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April 27, 2011


by Margaret Maron

As the royal wedding approaches, we’ve been barraged with pictures of the upper British class cavorting around the countryside.  I will be in DC for Malice Domestic Friday morning and if someone turns on the television at five a.m., I shall definitely adjust my pillows and watch.  While I wish the young couple all the happiness in the world, I will not be focusing on them so much as on the headgear worn by their guests.

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Honestly now:  have you ever seen such? Some of these feathery “fascinators” would be dangerous to wear during bird-hunting season.

I love the idea of hats—real hats, not baseball caps, knit ski helmets, or sun visors—but I never wear them except when working outside in the summer.  My garden hat is not a pastel vision adorned with ribbons and flowers such as Larry Block wore at Malice several years ago, but rather a plain, wide-brimmed straw designed to keep the sun off my face, neck and ears.  The last time I wore a hat in public was two years ago when someone clapped a squishy velvet tam on my head shortly before they gave me an honorary degree.  They asked for it back immediately after the ceremony, too.  My last Sunday-go-to-meeting hat was probably back in the Eisenhower era.  Indeed, Eisenhower was our last president to regularly wear a hat.

Images_8 Men and boys alike used to wear felt fedoras and trilbies or straw boaters every time they stepped outside.  Roosevelt wore them, Truman wore them, Ike wore them; but John F. Kennedy went mostly bare-headed after his inauguration and a nation of men, seeing how young and handsome he looked, immediately threw their fedoras in the trash.  Jackie’s iconic pillbox kept dressy hats on Images female heads for another four or five years, but after that,the women’s hat industry would have died a quick death had it not been for black women who still won’t go to church without a beautiful hat on their heads. 

Aretha Franklin’s hat was not an anomaly.  Not here in the south, anyhow.



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My New York mother-in-law loved hats and had a nice selection of seasonal pastel and floral concoctions similar to those worn by Queen Elizabeth and Lady Camilla.  She never went to mass bareheaded or with only a head scarf, and her hat boxes took up two full shelves in her closet.



Images_7 Country and western singers started wearing Stetsons on stage about the time other men were giving them up, and Wyoming mystery writer C.J. Box wears his cowboy hat everywhere even though I don’t think he sings.  He may be part of a resurgence though, because after a long hiatus, men’s hats seem to be coming back.  Is it the Indiana Jones influence or that TV show Mad Men? Images_2






What about you?  Are hats part of your normal wardrobe or will you be joining me Friday morning to  snicker at (yet half envy) the hats we’ll be seeing?



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Fun blog, Margaret. I love hats on any gender, but if hats come back,, I'm hiding. A paper bag looks better on me than any hat does.

I have 2 summer hats with big brims - dad died of melanoma, the brims are necessary. I have a couple of baseball hats and a few toques for winter. One of my summer hats is a great panama straw hat that I get lots of compliments on, mostly from older ladies I see when I am out walking!

The royal hats, don't see me wearing any of those anytime soon.

My dad wore a Homburg, and my mom had some great ones too, including the one she got married in. They married in 1942 and my mom used to tell me a story of a hat in the window of some long-ago department store. She loved it so much, but couldn't afford it, so she'd go in and "visit her hat" and try it on and dream of buying it . . .

My head's so big, I can only wear boy hats.

The last girly hat I wore was to Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Marblehead. That was a long time ago. I still have my prep sculling team's baseball cap. I love it. It is old, formless, faded, and salt stained. Like me, kind of.

Up until about 1978, I wore hats pretty often. My faves were a beat to hell Stetson and a black top hat like Leon Russell wore when he toured with Joe Cocker.

Then I started wearing & collecting bandanas and that was it for hats. Well, I still have a straw hat I wear in the garden, but that's all.

My head is oversize (no cracks, please), and I've never found a hat that fits properly, be it fedora, ball-cap, trilby, cowboy, pick one. No matter what kind it is, it just doesn't look right, sitting on the top of my head like a beanie,

I will look on with envy! The sad truth is you really need a HAT FACE to wear hats.

