Tipping Her Hat

Laguna Beach hatmaker Paula Del Percio

In her tiny Laguna Beach store, The Hat Box, Paula Del Percio makes everything from cunning cloches adorned with rooster feathers to tiny brimmed hats of imported straw ($300 to $1,000). Her parents made hats in the ’40s, so after teaching math to San Clemente high schoolers for years, she decided to do the same, using some of Mom and Dad’s tools.

“Making hats is much harder than you’d think. It’s not about gluing something on an already-made shape, that’s not hat-making. A milliner never uses glue.

One hat at a time, you are never going to get rich. You have to have some passion for it—a drive even.

The first thing my hat teacher said was, ‘If you don’t have patience, millinery is not for you,’ and I thought, ‘Am I a patient person?’ I didn’t know what it was going to require of me, but I liked the challenge.

The first hat I made was a Nehru style, covered with different kinds of feathers. I sold it off my head while doing a trunk show at Macy’s Herald Square in New York on Christmas Eve 1989.IMG_3478

Heads are much bigger now. At first I was baffled by it, but it’s the growth hormones in food. As people grow, their heads get bigger. People come in and apologize for their gigantic heads.

I stayed up all night watching the recent royal wedding. Little did I know that people would be lined up at my door; they all wanted to look like the royal wedding guests.

I’ve made hats for Robert De Niro, Susan Lucci, Maya Angelou, and Dennis Rodman.

A person should first consider the purpose for the hat: Is it for sun protection, travel, a special occasion like horse racing, a wedding? Face shape is not the first consideration.

Thank goodness for horse racing, that’s the one thing that keeps people dressing up and wearing hats.

I’m a senior, senior citizen; I’m in my 70s. Let’s leave it at that.”


550. S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach

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