Introducing Dallas' Queen of Hats

Perched atop Bolsa in Oak Cliff is a magical workspace called House of MacGregor, a five-year-old specialty hat store run by local milliner Cassie MacGregor. On a recent afternoon, women shuffle in and out, many with small children clinging to their legs, and then leave clutching massive boxes that seem to defy gravity. Some swing them by their strings and some cradle them in their arms, but no matter how they choose to support these delicate paper crates, their faces glow.

Inside sits MacGregor. She's young and charming, radiating a glittery energy that manifests in every hat she sews. Her little shop has a treehouse vibe, and when inside you feel a natural willingness to celebrate life's little excesses.

We popped by to see how MacGregor was holding up. It's a week before the Kentucky Derby, and she's the only shop in town that exclusively works in this accessory medium. But even if she weren't, House's business would still be fluster-worthy. Dallas' most fashionable don't go elsewhere, and for good reason: Here, each hat is made from scratch, designed to reflect its owner's personal style.

See Also: Dallas' 12 Best Kentucky Derby Parties

"I feel like it's mile 23 of a marathon and I want to stop running," laughs MacGregor, who's shaking her hair in mock agitation. The tiny showroom is filled with dozens of custom orders awaiting their Derby pick-ups, meaning these are extra-special specimens. A Derby hat requires a certain level of embellishment, and MacGregor estimates most take between four and six hours to construct, nearly twice as much as a piece designed for everyday wear. She also claims she isn't taking any more clients before Saturday's big day. There's still so much to do.

Our crew flits around, pouncing at feathers and gushing over shapes and adornments. MacGregor slips away. She's giggling on the other side of House's showroom where a last-minute customer has materialized.

It's a spontaneous consultation. The client has had a tough year, filled with medical emergencies. She needs a not only a hat but a Derby ensemble -- she's hanging half a dozen garments on the wall. In the span of 20 minutes, I watch as MacGregor breaks her own rule on limits, selects the client's Derby outfit, consults her on the perfect hat (this gal wants something "really obnoxious"), gives free hair advice and lets the client know that she's special, loved and catered to.

I suspect this isn't a one-off and ask MacGregor if she's let any others slip in, past deadline. Her gaze drops. She looks a little bashful. "There was a woman," she starts. The tale ends in a birthday and a trip and a hat.

Just perusing the books of work and roaming through this atelier, Cassie's talent is clear. But what you leave feeling is more than the craftsmanship. What really sticks to you is the contact joy of MacGregor's passion. She's as bright and punchy and fun as the hats she constructs, and she cares as much about the heads they sit on as the finished products. It's enough to makes you want to hoard headwear.

Now, let's look at more Derby hats, and hats in general, that are filling up the House of MacGregor.

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Jamie Laughlin
Contact: Jamie Laughlin