I do not have a hat face. /sadpanda

You need a hat head, too, and mine is too big! But I have a collection of (snug) garden party hats, since I am occasionally invited to a fabulous hat luncheon now and then. A couple of years ago I think I blogged about how a hat should be designed to fit your face and body type, so I will skip the details here. I am very envious of Camilla's white one! I wish I owned that one! I sent a pic of it to my publisher, and they copied it for one of my Blackbird bookcovers:

I LOVE hats!

My daughter does too - but hers are more Haight Ashbury than haute couture.

I used to wear fancy hats all the time. Alas, the hot flashitis has made them items to be avoided. If I ever get out of this hormonal hell, I will start wearing them again.

Also - I don't want to be a killjoy or anything, but the only thing I find less interesting than this royal wedding is Dumbald Trump.

I am told I look good in hats (perhaps because you can't see my face as well?), but I don't wear them much. I have a cowboy hat, and a straw hat for the sun - fair skin and a brush with basal cell skin cancer has made me more careful. I do wear baseball hats too, especially on those days where I haven't quite gotten to the shower thing, and I have to run to the store.

I have a pair of rain boots and a straw hat I use just for picking at our CSA farm - they stay in my car all summer.

I wish I had the nerve to wear fancy hats more - I always feel like I look pretentious. I love how the black women dress so well for church - Aretha's hat rocked.

There used to be fine milliners--and fine millinery departments--in even the smallest towns, where you could have a hat made to fit your head, no matter what size you wear. I think it's a shame those have gone the way of the buggy whips, except in places like NOLA and NYC. We still have a wonderful milliner here in Cincinnati, called Batsakes (three syllables), and hat-lovers everywhere come to town to have hats made. I miss those days, when women routinely wore hats to church.

I love hats, and would have thoroughly enjoyed the St. Catherine's Day parade my friend, the artist and illustrator Claudia Lynch, got started in NOLA this past November. For a first-time event it was well attended. You can see British-wedding-worthy chapeaux here: http://uptownmessenger.com/2010/11/first-annual-st-catherinettes-hat-parade-photo-gallery/

Claudia, who was also a costumer and a bridal milliner years ago, is in the first photo, wearing a basket of violets. But of special interest is the third photo, which features a woman named Olwyn Riddell, with whom I was online friends for 20 years, and had only met in person once, when I visited Claudia last July. Turned out that they lived a mere handful of blocks from one another, and they became friends, as well. Olwyn was the hit of the parade. She grew up in England, and wore hats everywhere, so she didn't have to go far to pull hers together.

Olwyn passed away 10 days after the photo was taken, so the event has special significance to all who knew her, and loved her irrepressible spirit of joie de vivre.

This is the topic today: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2011/04/very-big-hats-1787.html

I love the idea of hats, I have a very wide straw gardening/walking hat, but all hats look dumb on me.

Hats were in vogue when I was a kid, but the only ones I truly remember are the one I wore to my mom's funeral and the "picture" hat I wore to a friend's wedding. I don't have a hat face unless it's a feminine version of the fedora, and even that depends on how the hair behaves. I DO however have a wonderful hat bought in New Orleans...coral and lime...and I wore it all through French Quarter Fest a couple years ago. (My FB friends can check my pictures...it collapses to pack and everything!)
For the most part I wear knit hats in the winter and sunblock all year round. Still, I do admire the courage of the British female. Some of those hats look as though they could fly off at the slightest sneeze. Imagine what it takes to keep them secure!

I remember when ladies wore hats at lunch, to places like Peacock Alley at the Waldorf-Astoria. And white gloves, although those they took off to eat.

Isn't it interesting that "fascinator" is now on everyone's lips--and heads?

I ordered several lightweight cotton berets from the Am. Cancer Society which fit, cover my bald head, and are comfortable. Oh, happy day--sprouts of hair are starting to grow back!

Too bad that hat stores seem to be as scarce as bookstores and your Batsakes is no more, Karen, but what a great parade of fun-loving women. Here at Malice, they used to have the most beautiful hat contest at the closing tea. But then Parnell Hall won and I think they decided no more contest.

Maryann, I think those little "fascinators" are secured to an industrial strength headband.

Oh, Harley, don't you wish you could go back in time and buy your mother that hat?

