Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

Grab your coat, and get your hat.

Leave your worry on the doorstep.

Just direct your feet, to the sunny side of the street.

                                                                               ~Dorothy Fields

(Note: There are many spectacular images capturing the amazing beauty of Chateau Dumas and surrounding villages. Allow time for your computer to load the images so that you don’t miss any. This is the fourth in the series on a millinery masterclass held in southwest France. Won’t you follow along?)

celebrating hat making

Down the hill from Chateau Dumas…around several hairpin curves along a narrow French county road… following  small signs directing travelers through roundabouts… lies the quintessential French village of Septfonds. 

Pot of salvias on window ledge FAV

Septfonds house FAV 2

Septfonds house and grapevines FAV

Septfonds and grapevines FAV1

Septfonds house FAV1

Septfonds street FAV

Complimenting the brillant azure blue Mediterranean sky, gaily-colored straw hats in lime green, fushia, purple and golden yellows hang from age-old balconies and say “bienvenue!” to visitors traveling to this charming village.

hats and balacony FAV

Hats on balcony 2 FAV

It is all in celebration of the 17th- annual Estivales du Chapeau–the Internationally acclaimed summer French hat festival. Septfonds is considered the “cradle of the French straw hat.” Mme. Pétronille Cantecor (1770-1846) has been attributed as the founder of the straw hat of Septfonds, and was the creator of the first hat workshop in 1796. Imagine.

Septfond’s three-day festival is filled with a wide array of merry entertainment, amazing demonstrations, local cullinary fare, millinery fashion show and hat competitions include amazing designs sent from milliners and hatters from around the world. I wonder if we will ever have time to really study it all.

The festival ad is quite clever–the original is made entirely of millinery paraphernalia used for creating the perfect summer straw hat.

Septfonds marketing FAV 1

Septfonds marketing FAV 2

vintage straw hats

Our tiny troupe of lively millinery afficionados–new and old– from around the world are eager for the festivities as sounds of French music merrily draws us closer to the center of the celebrations. The first stop is an exhibition of vintage French straw hats. Amazing. I can hardly control the urge to try on the simply gorgeous hats.

Over 600 vintage hats were bequeathed to Mme. Dany Caussinus. In French, Dany tells how her benefactor told her that she wanted her to look after the straw and velvet hats, never sell them and someday she would know what to do with them. After 20 years of intensive research,  Dany carefully restored each of these historical hats, and now makes them available for displays at special events. Dany’s vintage hat collection has now grown to over 3,000 spectacular designs. It is so difficult to decide which is my favorite…which beautiful hat would you like to wear? They are all so amazing! I think I shall like to make these in a millinery class one day. Dream…again.

Historic FAV27

Historic FAV5

Historic FAV8

(More hats on the video/slideshow below. Just select the “play” arrow button over the photo image.)

hat competition

Reluctantly, I leave for the next exhibition of competition hats. Novice and master milliners and hatters from all over the world submit their one-of-a kind creations for the event. Some of the hats follow a theme–others are a bit more elegant. Certainly, all of the hat entries are amazing. A vote for my favorite is penciled on a small rectangle piece of paper and slipped into the ballot box. I hope my favorite hat wins the competion.

sinemay and straw FAV

gray winner 3 FAV

je t'aime FAV

moi et toi FAV

Vienna FAV

straw fastenator FAV

the festivities

Down the block . . . around the corner . . .  in the village square . . .  are festive white tents filled with scores of hats from designers and milliners from around the world. My companions are off to try on the amazing styles from different sellers.

There is a wide variety of musical entertainment — musicians playing an antique hand-cranked large French street organ to a  trio of Caribbean steel drums. Cyclists riding antique bicylcles circle through the market streets. It is quite lively.

market square

bike riders two women

French woman holding bike FAV2

Father and child bikerider FAV

Caribbean Steel Drums FAV 2

Caribbean Music and Dancing FAV 2

artisan exhibitions

Many local artisans provide exhibition of timeless arts and crafts. The delicate bobbin lacemaking is breathtaking, How can the needleartists’ eyes see the ultra-fine thread and their hands manuever the bobbins into such intricate patterns? The straw broom making is quite interesting. Then, the next aisle features spinning dioramas and demonstrations, wood lathes turning out lovely hat stands of all sizes and handweaving golden braid from fresh-cut, fragrant straw.

