Friday, July 26, 2013

Sally Faith Steinmann, Milliner

Help save the horses! Mark your calendar! Place your bid from November 1 - 11. Visit for information!

Sally Faith Steinmann was born on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA, at a time when hats were going out of fashion. However, as a little girl she was intrigued by the hats she saw and began creating hats and costumes for her puppets and stuffed animals. It was this fascination with designing and creating that eventually led to her career as a milliner.

It was during her studies in women’s issues, psychology and film at Wellesley College that Steinmann began to focus on the social messages that women in this culture receive about themselves and what they should look like. She gradually began to refine her ideas and began to relate them to fashion and the choices women make about what they wear. She realized that fashion doesn’t need to be limited to society’s definition of beauty and style but should center around what makes a woman feel good about herself. After graduation she returned to Cape Cod and rediscovered her childhood love of creating hats. Out of this passion she created her company, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, which she tailored to remind a woman that there is only one standard of beauty, and that is her own.

After beginning MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® in 1998, Steinmann centered her attention on creating a line of custom design fabric hats which, since 2000, she has sold exclusively through her website, As her clientèle expanded so did her designs which include hats for equine events, polo matches, steeplechase and hunter events, as well as hats for weddings, teas, garden parties, Concours d’Elegance classic car events and church events. She has developed a loyal following, both in the United States and internationally, based on mutual respect, service and shared appreciation for quality fine millinery.

Over the years Steinmann’s millinery creations have found their way to her Majesty the Queen’s garden parties in Scotland and London, adorned brides and mothers of the bride and groom, as well as teas, countless parties and bar mitzvahs. An avid horse lover, her hats can be seen at equine events both nationally and internationally including the Royal Ascot, Dubai and the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby. Her Derby hats have also been honored by being accepted at the Kentucky Derby Museum’s Annual Derby Hat Exhibits. A strong advocate of Thoroughbred equine aftercare, Steinmann began her annual fundraising event, Hats off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” with Old Friends Equine of Kentucky in 2009. 2013 marks the fourth year of this successful event in which six of her original one of a kind Derby designs honoring retired race horses are auctioned online…. 

When did you realize you wanted to be a milliner?
I've had a lifelong passion for beautiful hats. I grew up watching Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady" and Barbara Streisand in "Funny Girl" and "Hello Dolly!"  And I loved making outfits and hats for my stuffed animals to wear. I was a graduate of Wellesley College where I majored in women's studies, documentary film and psychology. Through my studies I realized the social messages that women in this culture receive about beauty and fashion. I believe that fashion doesn’t need to be limited to society’s definition of beauty and style but should center around what makes a woman feel good about herself, from the inside out. After graduation I returned to my native Cape Cod and rediscovered my childhood love for creating hats. My Mom had given me a pattern for making a felted wool hat and from the very beginning I was hooked. My childhood love for shaping natural fibers into something that could be worn was rekindled. I created fanciful wool hats in bright bold colors and sumptuous textures, and when summer came I created a line of "Easter bonnets" out of silk and linen, decorated with flowers and ribbons and bows. At this point, in 1998, I decided to start my hat business, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, naming it after my tabby kitty, Maggie Mae, who has been my muse since the very beginning. My goal was to offer a hat business tailored to remind a woman that there is only one standard of beauty, and that is her own.

Do you have a favorite hat of your own creation?
Choosing a favorite hat would be like choosing which child a mother likes the best! Each and every hat is a very special creation. What I can do is share photos of some of my most recent one of a kind hats created within the past couple of years. I love these particular hats for their grand shapes, bold colors and fine detailing...

Is there one style over another that requires more time to create?
The time does indeed vary. Brand new custom designs, from concept to actual hat, take much longer than hats ordered from one of my standard online hat collections. The creation time also depends on the shape of the hat, the fabrics that are used, the brim size and the degree of detail in the trims. For example, the Barbara ready to wear hat style from The Leopard Hat Collection takes far less time to create than a custom design such as the Rapid Redux hat. Generally I tell my customers that hats take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to create and ship; longer for custom designs.