We haven't heard from Kaye B. yet, but she wore a wonderful hat when she married Donald and it can be seen on her "Meanderings and Muses." Kaye, you there?

Sheila, "fascinator" was the most-Googled word at least one day last week. I know, because I make them and business is crazy, though I am sure it will screech to a halt in 48 hours.

It interests me how many comments here say "hats don't look good on me." Can you imagine a British woman saying that? Truth is, the wrong hat looks bad on anyone. There's something flattering for everyone, but the selection is so small in most US stores that it's easy to give up. I was in the same boat when I was shopping for a sunhat last month. Tried on a couple dozen with results from dumpy to scary until suddenly I plopped on one with a slightly (very, very slightly) different angle to the brim and the angels sang.

P.S. Maryann--most of those crazy hats have concealed headbands.

Is it Kelly Stanley who wears hats to book and author events? Seems to me I've seen her at Bouchercon wearing a quite handsome straw or felt fedora.

By the way, Margaret, I had to look up "trilby". Never realized that's what those snappy hats were called. Thanks for the new word!

Fascinators were lovely, but needed to worn with a certain panache that not everyone possessed. My grandmother often wore one to church.

As far as I know, Batsakes is still there.

Did you know that Panama hats are actually made in Ecuador? When I was there last spring a couple of the people in our group bought Panama hats, including one exquisite orange one that looked spectacular on the woman who chose it. She was fitted for it, so it was perfect.

I'm here! JUST got here. You'll be proud to know I've been to Curves doing my morning work-out. (much needed seeing as how round I'm getting . . .)


I love hats!

I even wear a hat when I leave the house to go for my morning work-out (mostly 'cause my hair looks such a mess). Today's hat? A pink baseball cap I bought at the last Willie Nelson concert we went to - it says, in hot pink "Whiskey for my men, Beer for my horses." tee hee.

We have a wedding coming up this summer; my adored nephew is marrying an equally adored young woman and the wedding is in Birmingham, AL. I've already started shopping for a hat (I'm thinking the Willie Nelson hat might not be appropriate for a fancy Birmingham, AL wedding, after all). I don't always buy a new dress for a wedding, but I do usually buy a hat. I think hats are just fun and cool and pretty they make me feel all those things too.

For the royal wedding, I may pull out my wedding hat to wear while I'm watching it on TV (I do sooooo love my wedding hat). Thanks for that idea, Margaret!!

Michael Cunningham did a GREAT book some of you might enjoy. "Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats" Maya Angelou wrote her usual amazingly wonderful words for the forward. Here's a link:


I apologize; it's Kelli Stanley. Knew that didn't look right.

Kaye, thank you for the link. I've seen some amazing creations on the heads of lovely women of color, including many using exquisite African fabrics. Strong, beautiful facial features are required to carry them off with aplomb, though!

I live in the Orthodox Jewish section of St. Louis, so hats are pretty normal. As long as you consider geeky 14 year old boys in Polish fur hats and long black coats normal. Something like this: http://lylybye.blogspot.com/2011/01/fashion-week-men-fw-2011-jewish-hat.html

Women's shabbat hats are big. It is spring, so the bright colors are coming out of storage.

I have never really done hats other than a kippah. Being 'Big Al' it would need to come off in the car, and at work, and just about every place else other than shul, and then, it should probably come off or be exchanged for a kippah.

Thanks for the link, Kaye. I attended a funeral for a neighbor at his A.M.E. church and felt positively underdressed with nothing on my head. Every woman over the age of 40 was wearing a hat to fit her face and personality. No self-consciousness, Laura and Karen, when all of your friends are wearing hats, too.

Alan P, my husband loves his hats-- he's a bit miffed I didn't use a picture of him in this post -- but if we ever replace the car that was smashed last November, it'll have to have enough headroom for his fedora. The Toyota doesn't fit.

Oh Oh Oh - let's do, please, see a picture of Joe wearing a hat!

No fashionable hats for me, but since the sun is no longer my friend, I wear SPF-30 hats -- the latest includes a neck drape . . . safari wear . . .

I love hats. The only occasion I really have to wear a hat is in the sun. So I have a few nice sun hats. Oooh and I love sun visors. I have several. I know, not really a hat.

