“When you wear a hat, you become the dream that started when the hat was conceived. The original energy that was put into the hat doesn’t die; it only changes forms and owners. The dream doesn’t die; it is passed on, sometimes from generation to generation” ~ unknown
I started collecting vintage hats years ago when I was looking for tea cups for my new tea catering business, Miss Havisham’s Victorian Teas. It wasn’t intentional. I’d be caressing a bone china tea cup painted with delicate violets and suddenly see an old hat or two perched whimsically on a shelf or antique hat tree. I don’t know why I didn’t imagine the lips of the women and men who sipped out of the tea cups I bought, but somehow I could imagine the women who wore the hats I bought. I found most of my hats at antique stores or yard sales and they’re from the 1940s and 1950s, but there might be a couple of 1930s and 1960s hats. No Victorian hats, but I have a replicated one I bought for the book launch for my novel, Norah. I have about fifty hats that I keep displayed on nails in the dance/music room of our antique house. When I look at some of them, I can envision plump, red-cheeked grandmothers wearing their Sunday-go-to church hats; young romantic women donning cheerful hats to dispel the dreariness of rationing during WWII times; I imagine Myrna Loy wearing some of my hats, a woman who it was said feared no hat and Joan Crawford strutting in sexy suits and turbans with diamonds. I can imagine Jackie O mimics wearing the pillbox hats; and I can especially picture the femme fatale and sultry woman sipping a real martini with an olive or lemon twist wearing my red hat with black netting. In my mind, I watch her remove her gloves at the bar, cross her legs that have hosiery with sexy black lines going down the back of them, and take a puff of a cigarette encased in a long, elegant cigarette holder. She is wearing bright red lipstick and a black beauty mark on her upper cheek. Ultra glam, sophisticated, and waiting for her man!
My vintage hats have been worn at teas I hosted for wedding showers, fundraiser events, birthday parties, at our ceilis (Irish dance gatherings), and New Year’s Eve parties. They’ve been borrowed by friends and have always been returned to me. I’ve worn them for speaking engagements and taken them to classrooms to inspire students to learn about history – Who do you think wore this hat? What kind of woman was she? What was happening in the world when she wore this hat? And then there are times I become frivolous and carefree and go into the dance room, put on a hat, turn on some music, and dance.
Norah McCabe, the protagonist in my novel, Norah: The Making of an Irish-American Woman in 19th-Century New York opens up a used clothing store called A Bee In Your Bonnet in Five Points, New York in the 1850s. And in the novel I’m currently writing about Norah that has the working title, The Irish Milliner, she designs hats and A Bee In Your Bonnet is her label. And soon my book, Pavlova in a Hat Box, Memories and Sweet Recipes, will be published. It’s a collection of essays and dessert recipes, and a hat box is used to carry Pavlova and many desserts to parties. Hats! I never intended to have a life themed with hats. Really! Could it be that I am part of a dream – “The dream doesn’t die; it is passed on, sometimes from generation to generation”
Hats are magic! Hats are anti-depressants. Hats enhance our beauty. Hats alter our moods. Hats make us giggle. Hats turn us into little girls with dreams. Hats comfort and warm us. Hats make us sexy. Hats tell the truth that there is no such thing as an ordinary day or an ordinary woman!
And a very special web site dedicated to all things hats and to my new friend, Patricia Orfao of Hat Tales, Inc, thank you for believing in my writing and hat dreams! ` http://www.hattales.com/view/hat-gallery/cynthis-neales-vintage-hat-collection/#17
Cynthia, Lovely post. I’m a neophyte hat appreciator or maybe one who has buried that part of myself. As I read this, I remember the bag of old hats my mother had in the closet. They had veils, etc., and my friends and I would get them out to look at and wore them as well. Now I wonder what happened to them, and why they weren’t saved. They must have been from the thirties and the forties when my mother was young. Thank you for the nostalgic trip I took when I read your piece.
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