Friday, April 29, 2011

Mad Hatters

Well, if you've been watching any of the coverage today of the royal wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, there's one thing you've figured out about the British: they're mad about hats! I have found it so interesting and amusing to watch all the female guests streaming into Westminster Abbey with those huge, colorful, ostentatious concoctions perched (some of them very precariously, it appears) atop their heads. Many of them I find simply adorable, some the height of elegance, and others just plain ridiculous looking; but overall, I love the idea of wearing hats! There's something about the wearing of a fancy hat that adds such pinache to an outfit. It's such a retro thing, a throwback to other eras when there was no such thing as unisex dressing and women celebrated their femininity through fashion.

Several years ago, I decided to start covering my head again for Mass, as we used to do in pre-Vatican II days. My reasons for doing so will be a topic for another day; but in any case, this led to a new preoccupation with hats. I began by wearing lace mantillas and chapel veils, and at first this was very hard for me, because I like nothing better than to blend in and call no attention to myself. Once I got comfortable with the veil, though, I thought it might be fun to wear a hat every now and then. I've never been a hat person--again, because you don't see a lot of people wearing them, and I don't like to stand out--but gradually, I grew to love them. My husband gave me the beautiful hat pictured above two years ago on Mother's Day, and it is my very favorite. There's nothing that will make you feel more feminine than donning a charming hat festooned with a huge silk flower! I wore it on Easter Sunday, and I overheard one of the old gentlemen who greets people at the door saying, "I love to see a woman in a hat!"

There must be a thriving millinery industry in England, if today's samplings are any indication. I still can't believe the diversity I saw in those hats the English ladies were sporting for the big event: every color of the rainbow imaginable; small pert ones and gargantuan "look-at-me" ones; some stiff and others floppy; some wide-brimmed and others brimless; all of them decorated with feathers, flowers, rhinestones, bows--it was simply amazing. Some of them were so large, though, that they looked almost too dangerous to wear. You could poke someone's eye out! But it won't surprise me a bit if suddenly, our stores over here are flooded with similar headwear. That would actually please me very much, because it's hard to find a really great hat.

As a sidenote, there was another thing that pleased me, fashion-wise, about the royal wedding, and that was Kate Middleton's very tasteful, modest, absolutely beautiful wedding gown. If you've looked at a bridal magazine lately, you know that about 90% of the wedding dresses these days are strapless, and this young bride (who will no doubt be copied ad infinitum) chose to wear long lace sleeves. Maybe this fashion trend, like hats, will hit the states, too!

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