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Hatmaker Duvall does more than cover heads
Creations reflect individual personalities
Several hats created by Mary Duvall at her Gainesville home. Duvall makes many hats and costumes used by the actors during the annual Christmas on Green Street event.

When Mary Duvall goes hunting for a nice hat, she's not looking for a perfectly placed bow or just the right shade of any particular color.

For Duvall, beauty is more than "skin" deep - it's all about good bones.

"When I go shopping, I'm looking for something with good structure," said Duvall, a Gainesville resident.

"Even if it's a straw hat, if it's good and strong I can always cover it with satin or velvet to get the look that I want."

Duvall isn't a formally trained milliner, she's more of an accidental hat designer.

When organizers of the annual Christmas on Green Street event approached the Gainesville Newcomers' Club, of which Duvall is a member, about being volunteer docents at each of the Victorian homes on the tour, something in her clicked.

"When they said we'd being wearing period costumes, my eyes just lit up," Duvall remembers.

Each of the volunteers was responsible for obtaining her own period-appropriate outfit, including a hat.

"I made my own costume that first year," Duvall said.

For her first foray into redesigning, Duvall chose to enhance a black, velvet cloche-style hat.

She added a fluffy bow, a cameo pin she wore in high school and topped it all off with smart, black veil.

"I got a lot of compliments on it," Duvall said. "So I told them, that I'd try making them one if they'd like."

The rest is history. This year, she will complete 31 hats for the holiday docents.

Duvall prepares all year for the annual event.

"I like to stock up on supplies when I find them on sale," she says.

Those supplies include reels of ribbon, tassels, feathers and bolts of festive material - and of course hats.

"I find things everywhere - (craft stores), garage sales, Goodwill and sometimes people just give me stuff," Duvall said.

No two hats are identical. Each, handcrafted piece tells its own story and bears a name indicative of its personality.

Miss Courtney is a sweet, green-felt creation, while Miss Danielle is a more sophisticated blend of gold brocade fabric, feathers and ribbon.

"A lot of times, I just get started - I don't necessarily know exactly how it will look when it's done," Duvall said.

Although Duvall's creations may have come a few hundreds years after the era when women wouldn't be caught in public without a hat, one could easily imagine Duvall's hats fitting right in on the set of "My Fair Lady."

"Can you imagine how much fun they had creating all of those hats?" Duvall asked with excitement.

While her designs are crafted to suit her own creative fancy, Duvall has been known to create headgear to suit others' musings.

"I had one lady come to be and say that she wanted something different, but she didn't know what she wanted exactly," Duvall said.

"So I brought out my tulle and sort of piled it around the hat like a cloud and she liked it. I added some flowers and by the time that we finished, we had something really special."

From cute little pillbox styles to wide-brimmed statement pieces, Duvall has a passion for all types of head wear.

"Sometimes, I've sat on hats for a while because I'm not sure what I want to do with it," Duvall said.

"I spend a lot of time thinking about it because this is something that I love to do."



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