The place that Aretha got her hat is right around the corner. (Can't remember the name of it) So I went there on lunch one day. WOW! FANCY hats. I couldn't pull it off with my casual wardrobe.

Joining the head-too-large-for-most-commercially-available hats group, here. But, my grandmother and others who wore hats either had them made or went to a milliner who could make or adjust the proper-sized version of the desired hat.
I always think I would look terrific in the right hat, until I try hats on in a department store. It seems the problem is finding the 'right' hat!
Having met the estimable Louise Green, I can highly recommend her very precise and focussed attention to what hat (in all aspects) is correct for which head: http://www.louisegreen.com/

However, unless invited to the royal wedding, my array of hats is likely to remain small(baseball caps, crushable fedoras for camping/gardening), and my grandmother's gorgeous true Panama hat, bought when she was travelling by boat from San Francisco to Venezuela in the '20s.

Sadly, I think I gave away the hat(s?) I wore as bridesmaid in weddings years ago . . . sigh.

I love wearing hats! Baseball caps, hats with wide brims, paperboy hats, straw hats. I love pulling my hair into pigtails and slapping on a hat. As hats are against our school dress code, they're a summer luxury only. Although, I am always the teacher campaigning for crazy hat day during spirit week.

Laraine, Nancy, and everyone else with a "too-big" head:

You have to have a lot of room for all those brains! :-)

I like hats, and have a couple of fun ones (nothing like those pics tho!), but I mostly wear a white broadbrimmed casual type...with my dark hair, it just soaks up the sun and then I pass out. Not fun. I also have a plethora of baseball hats from various events, locations or organizations that have been acquired over time.

I love hats and wear one to church on Sunday most weeks (and I'm not a black church lady). Often I'm the only woman wearing a hat. I do in part because we had an elderly lady who was exquisitely dressed who wore a hat every Sunday. Then she became a shut-in and I felt like someone else should pick up the baton, as it were, and I started wearing hats. I keep looking around to see if any of the younger women are taking it from me. There's one 40-ish woman who sometimes wears a hat and one or two of the young 20-somethings occasionally wear a hat. So I think the baton is in the process of being passed on once again even though the hat wearer may be the only one in the congregation.

I must wear a hat when I am outdoors and love the visor cap feature on mine. It keeps the sun out of my eyes and enables me to read, knit and whatever I want to do.
My Head is big but there is a whole lot of rattling going on up there. LOL!

I've always wanted to be the sort of Auntie Mame-ish character who could pull off a dramatic wide-brimmed swoop of a hat or a carefully-casual beret, but such ornaments on me work like orchids on suet pudding -- nice try, but doesn't quite coordinate, and rather than maintaining a suitable rakish angle, berets crawl slowly but certainly into my contact lenses.

Ah, well...


This is getting weird now. The last hat I wore was to mass at The Star of the Sea Church. DO we know each other? ARE we each other?

Great post, Margaret. With the exception of this last winter, I'm not much of a hat wearer. I like them on everyone else, just not on me. When we visit Florida, I have one of those really strange ones that covers my whole neck. People stare and point.

I only wear a hat when I garden these days, but my Mother forced me to wear hats to Church when I was a teenager. I was the only teenager there who was forced to do so and felt like such an outsider.
My kids adore hats. My sixteen year old daughter has several baseball hats, military looking hats, a wool beret and a black fedora with a sparkly headband. My Son has several baseball hats and a gray fedora with a skull on the side. They both look rather slick when they wear them. *g*

Laraine, some of those hats you linked us to are very tempting, esp. the helmet types with the small brims. Almost enough to lure be back into a hat store.

Charlotte, what a nice tribute to that older woman. Hope more than one accepts the baton while you're there to enjoy it.

Brandy, maybe you have the key: catch 'em when they're too young to protest. With everyone becoming so conscious of skin cancer and the sun's potential harm, maybe our children and grandchildren will progress from baby bonnets to real hats as they grow older.

I have a beautiful picture of my mother in a portrait style hat..just beautiful.

I always love the hats worn at the Kentucky Derby.

After reading all of these I realize why I like hats - I have a small head, I have no problems finding hats to fit. When I need (or want) a new hat, I go here:

Anyone remember Carmen Miranda and the stack of fruit she wore on her head?