What are the steps to create a hat from drawing board to finish?
As a true custom millinery, the creation process for each hat is as unique and individual as the hat that is created and the woman who will wear it. So much depends upon the customer's style preferences, the purpose for the hat and whether the hat is a brand new design or one that I have created before. If the order is for a hat from one of my website collections that requires no custom changes, the process would be as follows: upon receipt of payment the hat foundation is cut, prepped and stitched. Trims are then created, laid onto the hat and eventually hand stitched into place.

If the hat order is for a custom design, there are a variety of other steps involved depending upon the design chosen, including whether the hat is created to match an outfit (or vice versa) as well as how quickly delivery is needed. Oftentimes photos are shared with the customer through email. Swatches, shoes and outfits are often sent as well, and there are countless phone conversations as the design gets finalized. From that point, the process continues as it would for a standard order; allowing some flexibility for tweaks and changes along the way.

The one constant for all of my hat creations is music. An eclectic collection inspires me every day in my little Cape Cod studio - Sheryl Crow, Judy Garland, Yo-Yo Ma, Adele, Kat Edmonson, Pavarotti, Barbra Streisand, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Chris Botti, Norah Jones, Madeleine Peyroux, Tony Bennett, Shawn Colvin and beyond!

I love the rich brocades, organza, tulle lace and embellishments that you use. Where do you obtain your extraordinary fabrics?
I find many of my materials at local fabric shops as well as through a variety of millinery suppliers, online fabric suppliers, and also thrift shops and antique stores for one of a kind buttons and unusual trims. Rich dupioni silk, 100% linen, silk organza and shantung are generally used for the basic hat foundation, while rose curls, fabric leaves, sashes, bows, Marguerites and other trims are fashioned out of organza, silk, taffeta, chiffon and charmeuse. All of my hats are made from fabric which makes them unique from so many hats on the market crafted from straw and synthetic materials that have trims added almost as an afterthought. Finally, buttons, veiling, tulle and French ribbons are added for accents; the details are my favorite part! I view my fabrics as my personal palette of colors, much as an artist would view his paints and canvas. Like painting, the art of hat making is a statement of individual style and expression, both mine and my customer's.

Where are your hats currently exhibited?
All of my hats are showcased exclusively for sale on my website at - wedding hats, Kentucky Derby and Royal Ascot hats, tea hats, garden party hats and fascinators. They are also featured on my blog "Hats and Horses" at, on Pinterest at and on my Facebook page at

It must be gratifying to see your hats worn all over the world. Where is your favorite place to travel?
It's amazing, Gina. My hats have been to Royal Ascot, the Queen's garden party in Scotland, the Island of Mauritius, and beyond! As far as where I like to travel, despite living on Cape Cod with the ocean always close by, my artist husband Tom and I love to travel along the Maine coast where we can enjoy the colors, light and sea air. It rejuvenates the soul and kindles many a new hat and painting.

Your effort to help save horses in need is commendable. Describe your first encounter with a horse....  

As a little girl, the horses in storybooks seemed very real to me. I loved the story of Black Beauty as told through the horse's perspective. Through Beauty and the other horses in the book, Anna Sewell poignantly demonstrated how we are the caretakers of these wondrous creatures that possess not only individual personalities but have spirit, emotion and memory as well. I just could not understand how someone could ever abuse or neglect these sensitive and giving creatures. I watched every horse movie and read every horse book I could, longing to meet and ride a real horse! One Saturday when I was about 10, my Dad took us to the local pony rides. There my sister and I met two adorable Shetland ponies, Cocoa, chocolate brown and Sweetie-Pie, black and white. I was captivated by them, and begged my Dad to take us to see the ponies every Saturday from then on. Still, I can so remember feeling a sadness about the limiting world these ponies shared in their tiny paddock and barn. Years later when developers came and the stables disappeared, I wondered whatever happened to those two sweet ponies who had made a little girl's dream come true.

How did you become involved with saving horses?
Over the years as my hat business grew I found an increasing number of my customers were women attending equine events including the Kentucky Derby. This brought me back to my childhood passion for horses. However as an adult I was well aware that not all racehorses have happy endings to their lives.