Handmade brooms FAV

Spinning Demo FAV

straw hat making highlights

The exhibition highlight is the straw hat making. Fascinating. Men and women demonstrate the straw hat making process from beginning to end. The women stitch colorful straw braid together using specially-designed antique sewing machines. The sewing machines are powered by the women’s feet operating two treadles. The steam-fitted metal molds for the hat blocking are left to the men to attend. There are dozens of metal hat molds that are used to make the hat shapes. I am mesmorized by their skill and attentiveness to the art of straw hatmaking.

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV1

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV2

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV3

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV5

Demo Straw Hatmaking FAV4

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV1

Demo Straw Hat blocking FAV2

There is an announcement in French–the millinery fashion show is about to begin. The show highlights the designs of the International sellers at the festival. Lovely designs are modeled for nearly 45 minutes on the vintage wood runway. The colorful mistress of ceremonies is lively and humorous — the crowd frequently roars with laughter.

Milliner Fashioner Show FAV

 Colorful Fashion Show MC FAV

the perfect hat

At the end of a long row of vendors, Mme. Alexandra Marks from Liguria, Italy proudly displays her gorgeous creations. Each beautiful hat is unique and handcrafted from vintage hand-braided Italian straw. Many of the embellishments are vintage, too. Alexandra tells me that most of the straw is at least 6o-years-old. Time to find a perfect Italian hat. It is terribly warm and the hat will be cooler. It is so hard to decide…they are exquisite!

Italian Milliner-Alexandra FAV

Italian Straw Sunflower FAV

Italian Vendor Hat 1

Blue Italian Straw FAV

Italian Big StrawFAV2

Michelle, a travelling companion, discovers a small treasure off to the corner next to the church–a vendor who makes custom hat boxes. Just what I need for the large Italian vintage straw sun hot (see photo above). Mme. Estelle Fontaine makes lovely hat boxes for festival treasures. We animatedly chat back and forth about the box requirement for the new hat–mostly in French, but a bit in English. Estelle carefully measures the hat. We discuss options for the handle and trim for the box. The hat box will be ready in two hours.

Hat box sign

Hat boxes FAV large set

Hat boxes FAV1

Hat boxes small set FAV

Lovely hats are everywhere. I wish we wore them more often in the U.S. A couple of my new European friends enjoy their new hat festival finds at the end of the day. What a lovely end to an amazing day. . .!

Naomi's Festival Hat FAV

Kathy's new hat FAV

More about other lovely sights of  a millinery dream trip to France in the days ahead as they unfold.

à bientôt mes amis!

Read more at French Dreams at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Inspiring Beauty at Chateau Dumas.

Read more at Creativity at Chateau Dumas

You may want to take a morning walk over at The Southern Daydreamer for more Outdoor Wednesday posts, or read about living a beautiful life at The Inspired Room.

I am hooked on French hats lately. Find out what others are hooked on at Hooked on Houses.


Filed under France, millinery, Sewing, Travel, Vintage

31 responses to “Estivales du Chapeau {hat festival in France

  1. That was fascinating! I simply adore the vintage straw hats! How fun that they make a hat box specifically for your hat!
    (Wish I could have watched the video but alas, I only have dial-up and am not able! :~{ )

    • debbykay

      Hi Raeann,

      Thank you for stopping by, and leaving such a kind comment!

      Here is the link to just the video on YouTube: . You may be able to watch it there with your Internet connection. If you loved the straw hats, I think you will enjoy the video–it is just over two minutes long.

  2. Love those authentic old shutters! Very inspiring! You are seeing so much loveliness! Enjoy it all!

  3. Boy oh boy, what a fantastic place and event to have been there for. I have a thing for hats, really enjoyed this series.

  4. What a great festival — that only the French would do and do well. Great pictures.

  5. I love hats and it is sad that we do not wear hats so much here in th States. Well, with the exception of the baseball cap..ugggh!
    The Europeans, especially the French do hats so well.
    What an amazing and beautiful set of photos.
    Thanks for sharing

  6. Edie

    Dearest Debbykay~
    Oh I spy a lovely hat I have seen before ~~~

  7. Polly


    what a lovely adventure you are providing your readers… I am hooked on your blogs… Thank you for sharing.

  8. Dear sweet Debbykay,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful festival. The village is so charming and I love the colors you see everywhere. The buildings are really spectacular! The straw hats are beautiful! I enjoyed the video you compiled and all of the photos you shared! It would be very difficult to choose one! I am so glad you were able to find the perfect hat and have a custom hatbox made for it! I know you will treasure them both and enjoy wearing your gorgeous hat!

    It was wonderful to see how the hats are made using old sewing machines especially designed for that purpose. You can see that not only are these people skilled in what they do, but they enjoy it as well!

