Ellen Christine Colon-Lugo, at her millinery shop in West SoHo, said she studied her clients’ faces before designing their hats.

Sitting outside Ellen Christine Millinery in West SoHo in Manhattan is a gray stone poodle wearing magenta silk bunny ears.

The beast of fashion is one of a kind, like its owner, Ellen Christine Colon-Lugo, 66, who presides over an Alice in Wonderland world filled with hundreds of her handmade confections. They include chiffon Marie Antoinette hats that resemble layer cakes and a $19,500 fedora that took a craftsman in Montecristi, Ecuador, four years to weave; its straw feels as smooth as linen.

Made in a workshop run out of the loft where she lives, Ms. Colon-Lugo’s chapeaus have been worn with Chanel and Alexander McQueen, and have graced the heads of celebrities including Sarah Jessica Parker. For the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, Ms. Parker wore a hat inspired by a Victorian inkwell with a plume pen made of black ostrich feathers; the photograph was one of the images projected onto the Empire State Building for the magazine’s 150th anniversary in late April.

Also Harrison Ford, who bought a simple Montecristi “that he could roll up and put in his pocket,” Ms. Colon-Lugo said. And Ivana Trump (two cloches) and Lady Gaga (a giant see-through acrylic crownless space-age halo, which the designer called “a walking canopy.”)

Gwyneth Paltrow wore a cat-eye mask made of 19th-century black Chantilly lace from Ms. Colon-Lugo’s extensive collection of vintage materials, which include hatbands, hatpins, faux flowers and ribbons, spilling out of hatboxes and drawers. The retail price, $480, may seem relatively reasonable, considering that the milliner’s hats cost from $150 to the thousands. But did anyone buy it?

“No,” Ms. Colon-Lugo said. “Because it’s out of the conscious level of their touchability. They want a $10 mask at the Rite Aid. They want a mask. They don’t want that mask. That’s too special. If I made some cheap version of it, yeah, we’d probably sell hundreds, but why should I? Because they’d make that in China, and who cares.”

Her work is not so far from that of her predecessors, who took their handcarts to the courts of Europe in bygone centuries. “We like real; I had fake my whole life,” she said. A hat can take from 20 minutes to several months to make.

One of the milliner’s creations, some of which may turn up at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Credit Dina Litovsky for The New York Times

Ms. Colon-Lugo studied costume design at the School of Fashion Design in Boston and later at New York University. Her hats have adorned the covers of Vogue, and she is president of the Milliners Guild in New York.

After many years of hatmaking, including a stint in the West Village before the economics of the business forced her to move, she has wisdom to spare.

“The idea of balance is very important in a hat,” she said. “I don’t do yoga, I do hats. Hats reveal our inner characters, and we have many of them.”

This is why she looks into her customers’ eyes, and perhaps their souls, before she designs for them.

“Most customers go from the top down. ‘This is my little blue dress and I need a hat to go with it,’” she said, imitating one. “I go by the face. Whatever lights up the thousands of little golden balls within you and makes your soul go ping!”

On the workshop table one Friday in April was a red silk number that resembled a sort of condom and might have been a perfect fit for Jude Law in “The Young Pope.” Ms. Colon-Lugo explained that it was the embryonic centerpiece for a hand-beaded cocktail hat, like a Saturn with many rings, very sculptural and avant-garde, that a client was to wear at the luncheon of the Central Park Conservancy’s women’s committee on Wednesday, with a dress made by Maggie Norris, a fashion designer.

A hyacinth boater was also heading to the luncheon, as was a gold Chantilly lace fascinator with feathers from the hatter’s own peacock, which lives on her brother’s farm in Puerto Rico.

It’s not only women who request unusual or flamboyant hats. Dr. Eric Braverman, a physician and author in New York, was recently fitted for an Abraham Lincoln topper to complete an Easter costume. The hat, which included a hidden cellphone pocket, was also sewn with a crown of thorns inside, an allusion to the president’s assassination on Good Friday.

Spring is Ms. Colon-Lugo’s busiest season. May 15 is Straw Hat Day, when people used to toss off their winter felts and don spring hats. She pooh-poohs National Hat Day, celebrated in January, and calls typical winter wool hats socks.

Toward the end of April and into May, she works long hours preparing hats for women to wear at the Kentucky Derby, to be run this year on May 6. The Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival are also part of the hatter’s rites of spring, and to that Ms. Colon-Lugo wore one that resembles an elegant lampshade, or a lavender peach basket, wrapped in a contained storm of fuchsia ribbon, a style she calls “1905.”

The Edwardians, associated with that year and era, inspired her.

“Let’s face it, they are the ones that got us out of the corsets, went for the suffrage,” she said. “They are the ones that went, ‘No, I’m not a piece of property, I’m an independent entrepreneur.’ The Edwardians carried with them a huge world of angst that was happening all around them, so when I put a hat on like that, it’s the echoes of their voices in my brain. And when you put on something that makes you feel like a pinup doll? You are thinking of Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield and everybody who ever did a 1950s Technicolor movie.”

What’s on the horizon for hats?

“Anyone can wear a fedora,” Ms. Colon-Lugo said. “But I see girls starting to look at more women’s hat shapes. The norm was always the round crown, flower on the side, big rim. That was the definition of hats for decades and decades. And then Justin Timberlake put a stingy-brim fedora on. You know, a little trilby, and that started everybody wearing them. I blame it on him.”

Decorating the walls of her shop like polka dots are everything from pastel Watteau styles to a beaded chain-mail cap that took three months to make, which appeared in a museum show in 2011 and 2012 at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. The show was an extension of one at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London by Stephen Jones, considered a hat god in Britain. There are also boaters in various colors, and a “Cecil Beaton” in silk fabric blooming with roses, inspired by the wallpaper of an exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

Every Colon-Lugo hat is composed of “ingredients” that can be cut up and sewn years later into a new style. This hat guru does not believe in glue.

“It’s recycling,” said Ms. Colon-Lugo, who calls herself a hippie. “I’ve been living with it since the ’60s. The hats of the 1930s? Those were just the cut up cloches the girls found in their grandmothers’ drawers.”

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