Earlier in the summer, my client Sophie got in touch to commission me to make a headpiece for her to wear to her MBE ceremony, which was scheduled to take place in late September. Of course, there were a few big questions – where would she receive the honour, who would be officiating and, importantly, what she would wear for the occasion!

We waited on tenterhooks for more news. When we learnt later in the summer that she would receive her award at Windsor Castle, plans began to coalesce around her outfit and schedule for the day.

As the weather in September can be pretty unpredictable, Sophie turned to The Fold for her outfit, opting for one of their smart trans-seasonal dresses for the occasion. The choice of The Fold seems very appropriate, especially as Sophie is also CEO of Smart Works Newcastle.

The axiom of Polly McMaster – Founder & CEO of The Fold, is “I want women to love their work clothes as much as any part of their wardrobe.”

Polly’s raisin d’être for creating The Fold was that whilst working in a very male-orientated industry, she spotted a gap in the women’s business wear market, which led her to found her fashion line. Ten years later, the company has set a new standard for modern, professional workwear, more recently observing a more feminine, stylish take on dressing for the office, especially noticeable since Covid has facilitated a more laid-back approach to work dress codes.

The Fold has adapted and evolved in the new marketplace, and with particular relevance to Sophie, the company has also built a strong partnership with Smart Works, raising over £30,000 and donating clothes empowering countless women as they utilise the services of Smart Works to re-enter the workforce.

Sophie chose a stylish, easy-to-wear Bellaria Dress in Jewel Green fashioned in The Fold’s signature fabric ‘sculpt knit’. The Bellaria dress from the current collection features a belted style A-line skirt line with pleated detailing to the bodice. When choosing this smart, understated dress, Sophie knew she would feel elegant yet comfortable and that it would carry her through her very special day.

So now the dress was resolved, how about the headpiece?

By Zoom, we discussed a variety of understated halo headband styles that would compliment her Bellaria dress. Whilst I started work, researching trim options for the halo style we had decided upon, Sophie ordered her shoes.

A few days later, Sophie sent me images of her stunning Manolo Blahnik shoes. Of course, these dramatically altered the brief.

Once I saw the image, I knew we needed to incorporate both the colour and the trim on her shoes into the overall design concept to complete the styling of her outfit successfully. We decided to have an in-person consultation to discuss the various options together, so a few days later, Sophie came with her dress and shoes to my studio in central Newcastle.

During the consultation, we looked at the various headpiece shape options to reflect and enhance the classic, understated styling of her dress and decided that rather than the halo we had chosen in our first discussion, we would opt for a classic medium size beret style in red-orange suede peach bloom fur felt to match her stunning shoes.

As the decoration on Sophie’s Manolo shoes is very striking, I remembered my earlier research for beads for the Jean Shrimpton inspired piece I created for the Australian MIMC competition in March this year, so as the beret shape seemed perfect, I ordered the diamanté beads to create a complimentary trim for Sophie’s ed orange beret.

After initially playing around with the beads, I created a template loosely based on the “seemingly” random placement on the toes and the straps of Sophie’s shoes.

The finished headpiece is a natural fit with Sophie’s chosen theme for her outfit. It utilises the theory of complementary colours – the attraction of opposites. This scheme draws from opposite sides of the colour wheel – creating a high-contrast colour combination that really pops! Due to the volume and placement of the contrasting colours, however, it is not overwhelming.

The completed beret is a lined medium-sized suede peach bloom red, orange fur felt, with a felt ruffle to create a staging for the diamanté beads, and is worn with an attachment of couture elastic.

Sophie Milligan MBE Windsor Castle

Utilising the principle of complementary colours, the finished headpiece pulled the main elements of Sophie’s outfit together and even coordinated with the ribbon on the honour itself! Though on the day of the presentation, the weather at Windsor Castle was rather gusty, this did not dent the joy and enthusiasm of this memorable occasion.

Well done, Sophie; thank you for the commission, and many congratulations on your award!


Windsor Castle photo credit – Simon Hurry on Unsplash