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  • Writer's pictureLynne Kornecki

Hats & High Tea Elevate the Guest Experience at Chicago's Posh Drake Hotel – Meet the Milliner

Updated: Jan 2

Award-winning milliner, Laura Hubka, poses behind her hat display at the entrance to the tea courtyard inside the Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL Scroll down to view more styles...

Perched inside the Drake Hotel in downtown Chicago near the guest entrance to the high tea courtyard area, is a “hat lady” – Laura Hubka – milliner supreme. Her beautiful display flanks the dining entrance opposite the hostess station. While guests wait to be seated, they are free to browse her festive inventory, take photos modeling her hats, and even purchase one to wear while they sip.

“People’s faces light up when they see my hats -- a response that’s fun to watch,” Laura says. “I sometimes have to giggle that making hats is my job. People’s reactions are, ‘for real?’ But headwear is necessary for many reasons – to hide hair loss, and for religious or celebratory purposes. And there are still a small percentage of women who embrace wearing hats as part of their fashion statement -- hats are magical.”

Indeed, Laura fell into hat-making during her college years out of necessity while studying fashion design. During that time, she got what she describes as a very bad haircut. Dismayed at how she looked, she attempted to disguise the damage by making herself a hat. She was instantly hooked on the creative, and fashionable, possibilities.

Hats can have the same intricacies as a couture gown, Laura realized, but without the hassles of zippers and buttons.

Since then, she has taught millinery and become an award-winning milliner. Her work has been featured in print, film and theater, and her creations have traveled to some of the most glamorous events in the world.

Laura offers about 15 different styles in her core collection with 40 different variations. She enjoys challenging herself to make new looks. Her hand-sculpted, free-form pieces, such as the rose hat, is a perennial favorite along with the ever-flattering cloche or fedora. Her smaller hats and fascinators offer yet another option which include a headband, clip or elastic for placement.

To choose a successful hat style, Laura advises, it must first be flattering to the face.

Laura fashions hats from straw cloth or wool then adds veiling or vintage treasures such as silk or velvet flowers, buckles, beading or feathers. She orders supplies from such far-flung places as Germany, Poland, France or England. Her favorite embellishments are vintage velvet flowers because of their special patina.

“Hats help women feel special, pretty, and seen,” Laura sums up. “They’re often so surprised at how attractive they look once fitted into a flattering hat.”  

Laura has two collections, each at different price points. Her “mini” fascinators are all $35 while pieces from her couture line are between $175-$400. She accepts commissions and enjoys helping her customers assemble entire outfits where the hat complements the finished look. If you’re heading to the Kentucky Derby this spring, now’s the time to order your custom creation!

Learn more here: Laura Hubka Millinery

Facebook: Laura Hubka Millinery

Part of Laura's display at the Drake Hotel.

Hand-Sculpted rose hat.

Another view of Laura's "hat perch" inside Chicago's Drake hotel that shows an array of festive hatboxes.



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