Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Hats Off



I’m very interested in period clothing. Everything seems more “more,” somehow, lots of embellishments and furbelows. Bustles, ruffles, buttons. Ribbons, lace, rosettes. My heroine Juliet in Spell Check keeps albums that show her fashion sense through the ages. Since she’s been around since 1762, she’s seen all the crazy things people put on their heads, from miniature barques at full sail to beady-eyed birds to Carmen Miranda’s fruit basket.

Head coverings really took off in the Middle Ages after the church decided to follow St. Paul’s peevish dictates from I Corinthians 11:2-16:

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn!

You know, we’re still paying the price for some of his ideas. St. Paul is not one of my favorite people. But the wimple resulting from his words, which covered all of a woman’s hair, led us eventually to what we use as a bridal veil today.

I love gorgeous hats…but not on my head. I grew up in an era where little girls went to church with hats and gloves. St. Paul would have been proud of me. Now, I don’t even own a hat, and I’ve got gloves only because I live in Maine and I’ll get frostbite if I don’t wear them. In case you’re worried about my ears falling off, my winter jacket has a hood.

I hate wearing hats. Because I wear glasses, I just think I’ve already got enough stuff going on. Plus my head gets hot and my hair sweaty and/or static-y. Very attractive.

But I love to imagine a Regency miss with a feathered and flowered bonnet. Or a 1950s sophisticate with a flirty little black-veiled hat perched at a jaunty angle.

When I read, I refuse to picture all the married women with the little lace caps they should be wearing to be historically accurate. My heroes don’t let bonnets stop them from stealing a kiss in a carriage either, where more than likely they’d have an eye poked out before they ever got close enough to anything resembling lips.

I haven’t seen a man wearing anything but a baseball hat in ages. My father used to have all sorts of felt hats from the Knox Hat Factory, where he would take me once a year so he could get a hat that looked like all the others in his closet. He collected snazzy checked caps, too.

I know people still wear hats in Great Britain. When I watched Charles finally make an honest woman out of Camilla, I was mostly impressed with the creative designs. Alas, the United States seems to have lost its head when it comes to looking “proper.”

Own any fun hats yourself? Toss your comment into the ring.


A veil can bring on more shenanigans than forgetting your silk underpants.


I don’t think that’s what St. Paul had in mind. For a head-hopping trip through time, check out http://www.vintagefashionguild.org/content/view/604/75/

16 comments:

marisa said...

I only wear hats when it's cold outside. I wouldn't even call them hats, more like 'caps'. But there is something to be said for a really good baseball cap for those days when my hair just won't cooperate.

anne said...

I tend to wear baseball caps, too. I've got them in corduroy and felt for cold weather, and cotton twill for summer. (I DO wish that Candice Hern's Bluestocking BBcap came in a dark cord version! It's so sad to store away the white one for the winter.)

terrio said...

I never wear hats. Even in the winter. I just try to get the scarf up high enough to cover my ears or I suffer. Though I did wear this cute little jaunty hat of Tiff's when I visited her last Christmas. It was entirely too cold in Toronto NOT to wear one. I kind of liked that one.

I have to admit I'd love to have one of those big floppy hats to wear while working in a garden or something. If I could pull it off like Sandra Bullock did in Hope Floats. Remember, when she went fishing? If I could pull it off like that I'd do it.

Then again, if I looked like Sandra Bullock I could pull off a lot of things I can't right now. LOL!

BernardL said...

I wear a baseball cap, when I need a sun shade, or a rain shield under my hood. Indiana Jones brought back the hat for a time. In the sixties, Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name westerns popularized the straight brimmed hat, but not for long.

Janga said...

Maggie, I grew up in the hat and gloves era too. Do you ever wear those little veils with bows? I went to a very proper women's college, and we had to wear hats to church on Sunday--and this was the sixties. The veils were our solution. Except for bridesmaids/maid of honor headdresses, I don't think I have worn a hat since my undergrad days.

But I do have wonderful memories of Easter bonnets! I don't think I have ever felt as elegant and beautiful as I did at six in my Easter bonnet.

Santa said...

Hats do not look good on me except the big floppy hippie one I wore to my cousin's wedding in the '70s. I have to wear a baseball cap to work with a local company's logo on it. I look like a psycho butch truck driver. Not very attractive by any stretch of the imagination. It can be a blessing at times because no one recognizes me outside the store.

