True milliners don't use the F word (fascinators)
Over many years Melissa-Gaye Designs has developed artistically progressing through varying art and fashion genres. Here is my story.
Starting as a teen, I designed and made the majority of my own fashion, building on the skills taught to me by my mother and grandmother. In the 80’s I embraced the fabric painting trend and opened my first shop selling my hand painted t-shirts to tourists visiting the Walkabout Creek Hotel (the home of Crocodile Dundee) in McKinlay, north western Queensland.
In the early 90’s I started to dabble with free motion machine embroidery, combining it with my fabric painting expertise to create my own unique style - creating unique one off pieces of wearable art. Winning national competitions using these techniques encouraged the Queensland Arts Council to include me in their traveling tutors list, teaching fabric painting and embroidery throughout Western Queensland.
After moving to Winton I purchased a small fashion boutique, thinking it would be a great outlet for my creations. I continued to paint and sew in the backroom for a few years, until the ready-to-wear fashion side of the business grew such that expansion into larger premises was required. Artistic endeavours then took a back seat as I concentrated on running this successful business, Matilda’s Wardrobe, and raising our family.
In 2006 the Queensland Boulder Opal Association started ‘The Queen of Gems’, an opal inspired dress design competition to promote boulder opal, Australia’s national gem stone. This was the perfect opportunity for me to combine fashion and my creativity. My creative juices were stirring, but with a full time business and two young children, I kept telling myself that I didn’t have the time. However before long I had designs sketched and was sourcing fabric samples. I could not ignore the desire to create any longer so after a ten year hiatus since doing anything much creative I jumped in the deep end with creating a machine embroidered evening dress. Perhaps somewhat ambitious but, after some practice samples (and quite a few silly mistakes!) it all came back to me and once again I was elated to be immersed in the creative process. I had forgotten how much I loved creating and then wondered how I had survived not doing it for so long.
In the ten years this annual competition has been running I have created fourteen pieces; ten garments, two pairs of shoes and two headpieces. Eight of those pieces were winning entries. On the strength of these garments I started to receive private commissions for special occasion frocks. The Opal Design Competition has given me the opportunity to develop and extend my creativity, my techniques and my skills. And a handy excuse to ignore the domestic chores.
In recent years the Fashion on the Field competitions at horse racing events have become major competitions and this has prompted huge interest and growth in racing fashion. I started to sell appropriate racing fashion in boutique and soon my customers were requesting ready-to-wear headpieces be customized to complete their racing fashion ensembles. I then started to create complete headpieces for myself and my customers and it wasn’t long before I had the millinery bug. I resisted the urge to get fully immersed in the profession as I felt that it was a very well represented with many fantastic Milliners. It wasn’t until a customer said that “there may be plenty doing it but not everyone is doing it was well as you”. That I was encouragement I need to commit to the craft, and now I’m addicted. My Millinery been online was also a enjoyable way to support my boutique through 8 years of drought.
Please help me feed my addiction.