Every year at the last minute I tell myself, “I should wear a hat to church.” The night before I rifle through the boxes on my closet shelf. Hatboxes and purses happily rain down on me. Sailor hat! Marshall Field’s brown straw hat! Gold hobo bag with massive (ouch!) silvery loop handles, red boa-trimmed cocktail bag! They all clamor about for attention like children, the aforementioned cocktail bag especially. It releases a puff or two of feathers to catch my eye. It doesn’t usually work. I don’t really want to look like I’m going on a hot date on Easter. I want to appear classy, subdued. Of course, I had to look at the hats that were little less enthused for show-and-tell. That meant tearing into the zipped-up hatboxes, and rediscovering a black “winged” hat I made in a millinery class a few years ago. I call it winged because I swear the one-sided, off-center brim looks like a crow’s feathered limb uplifted. I embellished the class project with sparkly black vintage buttons and an equally old, black-felt curly-cue cut-out. All this makes the hat look like it’s from the 1940s.
I tried it on with this dress, which I thought really demanded and deserved something a little more understated. So I pulled out a 1960s oval pillbox that I updated with some grosgrain on the inside and a piece of elastic. Subtle stuff that just makes the hat more wearable. The grosgrain protects the hat from my make-up, the elastic keeps the hat on my head, and not up in the air, where it most certainly doesn’t belong.
I could have worn it plain and simple, and it would have complemented the black and white houndstooth perfectly. But I wanted more oomph! So I dug through my collection of netting. Off-white? Nah. Black? Absolutely. I swooped this wide, open-weave net around the hat’s base, ensuring a piece hung over my eyes, crossed the two ends in the back and pinned it from the inside. I stuck an 1920s rhinestone arrow on the front. My hat was complete!
Easter, I have to say, is the one day out of the whole year when I really, really miss my cream princess-cut wool coat (which I got rid of because it started getting light brown despite frequent trips to the dry-cleaner). Instead, I reluctantly wore my get-up with my puffy coat. The ensemble didn’t look bad, but I just wanted something more dressy to celebrate this holiday. Besides, it’s not often I get to blend in with the snow on Easter. I also wore my black suede Payless boots. I felt very mod with those boots and my short dress. On the way to the train, I saw two men and a woman openly drinking beer inside the local train depot. They darted out when they saw me call the cops on my cell phone, the one woman telling me, “----, I hope you have the worst day of your life.” That’s not all she said, but at least she didn’t tell me I looked terrible. I was happy to board the train and leave her behind.
I was also glad I wore the boots and not fancy-schmancy pumps when I visited a corner grocery store before stepping inside church. There were more than a few unshoveled sidewalks that my nice shoes wouldn’t have liked.
Inside church, I craned my neck to see who in the crowd would be wearing hats. No one! Not one in hundreds of people. Not one little girl dressed up by her Easter-loving mama. Although I did see one girl wearing a pair of bunny ears, pink coat and dress. I’m not sure this counts; it looks more like part of a costume than a Sunday hat. What do you think?
So there I was, looking a little more funereal than festive with my black-and-white attire. A little boy with the cutest blonde ringlets flirted with me from the pew ahead. At one point he asked, “What is that on your head?” A hat, I told him. His hatless mother laughed.
Afterwards, I tried to get pictures of hatted self with my niece, but my nephew was more busy trying to get pictures of the angels, and a friend in the background. So all the pictures of me and my niece have this boy in the back, making faces. He’s so close to me in background, it was difficult to crop him out.
My sister complimented me on my hat on the car ride to my mother’s; she too observed that I was the only woman in the congregation wearing a hat. My mother talked about how woman used to wear hats. “It was a nice tradition,” she said.
I understand that people don’t wear hats for the most part on a daily basis. Ok, I get that. But Easter is about tradition. It’s about egg hunts, lamb cake, church, and getting dressed up whether you like it or not. (My teen-age nephews were dressed in suits. When I asked them what would have happened if they didn’t wear them, they replied, “There would be severe consequences.”). For the women, it wouldn’t kill them to put on a hat on this one day. You will not fall over, you will not die of embarrassment. You might even have fun. You just might get some attention from men, some marriage proposals, a door opened on your way out. All because you wore a hat on Easter Sunday.
On the way to my mother’s, I joked that I might have to start a church ladies’ hat society. For a moment, I thought that might be what it takes to get women to wear hats on Easter. I just had another brilliant idea: maybe I should have a contest. The lady with the best hat wins a $25 restaurant certificate. Maybe I should do that. For a second or two yesterday, I was convinced I attend another church on Easter, but that doesn’t solve the problem, in fact, I’m just as likely to be surrounded by more hatless women (unless I attend an African-American church or a congregation with an active Red Hat Society). So that’s my impulse (not quite a resolution just yet) on this Monday after Easter. Do something different next year to get other women in the spirit. Maybe they just don’t know the tradition. Perhaps they just don’t know what they’re missing.
* The picture above? The pre-Easter brunch shot of me and my mother's dog, Molly (who has brown and blue eyes).