DAYNA PINKHAM knows a thing or two about form, whether in the structure of a double helix or a debonair fedora. She was, after all, an aspiring biochemist when she met famed milliner John Eaton in 1982 and stumbled upon her calling. Within six weeks she had traded in her textbooks for hat blocks and become his private apprentice. More than 20 years later, Pinkham’s mastery of the old-world art of hat-making is on display in her downtown boutique, Pinkham Millinery. Her elegant, hand-stitched hats have recently appeared in the pages of Italian Vogue, on the shelves at Barney’s New York, and on the heads of such celebrities as Serena Williams.
Pinkham developed her keen eye for graceful silhouettes by re-creating hats pictured in old books and W magazine. Her years of careful study are evident today in her clean designs and their vintage élan: wide brims that dip with an air of mystery, coy cloches, and sculptural pieces of her own invention. “In the department stores, we’ve only seen the same six styles for the last 30 years,” she says. “Unless you go to a milliner, you don’t get a chance to try on other shapes.”
This spring, Pinkham welcomes wedding season—and her 10th year in business—with a collection of lightweight pieces made of breathable sea grass, raffia, and parasisal. Designs meant to flatten easily in suitcases offer proof that sometimes the best kind of form can be as unstructured as a lazy summer day.