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Writing by Gia Miller

In our March/April 2023 issue, we featured milliner Jackie Cicogna whose custom hats are works of art. Since that time, we helped her connect with a local celebrity, and she’s made some connections of her own.

It’s been less than a year, and things have taken off. She made custom hats for several members of the Bedford Riding Lanes Association (BRLA) and Martha Stewart for their May 6, 2023, Kentucky Derby party; she designed and constructed the crown for Mariah Carey’s 2023 “Merry Christmas One and All!” tour; and she’s planning two pop-up stores for the beginning of 2024—one at the end of February in Manhattan and the other in Bedford at the beginning of March.

A hat for Martha

Last spring, the BRLA held its very first Kentucky Derby party, and Martha Stewart was the host. When they read the story about Cicogna in our March/April 2023 issue, they reached out and asked for a connection. A few women, including Stewart, were interested in custom hats. Although she had less than a month to make them, Cicogna invited everyone to her studio.

“It took me a solid 40 hours to make Martha’s hat,” she remembers. “I started making it right after I met everyone. My boyfriend and I drove down to Florida, and I made the most of the hat by hand during the car ride. I wove the entire racello braid on the 15- to 20-hour car ride down. Once I returned to New York, I finished shaping the hat, completed the edging and then fitted Martha again. After the fitting, I shortened the hat and assembled the finishing touches.”

Originally, Cicogna planned to adorn the Holly Go hat with flowers, but Stewart changed her mind, opting for white peacock feathers instead.

“Martha handed me a whole bunch of white peacock feathers that had fallen off her peacocks,” Cicogna explains. “Then I spent that whole weekend figuring out how to make them sit on the hat. It took me all of Saturday – from morning until night. I tried different things the entire day. It needed to look elegant and fabulous. Finally, my boyfriend encouraged me to step away from the hat and get some sleep. I woke up early the next morning, knowing exactly how I wanted to do it.”

Cicogna finished the hat five days before the Derby.

Crowning Mariah Carey

Several months later, Cicogna met up with a friend who designed some of the costumes for Mariah Carey’s 2022 Christmas special.

“I told her I would love an opportunity to do something for Mariah for Christmas,” she remembers. “She told me that if she could pull me in, she would. And then, in the fall, Gabby texted me and asked, ‘Do you think you can make an elevated version of this?’ It was a cheesy $49 crown made with zip ties that they saw on Etsy. Of course, I said yes. I knew I could do it, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. But the second I said, ‘Yes,’ my brain went into engineer mode, and I began building it. Over the next 48 hours, I went about my life, but I was building the crown in my head.”

The mechanics were a bit tricky. Cicogna knew she couldn’t make it out of wire because it needed to be lightweight. She also knew it had to stand straight up on Carey’s head like a crown, and it had to be a headband. Plus, because there were costume changes, so it needed to be put on and taken off quickly without getting caught in her hair. And it had to sparkle, and it had to be gold.

Cicogna settled on the stems of peacock feathers for the spikes, which she gold-leafed then added resin and glitter to create the metallic look. Last, she added a very specific type of Austrian crystal.

“I wanted the light to dance up the stems,” Cicogna explains. “Mariah is Catholic and very much into Christmas, so I was inspired by Mary, Mother of God, and her halo crown. I wanted the crown to be very majestic and magical, very Mariah.”

Carey loved the crown and requested a second backup crown just in case. She wore the crown for all 16 performances.

Upcoming pop-up shops

Cicogna is also planning to take her shop on the road this winter.

“There will be hats available for purchase, but the concept is for custom-made hats,” she explains. “I will have a variety of straws, felts, braids, feathers, ribbons, etc., so you can create whatever hat you’d like.”

On February 29, Cicogna will host a pop-up store in Manhattan from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. by appointment only. Email her for appointments at [email protected].

In Bedford, she will host a trunk show at La Maison Fete on Thursday, March 7 from 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. A portion of the proceeds will go to BRLA.

“Custom hats take approximately two to four weeks, depending on the hat,” Cicogna says. “So, you should have them by Easter, and definitely by the Kentucky Derby.”

This article was published in the January/February 2024 print edition of Connect to Northern Westchester.

Editor-in-Chief at Connect to Northern Westchester | Website | + posts

Gia Miller is an award-winning journalist and the editor-in-chief/co-publisher of Connect to Northern Westchester. She has a magazine journalism degree (yes, that's a real thing) from the University of Georgia and has written for countless national publications, ranging from SELF to The Washington Post. Gia desperately wishes schools still taught grammar. Also, she wants everyone to know they can delete the word "that" from about 90% of their sentences, and there's no such thing as "first annual." When she's not running her media empire, Gia enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, laughing at her crazy dog and listening to a good podcast. She thanks multiple alarms, fermented grapes and her amazing husband for helping her get through each day. Her love languages are food and humor.