Hats and gloves were starting to go out of fashion when I came on the scene but I do remember wearing a Kleenex tissue fastened with a bobby pin to Mass on Sunday when they were still adamant about having a woman's head covered in church. I must have left my mantilla at home.

Anonymous said...

I have a closet full of hats. My favorite is a white felt fedora (like Laura from Remington Steele) I bought in a moment of weakness and have always felt too self-conscious to wear. My friend (who spent a year in Paris)gave me a beautiful beret, which I've never worn. My aunt's large, floppy straw gardening hat, woven acrylic hats of school colors, cloche wool hats, all sit idle on a shelf. Do we sense a pattern here?

Maggie Robinson said...

Anon, now I'm humming "Raspberry Beret!"

Marisa, I used to have to do recess duty when I taught at an elementary school, and I'd wear a cap, too...and look like a pinhead.

Anne, I do have one denim bbcap with a logo of a Massachusetts seafood restaurant ( a lobster)but I only wear it if it's 100 degrees and I need shade...and don't want to look like a lobster myself.

Janga, I do indeed remember those wispy veil-bow things...and Easter bonnets...Easter coats...most especially those sugar eggs with a scene inside...the good old days. :)

Terrio, in my suitcase I have a folding straw thing to wear by the pool when I go on vaca, but I always feel like a mushroom. One summer I went to the races in Saratoga and bought a straw hat with a sunflower so I could look like all the other swellegant ladies...but it didn't work!

Bernard,once I had to buy my son an Indiana Jones hat so he could dress up for Halloween. I drew the line at supplying a whip, though.

Santa! Kleenex! But I remember stuff like that. Somehow I truly don't think God cares...of course I could be wrong. ZAP.

terrio said...

Maggie - I agree with you that I don't think God cares. It's sort of like that meat thing on Fridays. I just cannot believe if I'm lucky enough to get to the pearly gates, my diet is going to be called into question. LOL!

RevMelinda said...

I was just trying to explain to my 11 year old about hats and religion. She's going to middle school now and seeing boys in yarmulkes and girls in hijab (sp?). "But mom," she said, "Why does God care what you wear?" Ended up having a big theological conversation.

I have to wear a big ol' hat outside in the summer or I instantly burn. I look extremely foolish because of my small head (usually cleverly masked with big hair, LOL).

Just watched some bits of P&P last night and was struck (again) by how weird the final proposal scene is. They're all walking outside and Mr Darcy (Colin Firth) has on this Ginormous beaver tophat that makes his hair stick out in little tufts right over his ears. I know it's supposed to be romantic but I keep looking at those little tufts thinking "Who thought this was a good look?"

irisheyes said...

I have a Mickey Mouse BB cap I wear when I have bed head. I throw it on to run errands or if I'm on vacation and the DH won't let me shower before we're off and running for the day. I also have a really cool black wool "Annie Hall" sort of hat I wear in the winter when it gets really cold.

I do think that some hats look really cool and I'd love to try them out but eventually they have to come off and then my hair looks really bad. So I guess you could say my hat wearing is kind of practical not fashionable. I have a thing about having hat head so I usually only wear them when I won't have to take them off! :)

Revmelinda - I can't even count how many times I've looked at some of the fashions over the years and asked myself - "Do they really think that looks good?!"

Maggie Robinson said...

Irish, I love to go shopping in the spring and see the hats...but not try them on, because I look so dopey. But it would be fun to hang them on a wall or something...more things to waste $ on and gather dust.

RevM, at least your daughter came to the right source, LOL. I would make a very, very bad member of a religion that required me to cover my hair. I think Terrio agrees with me!

TiffinaC said...

I wear hats all the time.

I love hats. I'd go so far as to say, I'm a hat whore :D I have drawers and hat boxes full of them. for summer for winter, for spring for the rain. I've got mostly 20's and 40's style cause they are more flattering for my face and cause I wear glasses.

And you want a good period book look up The Mode in Hats and Headdress by Wilcox.

beverley said...

Love the link. I love hats but they don't suit me...

My son loves hats. I love period clothing period. Not to wear of course, but to look at.

The only time I wear hats is when I'm working out and walking outside. That's a necessity!!!

Maggie Robinson said...

Tiff, do you wear hats w/ your corsets? ;)

Bev, I know...I love hats, but they don't love me.

TiffinaC said...

Well because you asked.

I did wear this top hat with marabou feathers once with my corset... I was a burlesque dancer one Halloween. All pink...shoes too...well the stocking I wore were nude, and the uh...bloomers/short skirty thing was white lace :)