With all of the media coverage of the Royal Wedding and the Kentucky Derby I have been enjoying a spectacle of hats these past two weeks.  From the wild to the wildly fabulous it has been a terrific show.  While many laughed at the outrageous Philip Treacy fascinators atop the heads of celebrities and royals, and mocked the traditional millinery, I watch in rapt interest and appreciation. 

I loved them all – the frumpy, the fantastic, the simply bizarre.  Perhaps it’s connected to my love of things retro and vintage, but I think it is more than that.  I love that hats are a terrific medium of self expression and individuality.  From the bizarre to the beautiful – each woman and her hat had something to say and their hat choices said something about them.  Trendy, traditional, sweet, edgy, ironic, silly – they might all be wearing uber-conservative, and in some cases downright dowdy, ensembles but their headgear certainly said “Princess”, “Model”, “Celebrity”, “Fashionista” and “Queen”. 

Hats convey “specialness” in their artistry and form.  Even Mr. Commando began to see my point, after sitting through twenty minutes of my manic fast forwarding through all the coverage saved on our DVR (I do love the DVR) he commented that they may be pretty weird, but some are truly ART!

In bygone eras women would never dream of going out without a hat.  They would usually have only a few but would refresh them and change them – making each very personal.   Each a representation of their own preferences, tastes and lives.

I am often disappointed that wearing hats for everyday is no longer in fashion, and the occasions to wear them are few – especially out here on the West Coast.  Opportunities tend to be limited to showers, weddings, funerals, and tea parties, with the occasional inauguration or coronation thrown in.  In the OC we don’t even get to use a cold winter as a chance for fun headgear.  No, our “millinery” tends to be sunhats, visors, and whatever the latest starlets are wearing – boring and overdone straw fedoras and cowboy hats, military or trucker caps – no art, no beauty, just….blah. 

A few years ago Photographer Michael Cunningham and Journalist Craig Marberry wrote a book entitled Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats.  It quoted someone as saying that “…for some black women they would no more consider attending church naked than attending church without wearing a hat.”  Bravo!!   Somehow I can’t quite see that catching on at our local churches though, too bad.   

My hat tastes have had many inspirations; mainly vintage, of course.  I remember my aunt and grandmother showing me old pictures of them wearing their snazzy hats.   I have also been inspired by many great hat moments in the movies – from My Fair Lady to nearly everything from the thirties and forties, to Four Weddings and a Funeral.  My favorite is a riding hat worn by Rosamund Pike’s character Lady Harriet Cumnor in Wives and Daughters – it might have been the mid-eighteen hundreds, but that hat was soooo elegant and dashing.   

My actual hat wardrobe is quite small – a great black chiffon enrobed straw ala Breakfast at Tiffany, a faux-fur tam that is soooo glamorous and quite warm, a wide brimmed sun hat for the boat.  However, my fantasy hat wardrobe has a little bit of everything – an embellished beret, a crisp cloche, an architectural fascinator, and a floral one.  I have even found a velvet, feather trimmed fedora that is quite chic.  And at the top of the list  – my very own version of Lady Harriet’s riding hat – with a bold tall flower and a tiny veil – sublime.

I am hoping when the Duchess of Cambridge visits California in July she will bring along some of her fabulous Philip Treacy’s and set a new trend.  Meanwhile, I am on the hunt for a chance to wear something fabulous so I am on a mission to get my friends together for a Del Mar expedition or just a tea party – we may not have made it to the Kentucky Derby but we can enjoy the traditional Derby hats – dramatic wide brims, pretty colors and enormous flowers – divine! 

2 Comments to “Hatitudes”

  1. I’m definitely a hat person, too. I do wear more western style hats when I ride, but they are strictly practical. I do have the opportunity to wear hats for SCA dress-up and those can be fun. I agree, it would be great to have more opportunities to wear them in general.

  2. You may remember I did have a beautiful hat collection in high school, and you might be happy to know that I still wear hats to church where little old men come up to me with tears in their eyes telling how much they miss seeing a women wearing a beautiful hat. It takes a lot of confidence to wear a hat and for me my confidence was steeled by the fact I knew that no matter what I did my hair would be a complete flop and a great hat was the way to go. Oregon weather contributed a great deal to my hair distress and well Tampa humidity is no walk at the beach either. San Diego though has a very bright spot with designer Arturo Rios. Check him out at http://www.arturorios.com My new quest will be to acquire many of these hats.

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