    I am enjoying each post so much and look forward to more of your dream trip! Thank you for sharing!

    Have a lovely weekend!

    Love to you sweet friend!

  9. My goodness…your pictures are breath taking! I love the colors of the old buildings and the shutters. I love the artistry in the architecture. The hats are amazing..even the hat boxes are pretty. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

  10. What a wonderful festival, Debbykay. The hats are exquisite! I wish we wore them more, here in the U.S., as well.

    I have so enjoyed the photos from your trip, they really captured the essence of this little corner of France.

    Best Wishes,

  11. Rebekah

    I love looking at these photos! The hats are amazing and j’adore the hat boxes. I would have such a difficult time choosing which hat I loved best. Thank you for giving a glimpse of your French adventures!

  12. Wow, Debbykay, this is just an AMAZING event!! What fun to see all of those beautiful hats on display. I LOVE the story about the lady that travels with the ones she would never sell… what a great piece of history. I can’t pick a favorite.

    I can get such a feel of the really FUN and celebratory nature of the people there. Your pictures are awesome!!

    So many beautiful hats and such a romantic and wonderful place… it is hard to take it all in!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share with all of us… I felt like I was right there. ;))

    xoxo heather

  13. DebbyKay,

    Thank you so much for sharing your fantastic trip with us. What a blessing! I love the photos, just beautiful! The hats are wonderful, how special to have a hat box made just for you! I too love the shutters and the architecture , so beautiful! You are making me covet 🙂

    Have a wonderful day DebbyKay and thank you for visiting my blog and your sweet comments.


  14. lynne@lynnesgiftsfromtheheart

    Oh my goodness. This is the most incredible post.. I truly enjoyed going along with you and seeing all of this beauty… The hats are just gorgeous..what fun you must have had..Thanks so much for sharing this with us.. I felt as though I was right there.. Happy Outdoor Wednesday..
    hugs ~lynne~

  15. Salut Debbykay! I am so happy to have found your blog!! I loved having a little vicarious trip to France and for such a charming festival! I will be back to continue my voyage! A la prochaine!…Debbie

  16. What a fascinating post. I am enchanted by the pictures of the old buildings and shutters — so beautiful and such gorgeous colors. And the hats too! Fabulous. Thanks for a MOST interesting tale!

  17. Cindy

    What fabulous pics and a lovely tour ! I loved the homes, the blue shutters and the fabulous hats! How much fun everyone seems to be having! Cindy

  18. I loved going to France with you! We just returned from Quebec City where I got my fix….for now 🙂 Happy Outdoor Wednesday.

  19. Beautiful France. I love all the images. Thanks for sharing.

  20. I too wish elegant hats were worn more in the USA. I wear baseball hats all summer to protect my eyes, (so picture a very casual look…), and I wish I could pull off feeling comfortable in a hat like the one modeled by your European friend wearing ivory. But that simply beautiful hat would stand out where I am from, and I don’t have the elegance and poise to pull it off. If many people wore hats, I wear something like that all summer!

  21. Dear Debbykay,

    Wow, I’m not one to swoon, but I think I probably would if I had been there with you! My goodness, how could you ever decide on just one? I especially loved the Audrey Hepburn lampshade hat with the pink trim. 🙂

    I’ll have to share your video with my Facebook friends! Maybe it’ll inspire them to start wearing their own chapeaux.



  22. So incredibly beautiful! I love the scenery photos and the cottage’s.

  23. Absolutely fabulous- was a fun thing-
    Loved all the pictures you shared-

  24. Your son

    This reminds me of the book “Do you like my hat?”

    The different styles of the hats are just fantastic! I never knew there could be so many!

  25. What a beauitful village, and a wonderful festival.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Hi from N Ireland.

  26. Pingback: The French Straw Hat « rose cottage gardens and farm

  27. Hi Debby!
    What an absolute treat to visit your world…I’ve been so busy with work and this is just amazing and has lifted my spirits to share in this adventure of yours!!
    I love, love, love everything in these posts! The lavender wands, the hats, the culture, the food the wine;)… just breathtaking. I am most grateful to you for sharing your trip.

    Thank you!! xox ~Madai

  28. Pingback: Memories of France « rose cottage gardens and farm

  29. Pingback: Charming French Shutters « rose cottage gardens and farm

  30. Karl Koster

    WOW! More straw hat lovers!
    As a plaiter and hand-stitcher of historic wheat and rye straw hats I love seeing more on hats historically. I have to come over and “play” sometime!

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