Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Oh, Kaye!" Chatting, once more, about hats

I got so confused about writing this piece.  That in itself shouldn't have surprised me a bit - my life seems to be one of total confusion right now.

I was so sure my regular Jungle Red "First Sunday of the Month" would fall on Easter that I jumped the gun and wrote this piece about Easter bonnets.  Then realized my mistake.

But then I saw this darling picture our friend Lesa Holstine posted at Facebook.  She looked so elegant wearing this hat I realized, we really don't have to wait till Easter to wear (or chat about) hats! 

Lesa Holstine and Beth Hoffman

My thanks to Lesa for the inspiration and for letting me use this great picture.  (Hugs, sweetie!)

I have always had a fascination with hats.


I grew up having this love affair with hats. It may have something to do with family. Apparently, the Wilkinson women liked hats - as shown here by my Great Aunt Sadie, and my paternal grandmother, Laura Street Wilkinson.

It may be due to this "Wilkinson Hat Gene" that I discovered them at a very young age

Easter was always one of my favorite holidays - for all the wrong reasons, I'm afraid.  To me, it was all about the hat.

Shopping for hats with my mom was a tradition we both loved.  I still love shopping with my mom, but we don't do as much hat shopping as we once did.  Actually, the last time we shopped together for a hat was this one -   The one I wore when Donald and I were married on May 11, 1986.

Although - I must admit, that urge to try on a hat is one I don't think I'll ever get over

If any of you are lovers of hats and also happen to be a lover of books (I know there are a few of us) - here's a treasure you will love, if you haven't already heard of it.

It's called "Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats" by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.

Marberry had this to say, "I think it's because it's rooted in the African tradition that says that when one presents oneself before God… that you should be at your best –- that you should present excellence before the Almighty." And that tradition of adorning the head for worship is a very African tradition."

"Crowns" is a stunning book. And it's much more. It delves quite deeply into a history that we must never ever allow be forgotten. or allow to ever happen again. Whenever I, for example, pranced into the lovely and grand Downtown Rich's Department Store in Atlanta to buy myself a new hat whenever I wanted, never once did I give a thought to the fact that there had been a time when a black woman could not do this. This simple act that gave me such joy. Other women were unable to do. In that regard, "Crowns" becomes a history book. But one written in the words of women who are able to find humor in their situation regarding hats. Nancy Carpenter tells us about a department store in North Carolina where she wasn't allowed to shop. After some years passed, and Mrs. Carpenter became the owner of many hats, some quite spectacular, she was able to realize that the store's hats really weren't so special - it was the fact that she couldn't own one that, of course, caused her to want to own at least one of them that much more. Fact of the matter was though - the hats Mrs. Carpenter ended up owning, she says, were more beautiful than anything that store ever carried. And, she ended up owning more than they more than likely ever carried.

How about you, Reds, any hat lovers out there?!


  1. Regarding the urge to try on a hat: some hats just beg to be tried on . . . and when it comes to fashion accessories, there is nothing quite as special as a wonderful hat . . . .

  2. I love hats, and have several, but not nearly enough places or occasions to wear them.

    Last spring a friend and I were invited to a Hats Off! luncheon in Cincinnati. It was such a blast, with several hundred women, and a few men, all decked out, and all wearing hats. My friend's was one of the cutest, and unusual enough that only she could look great in it. She was complimented so many times, while any compliments my way were about my cute bag.

    The best place for a hat lover is the American West. Cowboy hats are de rigeur.

  3. I do love hats and collect them. You see so few of them in the US anymore. But on Kentucky Derby day, you will find me with a large and lovely hat on my head and a Mint Julep in my hand, even if only watching on TV! ;)

  4. I adore hats. Who wouldn't, they really are so very flattering. I have a waxed one with jaunty brim and tweed bow that I wear to walk the dog in all weathers. It's quirky but practical at the same time, and I get to wear it every day.

  5. Did you know that Jenn McKinlay has a new mystery series coming out in August, the Hat Mysteries, that feature an American who inherits a London hat shop? The first one is called Cloche and Dagger.

    I love hats. So, when I met Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, it seemed the perfect occasion to wear a hat. I even remember the day when I flew home from grad school wearing a new suit, boots, and hat. Ah, that was the way to travel.

