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Help Susan Dillon of Kitty Mae Millinery kickstart her own run for the roses

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Millinery -- real millinery, where hats are made and blocked from scratch -- is a dying art, and nobody knows that better than self-taught Denver milliner Susan Dillon, who markets her completely hand-wrought, sculptural work under the name Kitty Mae Millinery. "I am saddened by the number of people who assume that I simply buy the hats and then decorate them," she says. "It seems that nobody expects anything to be completely handmade anymore, but I am doing my part to keep that tradition alive."

Dillon's dream this spring is to create a Derby Days 2013 collection in time for Kentucky Derby season. The Derby, Dillon notes, "is pretty much the big show for American milliners." And she's looking forward to the challenge: "My collection for 2013 is inspired by street art and graphic design, with lots of bold color combinations and abstract flowers."

See also: - Best Handmade Hats - 2012: Kittie Mae Millinery & Accessories - Denver milliner Susan Dillon makes chapeaus fit for a queen. The Queen. - Dress up your head at Kitty Mae Millinery. It just might stick.

To dream up a truly unique chapeau is costly, though, in terms of both materials and time. "One of the reasons millinery and handmade hats are relatively expensive -- although you definitely get what you pay for when it comes to these handmade works of art -- is that each different style and size of hat requires an entirely different block [the wooden form used to get the shape desired]," Dillon explains. "But since you can combine different brims with different crowns to get new hat styles, each block can increase the variety of styles I can offer almost exponentially."

A good hat block, she adds, can cost anywhere from $100 to $350. It adds up. But the enterprising Dillon plans to go all out for this year's Kentucky Derby, and to that end, she's launched a Kickstarter with the goal of raising $5,000 by February 12. And for every contribution, she's offering a stylish selection of rewards, from beaded hat pins and handmade silk flowers to hats from the collection and free photo shoots. Here's her pitch:

"I would also like to help bring back 'hat culture' and really just celebrate the art of dressing up by throwing a Kentucky Derby event here in Denver, where we will also show off the Kentucky Derby and Spring/Summer 2013 lines," she explains. Is it time for the ladies to start dressing up again? Visit Dillon's Kickstarter page for more information.

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