A Life Story - Launch Day

meet gretchen fenston (or hats are magic!)

There is no better magic bullet for self-confidence than a great hat. I should know. I’ve experienced the magic.

Seven years ago, I landed a burgeoning young style maven’s dream job at the Condé Nast Archive. Every day I would go to work amongst remarkable vintage photographs and illustrations from Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and more. Beyond Steichen, Horst, Rawlings, Matter, and Yanes, my colleagues were the greatest treasures of all. From the worldly and wise film producer, Pam, to the southern belle socialite any girl would aspire to be, Martha Ann, to the ambitious young digital archivist moonlighting as a letter press artist, Dawn, the Archive was an incredible patchwork quilt ensemble of creative women.

Then, of course, there was Gretchen.

Gretchen Fenston is the Registrar (like a curator) of the Condé Nast Archive. In addition to her unparalleled knowledge of fashion history, which she puts into practice dressing herself daily, Gretchen is also a brilliant milliner. Her expert vintage styling paired with her extraordinary hat designs turn heads wherever she goes. In fact, Gretchen and her hats have been featured in the press many times, often by famed New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, as well as these favorites of mine from The Sartorialist.

You get it. She’s amazing.

Last weekend, Dave and I visited Gretchen and her husband, Roddy, in their Brooklyn home for an impromptu tea party and a bit of good old-fashioned dress-up fun!


delivering cookies to the brooklyn party from parisi bakery in astoria

A Life Story - Launch Day

DRESS: Diane von Furstenberg via Second Time Around | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee


gretchen had the coffee table set ever so sweetly and even made a cherry pie!

A Life Story - Launch Day



it wasn’t long before we ran upstairs to play in gretchen’s dressing room

A Life Story - Launch Day

HATS: Gretchen Fenston | MY GLASSES: SEE Eyewear | GRETCHEN’S SWEATER: 70s vintage, no label | GRETCHEN’S ROSETTE BROOCH: Forever 21 | GRETCHEN’S BRACELET: Vintage | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee


loving one of the hundreds of hats in gretchen’s collection

A Life Story - Launch Day

HATS: Gretchen Fenston | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee


a glimpse at gretchen’s bounty

A Life Story - Launch Day

HATS: Gretchen Fenston | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee


this bonnet did not help my wedding fever!

A Life Story - Launch Day

HATS: Gretchen Fenston | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee


glowing after such a wonderful afternoon of millinery marvels

A Life Story - Launch Day

HATS: Gretchen Fenston | PHOTO CREDIT: David DeNee



This is only a small sample of the delightful array of hats Gretchen’s personal archives hold. She’s constantly at work creating new whimsical masterpieces for clients and personal use. I’ve been lucky enough to wear some of them. You may be understandably intimidated by wearing eye-catching hats such as these, but donning them has taught me that hats have the power to enrich your life.

A hat is a celebration of style. It’s the cherry on top of your day. It’s wearing your heart audaciously on your sleeve (well, head really). It’s courage in a solid form and a recipe for higher self-esteem.

A great hat is charming. It makes people smile. Like all of them! It’s an enchanting surprise in a sea of monotony.

Hats are simply magic, and none more so than the ones my dear friend, Gretchen Fenston, creates.

Check back for more adventures with Gretchen and her hats in the coming months!


  1. Lani

    Love the ‘wedding’ bonnet! ;) This is YOUR year, girlie!!!

  2. Hey we met at the Bettie Page Clothing Store it was so nice seeing you blog ! I loved that hat you are wearing on the cover picture. It shows you had an amazing time. If I was at her place I would probably never leave!

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