Following the tragic breakdown of Barbaro in the 2006 Preakness and his subsequent death in 2007, I felt compelled as an artist to create a hat to honor him, naming it Run for the Roses. I next created a new page on my hat website, "Hats and Horses: A Lifelong Love Affair" which showcased some of the horse welfare organizations around the country. That same year I was asked to create and donate hats to honor other fallen equine racing heroes in charity events for Thoroughbred aftercare.

In 2009 I created my concept, Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby, an annual 6-month online fundraiser about to begin its fifth year with Old Friends Equine of Kentucky with all proceeds going to their Thoroughbred aftercare facility.  You can read all about the series on my Hats Off to the Horses webpage devoted to the auctions. Each year I create and donate six one-of-a-kind couture Kentucky Derby hats created to honor selected retired Thoroughbreds at their Dream Chase Farm facility.  I study photos of the horses and old films of their races to capture what I would describe as the attitude or spirit of the horse in my design. Hats and horses are two of my greatest passions, and through the Hats Off to the Horses fundraiser I have combined them both to offer my support for the retired racehorse and all horses. I hope that the auction series is reaching the hearts and minds of people who may never have thought about racehorses or what happens to them when they can no longer race or breed. To view the hats and horses they honor from our first four years of the auction, please visit the Old Friends Hat Auction Portfolio.

Are you involved with the rescues/placement of horses?
No. There are some amazingly dedicated people in the trenches who attend horse auctions and directly help pull horses from slaughter pens, or who run rescues themselves. For me, as a milliner, I feel that the way I can best help the horses the most is by offering my hats as ambassadors to spread the word about equine welfare.

In a 2001 CBS interview, Michael Blowen of Old Friends was asked why he wanted to help Thoroughbred racehorses and not some other worthy cause. He replied, “Everyone has a little spot in the world. One tiny little dot. This is my dot." These hat auctions for Old Friends are my dots. Through the funds that my hats raise as well as the awareness this annual event creates, I hope it will inspire more people to support the horses of Old Friends and racehorses in general. If it does, then my efforts have been worthwhile.

Do you have a favorite rescue story?
I read their stories everyday and each one tugs at my heart and inspires me to work even harder to help them. Clever Allemont was one of the first rescues I ever heard about. Winner of over $300,000 during his racing career, Kristin Chambers of Winding Road Equine Rescue and Retirement in Waverly, Kansas, USA, found him in a kill pen with one eye missing and all but hopelessly lost in the slaughter pipeline. Kristin and her friend Diana Baker contacted Old Friends and Clever was retired to Dream Chase Farm in 2009 to live out his days as a happy horse. Then there's the story of Mascot, a racehorse who earned $240,000 at the track and yet somehow wound up at the New Holland auction, the end of the line for so many slaughterhouse-bound horses. Susan Salk of shared the story of Mascot's rescue in her August 9, 2012 blog which describes how Mascot was rescued by Melissa Rudershausen of Double Rock Thoroughbred Rescue. Mascot lived for many months with Melissa who tirelessly worked to heal the horse which resulted in a happy yet far too brief retirement after years of neglect. Another favorite rescue story is Susan Salk's story about a gorgeous dappled gray filly named Glenye, miraculously rescued by Mindy Lovell of Spring Hill Farm (Transitions Thoroughbred Program). The filly now has a promising career ahead in the Hunter ring. The important thing in all of these stories is that no matter whether it's a horse who earned millions at the track or one who never won a single race, every horse's life is sacred. Banged up or broken, they all deserve love and our care for the rest of their lives. After all they've given us, we do owe them that much.

How can we help to save the horses?
There are so many things we can do and no contribution is too small in the effort to save our horses. Education is key, and each one of us can help spread the word about the needs of retired racehorses as well as Mustangs, the PMU (pregnant mare urine) mares, and the nurse mare foals. All of these horses need our help. My suggestion is that once people become aware of the needs of these horses that they choose a horse welfare organization to support or donate time to a local horse rescue. On Facebook and Twitter, you can "Like" and "Share" albums of horses for sale at auctions such as Camelot Horse Weekly. These horses need our help in finding safe places to land. This means first learning what their needs are and then determining how you can best help. For those who have the means, they should think about adopting a rescue horse. But do your research. Adopting one of these horses takes a huge commitment which includes not only money but also time, patience and love. 

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