Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hat Head

I know hat head is not a good look but when you find that certain hat or, in my case, hats that seem like kindred spirits there is no denying the chemistry. Have you ever tried on a garment or accessory that you were initially doubtful about it? Have you wondered where I would ever wear this or, even, when would I wear it? I was truly skeptical, recently, when I tried on a few vintage hats at Austin Warren, in historic St. Charles, during their warehouse sale on Labor Day weekend. I have always been somewhat fascinated by the mysticism surrounding the reason women, until the late 1950s, found it so necessary to regularly ensure they had the latest and greatest hats in their wardrobe.
Hats were really almost like another appendage so common were they worn on the heads of women beginning on a mandatory basis during the 16th century. It is, therefore, with complete shock that I admit how completely enthralled I was when I tried on the first hat, a cream stunner with a black star on top of the crown, and looked at myself in a nearby antique mirror. It was love at first sight; however, my intent was to make certain I looked quite dapper before venturing out in public with this head-turning stunner. I stood, as if frozen, before finally going back to the hat section to look at the remainder of the hats which held my fascination. I was quite captivated by a black topper that bears a resemblance to the type of hat Bette Davis or Joan Crawford wore in the film noirs of the 1940s. I fell more in love as my gaze settled upon one hat after another which, of course, made me even more indecisive about which hats I should try on next. Finally, after deciding to try on a pink hat that sort of resembled a hodgepodge of pink ribbons haphazardly combined to chic affect, and which my mother described as a Lucille Ball hat, I finally ventured towards the dressing room to see how I looked in private. It was with utter shock that I realized how elegant and glamorous I seemed to appear.
It suddenly occurred to me that the reason hats were so beloved by women the world over from the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century was because they somehow seem to embody the wearer with a suave aura that can only equate to fashion nirvana. I now completely realize that hat head can be so irrelevant when you find that dapper head-topper. Historically, women based their hair styles on the most dominant hat styles and vice versa. Consider the early 1800s when women wore their hair in styles that were like bouffants on steroids. Hats that were most popular during that time frame were bonnet-like contraptions that, nevertheless, were quite elegant. The cloche hat was fashionable during the 1920s when hair was routinely worn shorter. I can now state with absolute certainty, just like the fashionable women of yesteryear, that hat head is so worth it!
Hats are certainly not as popular as they once were throughout the world and, for the most part, are relegated to occasions or events rooted deep in history like royal weddings or the Kentucky Derby or for church services; however, they still remain immersed in our culture; although on a more casual basis than in the past. I simply could not resist purchasing two, out of the several I tried on, at the grand price of $18 and $22 each now could I?
            Shopping for vintage hats is fun; however, here are some tips to keep in mind:

w        Check the hat for any stains and, if visible, determine, if you can live with any imperfections. Keep in mind that there are many reputable hat cleaning and restoration companies. Make sure you become acquainted with them.
w        Maintain your vintage hats with periodic cleaning and brushing.
w        Do your research. There are a variety of informative sites that provide tips from how to authenticate a vintage hat to how to identify the time frame a vintage hat was manufactured.

Remember, there is no reason to leave your vintage hats stowed away in hat boxes. They are meant to be worn on special occasions. I would love to hear from vintage hat-lovers. Why do you love them so much? Tell me about your favorite vintage hat. What are some of you favorite places for finding them?

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