Metro-East Living

Belleville woman’s handmade hat will be displayed at Kentucky Derby Museum

Belleville milliner Dianne Isbell, who also is the BND etiquette columnist, has received two more honors for her elaborate handmade hats.

She was one of three winners of the fascinator award at the 6th Annual Forest Park Forever Hat Luncheon on June 6. Her winning hat had a giant pink rose on it. It was the eighth year Isbell or one of her customers has won an award at the luncheon.

Days later, Isbell was notified that her hat made of peacock feathers was selected as one of only 20 hats that will be displayed in the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs after next year’s race in May. It was the second time in five years that one of her hats was selected.

Isbell’s one-of-a-kind hats can be found at the St. Louis Fashion Fund, 1533 Washington Ave., where she is one of eight resident designers. She also travels to trunk shows throughout the region.

Isbell worked 37 years as a civilian employee at Scott Air Force Base before retiring in 2001. Her experience as director of protocol for the U.S. Air Force Communications Command led her to start writing a BND etiquette column in 1987.

Isbell also taught classes through a business called “Etiquette Plus” and threw fancy tea parties for little girls, who wore vintage prom dresses, Victorian-style hats, boas, gloves, purses and jewelry that she had collected.

Isbell started designing hats in the early 2000s, when she made a hat for her sister, Judi Simmons, a member of the Red Hat Society. Simmons’ friends began ordering hats, and before long, Isbell was selling them in shops in St. Louis, Springfield, St. Charles and Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

Isbell estimates that she has designed 1,000 hats over the years. She works out of her home.