Hats By DI-Anne
Written By Carrie Edelstein
Dianne Isbell has designed and created more than 1,000 hats in what is her third career phase in life. She worked with the government in protocol for more than 30 years, and after retiring, met the love of her life, got married and used that protocol experience to create a new business. She taught etiquette classes and the history of tea to young girls, using vintage satin dresses with bustles and boas for props, topped off with original Victorian-type hats.
Fast forward 15 years to when Dianne’s sister asked her to make red hats. The popularity of those among the Red Hat Society spread a new business for Dianne from Springfield, Illinois down to Springfield, Missouri. It was in the Ozarks that Dianne met a woman at a Red Hat convention who asked her to make more colorful hats for her local shop. That’s when the third part of Dianne’s career took off, launching her into the equine community and beyond.
HATS By DI-Anne runs like an engine from Dianne’s three-car garage in Belleville. The space is filled with containers of flowers, feathers, works in progress and pictures of what’s been sent out for delivery. Her custom hat-making business is booming with sales coming from social media outlets, trunk-shows, charity events, fashions shows and some brick and mortar shops she sells to in Naples, Florida and Lexington, Kentucky.
“I have a variety of all one of a kind designs,” says Dianne. “Some are fascinators and some are hats. Different colors appeal to different personalities and styles vary for shorter women and a taller lady.”
Dianne has designed hats for weddings, most famously when Bucky Bush’s wife needed something for a family ceremony in Spain. She helps women heading to the Kentucky Derby and the Royal Ascot. She once even sent her designs to Lady Gaga’s team when a marketing company requested her services for the launch of the musician’s perfume line. For St. Louis events like polo, Dianne recommends bringing the dress or outfit to be worn with the hat to the initial meeting.
“I can coordinate some of the colors and flowers with them and fabrics and see what kind of a frame looks the best on them. For instance, someone who is really tall can carry off a very wide-brimmed hat. You know we’re talking about eight to ten to twelve inches whereas a short person would not do well in a really wide brim. They need to have something that has a brim that turns up or maybe a shorter brim. When you’re short the way to look taller is to have the brim of the hat go up and then have more of the embellishments on the top of the hat. A tall lady would not want anything to make her look taller. Some women do better with just a fascinator. Maybe a hat gives them a headache or messes up their hair,” says Dianne.
From a baseball cap to a wide-brimmed hat with a dozen flowers and accents, it seems anything goes these days. But as a fancy hat enthusiast herself, Dianne says it’s the hat that seems to pull everything together.
“I want to make each gal feel fantastic when she leaves with it and when she wears it. I’m honest and I’ll tell them ‘let’s try again’ if there’s a better look for the shape of their face.” She adds, “Polo originated a long time ago as a prestigious sport for the affluent. Since affluent ladies always dressed appropriately for any occasion, even wearing very uncomfortable clothing and corsets because they had an image to preserve, naturally, the ladies then dressed very elegantly for polo matches and horse races. Still today a polo match is an opportunity for the ladies to get dressed up. They want something to shield the sun and they still want to feel elegant, and for some reason hats seem to go with that.”