. Even as a young girl, I was always drawn to old things. While my girlfriends in high school were dashing to the mall to snag up the latest designer labels, I was haunting the local thrift shops and garage sales for more vintage items. The things that people were getting rid of fascinated me. They already had a history and usually some wear and tear, but to me they were perfect. You just never knew what might be waiting on the very next table or lying long forgotten in a musty old jewelry box. I was forever on a quest to find that one special relic from the past, and the thrill of the hunt spurred me on!

Today I have the perfect excuse for feeding my yard sale passion as I am a hat maker, and as such I am in constant need of hat trims and items for inspiration.

Over the years I’ve had some amazing finds. Old mill spools are perfect for holding cocktail hats and fascinators along with the old hat holder that clips on the edge of a shelf.


I love the way light shines through colored glass.  And why not make a beautiful old vase into a hatstand?


Old hat boxes, vintage cocktail hats, books on fashion design, bits of lace and braiding; over the years I’ve found all kinds of treasures.


Buckles, beads and fancy beaded appliqués… Now what could be better for creating special hats for my ladies who want that one-of-a-kind look?


As many of you know, I am an avid supporter of the retired Thoroughbred racehorses, and every year I create Derby hats for Old Friends of Kentucky to help raise funds for the horses who now live there. To create these special hats, I draw equine inspiration from many different places. Horse collectibles of all kinds are always on my yard sale list. Horses that rock, horses that roll, horses made of brass, wood and glass. At times they seem to literally jump into my car for the drive home where they become part of our stable as they are lovingly set onto a shelf, an open corner space, or onto my desk. Surrounded by such glorious, animated equines, I am inspired to create my Derby hats that honor some of the greatest Thoroughbreds of our time!

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I hope you’ll visit Hats and Horses again soon. And if it’s the weekend, you might see a post from me inviting you to come along and see what treasures I have  discovered from some recent yard sale adventure just down the road or over the hill here on Cape Cod. And if you’re not a fan of horses or hats, have no fear. There’s always at least one stowaway that finds its way into my yard sale basket.  It’s my favorite form of sailing!


Until next time, thank you for visiting Hats and Horses!


The Button Box

Certain moments stay in your memory forever and this is one of mine. We were visiting my grandmother’s apartment house in Brockton where Dad grew up as a boy. Grammy Coombs was known for her pillbox hats and pearl earrings, and she had been showing me her special box of buttons that she had collected over the years.


This carved wooden box looked like a tresure chest to me, filled to overflowing with twinkling, colorful magic that captivated me like nothing ever had before. Old buttons, new buttons, fancy buttons, plain buttons. Pieces of old pearl earrings that had lost their mates or backings. My favorites were the colored glass beads that shimmered when you held them up to the light. And the box smelled wonderful, too. Of powder, soap and roses, just like Grammy.



Afterwards, when my family was getting ready to head back home, Grammy pulled me aside, placed the box in my hands and told me not to tell my parents that she had given it to me. It was to be our secret. She looked so happy that her box was going home with me.

Sadly, my parents discovered the secret as we were packing up the old station wagon. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but Grammy’s button box never made it home to Cape Cod.

For years I wished that I had that box of my grandmother’s with all of her special things tucked inside it. Yet now I can see that my Grammy recognized in me an imaginative mind that saw magic, even in an old button box, and she wanted to foster that. I can still see her now during her visits to our home at Christmas time. She would sit on the porch in the old family rocker, a string of pearls around her neck, smiling as she watched my sister and I sing and dance our hearts out to scratchy old “Sound of Music” records. Her normally stoic, serious expression was literally transformed by the music and our pirouettes, as if she was being transported to some faraway place that made her smile.

Yet even without her button box gift, I have truly inherited my grandmother’s love of pretty baubles and beads. I am a devout collector of pearl necklaces and earrings, in all colors and sizes, that I find at yard sales and thrift shops.


And as a milliner designing custom ladies’ hats I get to play every day with wondrous gems and jewels like the ones that filled my grandmother’s button box. My hats are often trimmed with glass beads, metal buttons and shimmering crystals. I love nothing better than layering several buttons like a collâge, and then stitching them into the center of a rose curl or along a brim edge for a bit of extra pizzazz and sparkle.




What were my grandmother’s dreams for her life? Did she see in me a little girl who might someday dance and sing in faraway places, places that she had always wanted to see herself when she was young? Whatever her hopes and dreams may have been, I carry her with me as she and I adorn fancy hats that go all over the world to horse races in Ascot, teas in Scotland and weddings on the Island of Mauritius. And you know, I do believe that I can see my Grammy smiling even now…

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Thank you once again for visiting Hats and Horses!



Happy Father’s Day to all you Dads out there!

We lost my Dad to cancer in 1982 when he was only 57 years old. Dad loved to garden and he loved animals. One of his earliest jobs was driving a milk truck, pulled by a horse back then, and I was always asking him to tell me the stories of those early morning deliveries. Dad was the one to let us know when he spotted the first robin in the winter snow, or when one of the kitties had just dug up his freshly planted seeds in the garden, dancing mischievously as only kitties do when they are enraptured by flying dirt. We always had cats and dogs growing up, and every summer Dad took us to the Brockton Fair where we’d sit on the hill and watch the horses race on the tiny oval track adjacent to the fairgrounds.

Dad was one of my greatest supporters when it came to anything creative that I did, but perhaps most especially my music and my writing. I hope that Dad can see me now, doing the creative work that I love with hats and giving back to the retired racehorses.

This is a photo of Dad with the four of us kids in the hammock during the summertime.

We miss you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

My Dad, brothers John and Jim, sister Sue, and me. And my stuffed Dalmation puppy dog.

Wishing you all a Happy Father’s Day!