  6. I love hats and have a closet full. Most are not very girlie and are baseball caps or woolen knit caps.

    I have Red Sox caps in the right colors for a home game or an away game. I also collect baseball caps with lobsters on them. School hats... those too. One of my favorites is a baseball cap I got on White Earth when we went fishing with friends who live there.

    I started collecting knit hats when I was in high school in my home town of Marblehead, Massachusetts. My first was a, red and white striped, stocking knit cap with a very long tail. You could wrap it around your neck and face in the winter. Everyone wore them, boys and girls, but we all just let the tails hang down our backs. It gave the boys the opportunity to play with the tail and flirt as they walked behind you. Simple pleasures then… .

    I always flew the Icelandic route home from England, so I could shop for knit caps there. I love the pony designs, and their wool is very special. I love to shop in Reykjavík. It's so beautiful. Well worth the trip up there.

  7. LOVE hats. Unfortunately, my big Irish potato head doesn't always like to fit in them.

  8. Kaye, thank you so much for mentioning the book Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats. I did my two-year student ministry at an old established black church in Boston. Everyone dressed up for church. The women dressed impeccably, as did the men.

    When I left the house my first Sunday there, I thought I looked pretty good. My daughter Jeanie took my picture, because she was sure she'd never see me in a dress again. When I went in the church I was horrified to realize I was very underdressed. I thought, thank god I have to wear an alb, and threw it on over my clothes as fast as I could. As soon as church was over I drove straight downtown for new clothes. There were no churchy hats there, though, but everyone knew I had to assist and that seemed to pass muster with the women I answered to.

    I loved every minute with them, you know. I learned how to dress and process, how to sing and swing. I learned about about the mystery of their history -- why they wouldn't drive the Southeast Expressway through Boston. It was the best thing I've ever done for myself.

  9. All summer I wear a big straw (crushable/packable) hat. I was bereft when I left my last one in a hotel in Corte Madera.

    Love your story, Reine.

    LOVE your wedding hat, Kaye!

    If hats would come back, so would the mystery author's best friend: The hat pin.

  10. Love the post Kaye! and the comments. SJ, you must have a good head for hats:). And looking forward to Jenn's hat books too, Lesa.

    I loved Jackie Kennedy's hats and one time wanted to buy a straw bowler like one she wore. Unfortunately, I went for the cheaper version and it never did look right.

    Now I'm baseball caps all the way. My favorite at the moment says "Protecting Paradise" on it--from the Key West police department.

  11. My black baseball hat says "writer" on the front and I have attached buttons or pins from Bouchercon, Deadly Ink, mystery conventions you never heard of, plus other memories. Don't much like to admit it, but my hat is a lot like a woman's charm bracelet.

    It's gotten a little seedy over the years. Sweat stains from meeting a couple of Jungle Red Writers, for one reason. I wore it playing golf with my two sons yesterday, and they stared for a few holes and then made me take it off. Maybe I should wash it.

  12. Hallie, I just found a whole box of old hatpins from my husband's aunt. She was 94 when she died several years ago, and all her remaining belongings came to us, mostly her costume jewelry. Some of the hatpins are rusty, which could add a deadly element to using one as a weapon.

    Roberta, In seventh grade, my church hat was a pretty little faux straw bowler, but it was also not as cool as Jackie's no doubt couture version.

  13. Love your " Wilkinson Hat Gene!" Were those gardenias in your wedding photo? Thelma in Manhattan

  14. Mornin' Everyone!!! How fun to see some hat lovers this morning.

    The one hat I didn't buy was a straw cowboy hat I tried on in a shop in Nashville. Donald tried to talk me into buying it, but I walked away. dang, but I wish I had bought that hat.

    There were a few hats around during the Malice banquet last year, I'm considering getting one to wear this year - anyone else?

    Thelma, yes! Gardenias and magnolia leaves, can a girl get any more southern??

    Lesa, Hey You!! Thanks for letting me use that picture of you and Beth, I love it. And NO, I did not know about Jenn's next series!That's one I'm going to love.

  15. Jack, I love your hat/charm bracelet comparison. And I think you look right dashing wearing it. Your sons are probably just jealous of it.

    Hat pins! I'm a fool for all things sparkly, and hat pins are just awesome, aren't they?! Karen, lucky you to have some treasures belong to your husband's aunt.

