Photography via David Dunkley

How a Medical Technician Turned Political Scientist Designed a Hat for the Royal Wedding

When Faith Dickinson received an invitation to attend the royal wedding, the 15-year old recipient of the Diana Award was ecstatic. “I dropped to the floor and I was shaking after and I definitely couldn’t sleep that night from excitement,” she told eTalk. Then reality set in. She would have to find a dress to wear, and a hat to match. And not just any hat, preferably one with delicate wisps of precariously balanced plumage to fit in with the other British wedding guests. So what’s a Canadian girl to do?

Photography via Faith Dickinson

Call up David Dunkley of course. Dunkley, one of Canada’s most eminent milliners, honed his craft studying with the royal milliner to her late Queen Mother, Ms. Rose Cory, and one of his creations was presented to Camilla Parker Bowles when she was in Canada in 2012 for the Diamond Jubilee. Dunkley was named the official milliner of the Queen’s Plate in 2013 and his royal street cred made him the natural choice to create a hat to be worn in the presence of Her Majesty.

But Dunkley wasn’t always dreaming of hats. He began his career as a medical lab technician and then transitioned into political science, working as an administrator at Queen’s Park. “I had my dream job and was frustrated by it,” Dunkley says. “So I took a hat making class through the Board of Education.” He became enamoured by the sculptural aspect of designing hats and continued to pursue his passion with the fiendish fervour of a recent convert, taking an evening diploma in millinery at George Brown College. An opportunity to leave his dream job appeared so he “took the package” and decided to fill his newfound free time by selling hats at St. Lawrence Market. “I thought I’d be there for two months then get myself a real job,” he says. Two decades later, he’s still slinging his own creations.

Dunkley was introduced to Dickinson by a CP24 reporter who decided to interview her on-camera with Dunkley’s shop as the setting. “Faith really liked my ‘floating veil’ hat,” Dunkley says. “It’s a hat-inator, really, kind of a fascinator with a brim.” Funnily enough, it’s the exact same style presented to Camilla Parker Bowles six years earlier.

Dunkley had less than a week to execute the final creation, and designed two prototypes for Dickinson to choose from: one made of natural fibres and another out of a peau de soie silk with petals and rhinestones, both in a brilliant shade of sky blue. “The technique [of hand-rolling the petals] is a really intimate, personal technique because it was one of the first techniques [royal milliner Rose Cory] ever taught me,” Dunkley says. Dickinson will reveal her official choice of headgear on the Saturday morning of the Royal Wedding.

“To dress Faith is fun and wonderful because she’s going to be in Windsor at a very historic time. What a great opportunity to be part of that,” Dunkley says. “Whether it’s for a garden party or a private party, I’m always trying to create the best work possible. But you certainly stand to attention when you know it’s in front of the head of state.”