The Art of Wearing Hats by Helena Sheffield


As someone for whom wearing a hat is akin to being asked to dance naked in Trafalgar Square, I was fascinated when one of my favourite book publicists, Helena Sheffield, brought out a book all about hats and I asked Helena if she would be kind enough to write a guest post about how a publicist became an author. Luckily she agreed.

The Art of Wearing Hats

The Art of Wearing Hats was published on 11th February 2016 by Harper Collins and is available from WaterstonesWH SmithFoyles and Amazon.


The perfect and practical pocket guide to being a hat wearer for novices and aficionados alike, complete with tips on where to buy them, how to wear them, who wears them best and tricks of the trade (yes hat hair, we’re looking at you).

Hats have been a mainstay of fashion for centuries, but now they’re back with a bang – overtaking the accessories departments of Topshop et al and gracing the celebrated heads of Taylor Swift, Cara Delevigne, Johnny Depp and the like day in and day out. But which one should you wear? Which will suit you best, how should you wear them and when?

The Art of Wearing Hats answers all these questions and more. Broken down into chapters covering everyday, outdoor and special occasion hats, you’ll soon discover the full range to choose from, alongside who in the Googlable world you can turn to for styling tips, and fun facts about where each originated from.

Complete with illustrations and tips on how to grow your hat-wearing confidence, it might be an idea to start making room in your wardrobe.

Publicist Turned Author

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Guest Post by Helena Sheffield

It’s not every day someone turns to you in the pub one evening and says you should write a book called Who Wants to Be a Milliner. But that’s what happened almost exactly a year ago during some post-work drinks. I’d been at HarperCollins for a year and a half and was working in Sales, comfortable in the knowledge that the thing I was most known for was wearing hats. A lot.

It was one of the Directors who turned to me and suggested this brilliantly punny title (which, as you may have guessed, did not last long), but that was all he had – the rest, he suggested jokingly, was up to me. We laughed about it, but then an email fell into my inbox the following morning:

Think you can come up with a proper concept and proposal for the hat book? It might actually work…

When I was growing up I avoided risks at all costs – more than that, I avoided attention and dreaded doing anything different. But something changed when I was at University, and I started saying yes. Yes, I’ll set up a Creative Writing Society; yes, I’ll compete in Ballroom and Latin competitions; yes, I’ll apply to that publishing job even though I probably won’t get it… So how could I say no now?

It took months to pull together a proposal I and the publishing team were happy would actually work, but I was aware the entire time of just how absurdly lucky this whole situation was. I can’t deny it’s something I’ve always wanted, and here it was happening (sorry, hattening) right in front of me! Definitely still doesn’t feel real…

I finally got the go-ahead in July 2015 and had just over a month to write it. We wanted it to be illustrated in black and white, and I happen to have an aunt who’s an artist so I worked with her throughout the process as I wrote and she drew (yes, there are pictures of my entire family in that book. Yes, I remain embarrassed about the one of me in a turban…).

The Editorial process was eye-opening and fascinating – I’d only just started working at Avon as Digital Marketing Manager, so I hadn’t previously seen much of how Editors and authors work together. Emily my Editor had truly spectacular insight, and when I look at the finished product now I can’t believe it’s a proper book!

I finished writing and editing in early September 2015, and from there it was a case of getting it designed and printed. But the next bit is the good bit. I’d spent almost two years working for various divisions of the HarperCollins Sales team, so I got all the Top Secret Sales info that no author would normally get. I threatened to be their absolute worst nightmare if they didn’t sell the book, but for some reason I don’t think they’re very scared of me…

Because of their tireless efforts, the book has managed to be taken by a huge amount of independent bookshops, libraries, museums and even hat shops across the country (and a few more beyond – I hear Sweden has 4 copies). Discovering it was selected by Waterstones was pretty much the dream, but the dramatic point was when my old boss came up to my desk to tell me that Waitrose were going to be taking it for their Mother’s Day promotion.

I definitely didn’t cry. In public. (I still can’t live that one down…).

It’s been a frankly unbelievable experience, taking almost a year from pitch to publication. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive team throughout HarperCollins (plus there’s less awkward ‘toilet small talk’ now, as people just ask me about the book instead). It’s been the epitome of wish fulfilment.

Next up: I’ve been approached to go to the Epsom Derby to blog about hats, so stay tuned for a ridiculous amount of excitement from me. And then, who knows, I’m open to ideas for Book Two…

Helena Sheffield

You can follow Helena on Twitter

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