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Fri Feb 7 2014 12:04:22

Hat Expert Brenda Grantland Starts Her Own Ecommerce Site

By: Julia Wilkinson

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We asked for nominations for collectibles and antiques experts, and you answered. Pam, who is on Etsy at MadgesHatBox, and MadgeAtHome, suggested  Brenda Grantland, who started a new online marketplace called Hatatorium Emporium, and co-authored Hatatorium, the "definitive e-book on vintage hats."

AuctionBytes Blog caught up with Brenda to find out how she got into the world of hats, why she started her own ecommerce web site, and other wonders of the world of millinery (that's " hats, trimmings, etc, sold by a milliner," which Merriam-Webster tells us is "irregular from Milan, Italy; from the importation of women's finery from Italy in the 16th century."

AB: What got you first interested in hats? And was your mother or grandmother also a fan of hats?

BG: My childhood photos usually show me wearing baby bonnets and then hats. I loved them.

My mother and the only grandmother I ever knew never wore hats in my memories of them. My mother had hats in the closet, so I believed she probably wore them to
church at some point – but maybe only on holidays.  My mother had some hats from the 1950s that I played dress-up with as a child, but they were not good hats. 

She didn’t have a taste for them. As far back as I can remember her, Mother went to the beauty parlor and got her hair set, teased and lacquered once a week, and hats were never to touch her head again, except rain bonnets – the kind made of clear plastic that folded up accordion style and could be stashed in the purse.

I on the other hand always loved hats.   Somebody bought them for me as a toddler.  I started looking forward to them every year as a part of my Easter Sunday outfit.  I don’t remember wearing them to class, but I would always grab a hat for the family photos. I remember a photo from the 1960s of me in a madras plaid mod outfit with a matching bubble beret with visor. In a 1970s picture of me in front of the Christmas tree, I’m wearing a beige felt wide brim fedora, Puss In Boots style hat, with the brim turned up on one side and a big ostrich plume.

AB: How long have you been collecting hats?

BG:  I always had them and wore them, but didn’t start "collecting" them until I was in college. I discovered a thrift shop in Tuscaloosa in about 1973 that had amazing vintage hats, contributed by one of the senior citizen volunteers who had great taste in hats, and knowledge of the best milliners.  I bought up a lot of her collection for very little money.  She was so happy that someone appreciated them, and loved talking about them, so I went back from time to time and bought more. I learned a lot from her. I don't remember her name.  I had a decent collection of about 40 vintage hats before I left college.  I still have some of those in my collection.

AB:  Do you sell hats online (eBay, Etsy or other), and if so can you tell us a little about your business? (How many hats do you list how often, where do you find them, etc)?

BG: I've never sold anything on eBay or Etsy.  When I was working on the Hatatorium gallery (my website where I displayed pictures of my hat collection and the hat collections of a few friends) and then the ebook, Hatatorium: An Essential Guide for Hat Collectors, I bought a lot of great vintage hats "for research purposes."  I trolled eBay and Etsy almost daily for years, and regularly bought hats. I always planned to resell the overflow.  At some point I had too many to reasonably store any longer.  After researching the alternatives I decided to start my own ecommerce site to sell them.

As a frequent buyer on eBay and Etsy, I was sick of hats being incorrectly called flapper, topper or fascinator.  I was sick of age estimates being off by 40 years, and false information given by novice vintage sellers. Worst of all - sellers shipping a hat in an envelope became my pet peeve.  It’s ridiculous how often that happens.

I complained about that on the Mad Hatters Society on Facebook page and many collectors agreed with me. My other friends who sold on eBay and Etsy complained that the cheaper products (often junk) customers have to wade through to get to their items made it too hard to find their higher quality, and more expensive, items.

Some of my friends from the Mad Hatters Society joined me, and we started Hatatorium Emporium. Our philosophy is to limit the sellers to knowledgeable sellers
with high-quality merchandise and have the listings accurately describe each  hat and its historical significance. 