    Reine, I love CROWNS. It's one of those books I pull out fairly often and always seem to run across another perfectly written passage. The photos are exquisite! I had an experience similar to yours many years ago when we were still living in Atlanta. A very good friend of ours got married - a young African American man who calls Donald "Dad." I was awfully glad I had bought myself a hat for the wedding, but still felt like I could have done a little more. Maybe a lot more actually. That wedding deserves a story all its own.

  16. OH, my goodness, Kaye! The bird hat, with the netting..that's amazing. And must have taken a bit of nerve for your--aunt?--to wear.. That array of red hats, I agree, is irresistible.

    I adore hats, and I own some lovely ones. But I rarely wear them. I'm not sure about the rules. DO you just--leave them on? The whole time? Or when you get where you're going, take them off? And then, do what?

    And my head is huge, nothing fits.

    My office is really sunny, and if I'm writing at just the wrong time, it's glary. I keep a baseball cap to wear so I can see the screen. The current one is a Rizzoli and Isles cap--but on the back, it says "What Would Jane Do?" Which is so perfect, since my main character is Jane.

    This afternoon I'm speaking at a women's club. Hmm...I'll give you the hat assessment when I get back.

  17. Cloche and Dagger? SO funny...

    HI, Lesa! xoo ANd Jack ,that sounds wonderful.

  18. There is a wonderful play by Regina Taylor called Crowns - also about the hats of church ladies. I saw it at the Lyric in 2005 and the hats and the music were great.

    Did any of you see the hat exhibit at the Peabody Essex in the last few months? A friend of mine is a milliner and had a hat in the show and her hats for sale in the gift shop. (and yes - I do have some of her hats)

  19. Hi Reds!

    Good to spend a few minutes talking hats with all of you today. Hugs!

  20. Oh, Kaye, I'm old enough to remember when no male, man or boy, would leave home without his fedora on his head. I had one. Now I have a couple real hats I wear on rainy days and a collection of baseball caps. My wife makes me wear one when I'm working in the yard on sunny days. There's one I'm really proud of. As you know, I drive a school bus part time. One day, the kids on my bus surprised me with a baseball cap. On it, they had written in sparkly letters, "World's Greatest Bus Driver." I don't wear that one. It's a trophy.

  21. Oh, Kaye, I LOVE hats! I knew we were long-lost sisters! But unfortunately, I wear them more in the UK than I do here.

    The last few weeks in London I lived in my Scottish pastel tartan wool cap.

    Your wedding hat was sublime!

    A couple of years ago some English friends took me to Lock & Co, Hatters, in St. James Street, London. They are hatters to the queen and many celebs. Too bad I couldn't afford one of their hats!

    Oh, and I've read Jenn McKinlay's Cloche and Dagger. Huge fun! I wish the shop was real.

    Here's the link for Lock & Co.

  22. Debs, ONE of these days I'm going to squeeze myself into your suitcase for one of your trips to London. You always get to do the fun stuff, while this poor pitiful sister has to stay home, scrubbing floors, washing windows, etc etc etc. (sob) (I've been practicing doing pitiful - how was that?!)

    Joan and Kate and S.J. and everyone else who mentioned how much they love hats, I have to ask - why do you think with so many of us feeling this way that they remain to be something American women seem a bit intimidated by?

  23. Earl Darlin' - I love that your kids made and gave you such a cool hat! Now, why am I not in the least bit surprised?! <3

    Bookwoman - I did not know about the play! I would love that.

  24. Kaye, in answer to your question, coming from the standpoint of mother of three daughters, 42, 28, and 25: They didn't grow up wearing hats and they don't know how to wear them. My oldest daughter is the only one who even saw anyone wearing hats, in the Madonna/Desperately Seeking Susan era, but the only hats she owns are knit ones.

    My middle daughter lives in Boulder, and everyone wears a cowboy hat there. I go to a friend's ranch in Wyoming most summers, so I've collected a couple straw cowboy hats. I left one with her one time after I'd left the ranch, but I don't think she's ever worn it.

    My youngest daughter has only worn
    "covers" in the military sense: Civil Air Patrol (they wear the Air Force uniform), high school band, and shakos and other kinds of caps when she was a cadet at the Citadel. Now she has a cute little billed cap--coral--for running. And her shako with the enormous black rooster feathers sits next to her husband's military cover from college, atop the bookshelf.

    They'd all look great in fancy hats, too, so it's a shame.