I love hats. I love wearing hats, I love making hats. I used to collect vintage hats and hung them on the wall of my bedroom.

Most of you have seen this pic of an Easter Bonnet that I made:


I wear a cowboy hat sometimes when I am working with my horses..it makes me feel like I might know what I'm doing!

I'll probably be asleep Friday morning and just watch the highlights on the news...

I love it, Mary Lynn! And it suits you to a "T".

I love hats!!! One year for Easter, I wore a black linen weave hat with a big brim that was filled with black maribou feathers. I loved it- my kids were mortified..... oh well payback is a bi**h. I miss that hat.

Wow, Mary Lynn -- that's a HAT!!!
Karen, so right -- big brains in those heads!

Mary Lynn, that is one amazing hat. Where did you wear it?

Skipper, doesn't Carmen Miranda turn up in some of those old "Road" movies with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope? As a child, I was convinced that fruit was real and wondered how she managed.

I don't have very much hair, and I love to wear hats. I have a huge collection and even a few Sunday go to meeting hats that would bring tears to a black church lady's eye.

(Second attempt; working on a borrowed computer that doesn't seem to like my fingers...)

Although I like the protection of a hat in the winter, I do NOT like the way it feels on my head. I mostly wear hooded coats so I can pull the hood up over my head and ears for protection if it is really unbearably cold out. This past winter it got cold enough that I did get my two winter hats out of storage. They looked nice, but messed up my hair and I had to hang on to them in high winds! (I guess that means that my head is, well, large.)

In the summer if I'm going to be out in the sun on the weekend or on vacation, I will probably wear a hat for part of the time if the sun is really, really strong. Again, I don't like the way they feel on my head but I do want the protection from the sun.

I refuse to wear baseball-style caps, although I own about three of them. They look fine on many women but don't do much for ME! ALL hats mess up my hair, and because it takes me so long to get it to look presentable before I leave the house, I think long and hard about whether there is a definite need for a hat.

After reading today's blog I almost decided to go out and buy a hat for the wedding I'm attending this weekend. (No, not THAT wedding!) Since nobody will be looking at me that day, I don't care what it may do to my hair in the end! I will need to travel by train part of the way home, and I already have enough things to carry with me, so I decided against it.

Margaret, what is the name of the hat in the bottom right photo? That's the kind that my dad wore 365 days per year. He had hats of that style for each season. I know some men who wear hats on a daily basis but they tend to have collections of all different styles. My dad favored that one style but had it in different colors and materials. He didn't consider himself to be dressed without his hat!

OMG, Brunonia! Are we a multiple? Or have we just been watching too much Tara? Oooooooh... or... do we know each other? Ahahahaha!

Deb, I think that's a classic fedora.

I love hats. Because of all the sunshine here in western Colorado hats are a must whenever you're outside. But I've always had a bunch. I have a brown suede cowboy hat, a fedora, a pith helmet, a tam o'shanter, my college mortarboard, a flat cap, I have a blue satiny yarmulke from a friend's wedding, over 30 baseball caps with touristy logos, a renaissance cap, a beret, several ski hats, a fake fur garrison cap, my Air Force flight cap and service hat. You get the idea.

I like the way some of them look on me, especially the way they cover my bald spots.

I noticed the large percentage of TLC'ers with larger heads and with Karen I'm pretty sure it is because of all those brains. I have a large head too but it's probably more ego than brains.

Ah, fedora - so THAT'S what a fedora looks like! I never knew which man's hat was called a fedora. Thanks, Margaret!

Al, you just have to remember not to pith in your pith helmet. :-)

Oh, Karen! A good laugh to end the day.

Ok not really changing the subject but have you seen the Facebook "What is your Royal Wedding Guest Name?" postings?? Start with either Lord or Lady. Your first name is one of your grandparents' names. Your surname is the name of your first pet, double-barreled with the name of the street you grew up on. Mine is Lady Margaret Lora Honky-Fox. Thought this was fun...now I need to get a hat to go with my name!

Lady Ella Josie-Bissel
Not so elegant sounding!

Lady Mary Bozo-Cherry

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