AB: What is your personal favorite hat and why?

BG: That’s not fair to my other favorite hats! I would have trouble picking even my top 10.

But if I had to pick just one, currently it would be my William J. flower hat which I restored.  William J. is the label of former milliner Bill Cunningham who is better known as a New York Times fashion photographer and columnist.  I own two of his hats now.  I wish I had more! 

As a milliner he was a genius with a special touch. I love his movie "Bill Cunningham New York." He’s such a sweet man too!

AB: What hat have you most admired on a celebrity or other person this year, and why?

BG: I’m not big on watching what other celebrities do or wear. I'm just glad they’re wearing hats again. Thanks to rappers and edgy actors, and the Royals, hats are in again!

But my favorite hat in a celebrity event this year is my Australian friend Zorza Goodman's hat that won a coveted prize at an Australian Race Day event.  I’ll
get the details and picture if you need it.  It looks like it is made of branch coral. An awesome design!

AB:  Do you think hats are making a resurgence...e.g. due to "Downton Abbey" or other cultural influences, and why?

BG: Absolutely! To paraphrase a famous milliner (maybe Stephen Jones or Philip Treacy), in the history of the world, hats have been in style most of the time. They serve several very important functions - keeping the head cool and preventing sunburn, covering bald spots, holding the hair out of the eyes and shielding the eyes and face from the sun (which retards aging).  Plus they look great on!

AB:  Do you have another job besides working with hats, and if so, what is it?

BG: I don't really work in hats. I’m a lawyer. I collect (and now sell) hats in my spare time.

AB: I see there is/was a hatmaking contest on the Hatatorium web site. Can you tell us a little about it?

BG: You’re talking about Mad Hatters Society  - a separate entity entirely.  I founded the Mad Hatters Society on Facebook about 2-1/2 years ago as a way to have fun.

It’s just a group of hat lovers, hat collectors, vintage hat sellers and new hat makers that enjoy talking about our favorite hobby and sharing information.  Mad Hatters Society holds hat-making contests several times a year, with valuable prizes. My friends from Mad Hatters Society were instrumental in guiding the direction of Hatatorium Emporium.

AB:  Anything else you'd like to add?

BG: Just so you aren’t left with a skewed impression of my ecommerce site, we started Hatatorium Emporium as a way to sell vintage hats, but once the ecommerce site was open we started expanding into other things – vintage clothing and accessories, art, collectibles.  I have been collecting other things as well as hats all of my life - just because I love antiques and history.  As I - and my friends my age - start thinking of scaling down for retirement, we have whole collections we need to downsize, and we want our things to go to good homes where someone will appreciate them, and to sell them for fair market value.  Hatatorium Emporium is a way to do that.

AB: Thanks, Brenda! (I don't think I've ever used the word "hat" so much in one day!).

BG: You will find that it has forever made its way into your daily vocabulary!


Do you have a favorite hat? If so, post a comment about it here, or better yet, email me a photo at, and I'll post it to our AuctionBytes Pinterest page.

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Perminate Link for Hat Expert Brenda Grantland Starts Her Own Ecommerce Site   Hat Expert Brenda Grantland Starts Her Own Ecommerce Site

This user has validated their user name. by: juliawww

Mon Feb 10 21:22:17 2014

Hello all...if you want to see a photo of Ina in a hat, check out our AuctionBytes Pinterest Board and the Hat folder at:

Her mom  is on there too!

Have photos of hats, or you wearing hats, you want me to share on the board? Email them to me at

Perminate Link for Hat Expert Brenda Grantland Starts Her Own Ecommerce Site   Hat Expert Brenda Grantland Starts Her Own Ecommerce Site

by: JoyfulA This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 11 11:07:48 2014

I had a big head as a child in the fifties, and I remember my mother having to buy me adult hats and then carefully cutting off the veil. (All the ladies' hats had a net veil!)

Those were the days!

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