    Hank, if you ever get to Cincinnati, you should visit Batsakes Brothers, one of the oldest hat makers in the US--105 years in business. They would make a custom hat to fit you.

  25. I so wish I could wear hats. I love looking at them, I love trying them on. But I've got an odd form of claustrophobia, and after about 5 minutes, the hat may as well be a spider - get it off off offfffff NOWWWW. *sigh*

    Thank you for letting me "wear" them vicariously!

  26. Karen - I tried on the coolest straw cowboy hat while we were in Nashville. I loved that hat. Now, of course, wish I had listened to Donald and bought it. sigh.

    okay - so I went to the site as Deb suggested. Here's the hat I want - The Jitterbug -

  27. Pretty, Kaye! I like that color, too.

  28. Oy! I'm doing the copy edits on Cloche and Dagger right now, er, okay when I finish goofing off. Love your post, Kaye. There is a long love affair with hats in my family as well. One of my faves is the pill box hat my mom wore when she eloped - very Audrey H. Sigh.

  29. I love hats. My mother always bought me a new hat for Easter. I saved my favorite, a straw boaster with a black grosgrain band and a bow in the back - ala Madeline-and my daughter wore it for Easter as did my grandaughter. It's still in perfect shape. We all love hats. We got up early to watch the Wills and Kate wedding and the highlight were the fabulous fascinators that the guests wore. I'm celebrating my 50th anniversry in June and we are all going to wear fascinators . Can't wait.

  30. OOPS! I just caught a typo in my post. I called my Boater hat a
    Boaster that I've reread my post it does sound a little braggy" ,,, sorry

  31. I love other women in hats, but I always feel silly in them. I'm glad they brought back fascinators in England because that's just about enough feathers on my head.

  32. Kaye, I want that one, too. We'd better get different colors:-)

    Also love the Quickstep!

  33. I love hats, and wear them well, but I often feel silly wearing the. I loved the post, Kaye, because there is something very poignant in looking at the dignity of those churchgoers in light of their treatment. Love the pictures.

  34. I don't usually wear hats (because I feel like a ninny in a hat), but I dearly love trying them on. Give me a store display and a mirror and I can play hats for hours!

  35. Jenn Honey - Get back to work!!

    Oh, Pinny - I envy that straw boater. I have looked everywhere for a number of years for a "Madeline" hat but never find just the right one.

    Rhys, Lil and Sandee - I guess "feeing silly wearing a hat" is what I meant when I said so many of us feel intimidated by wearing them. I wish it weren't so.

    Debs - and Yes on the Quickstep too!

  36. I LOVE buying hats.....but rarely leave the house in anything other than a baseball cap or the saggy knit caps that have gotten popular in the last few years. Still, I've got my picture hats, my newsboy cap, my fur Zhivago/Cherry orchard hat that's in my facebook pic...
    Yup, I guess I am a hat person. It's just the squashed hair and bangs that I hate afterward.
    I went to a wedding once in a giant Tracy Tooker creation - very Audrey Hepburn. But I couldn't dance in it so that was the last time I wore it. Hmmm, maybe that's the next facebook pic...

  37. Great post, Kaye! I love hats too and remember the days when a new Easter hat was the best thing. I still buy them, but they hang on the wall.

    I loved all the photos too.

  38. Rosemary - the photo of you in your gorgeous fur hat is a classic. It always reminds me of the spectacular clothes Elizabeth Taylor wore in the movie VIPs. Remember that? Didn't she wear a similar hat?

    Victoria! Bring one of those hats to Malice! (I mean, you brought prom gowns to B'Con . . . )

  39. Kaye, you do such a beautiful blog here with the JRWs... thankful they brought you in. xoxo

  40. Not surprised to see all of the comments about hats! They are wonderful.
    I saw the play "Crowns" at the Arena Stage in DC, with a group of kids in a mentoring program and a few of their grandmothers who wore hats for the occasion.

  41. I have always loved hats and wore them a lot during the 70s and during my brief stint with the Red Hat Society. When it rains, you'll always see me in one of my Kangol 504 caps. I hate carrying umbrellas and as long as I can keep my glasses dry, I'm fine.

  42. It’s so hard to learn things the hard way.Over all EXCELLENT.Thank you so much.

  43. I so wish I could wear hats. I love looking at them, I love trying them on. But I've got an odd form of claustrophobia, Also! i was great posting like this.