The White Embellished Wool Pillbox
“I like that one!” a woman said as she scooted into the pew behind me.
I agreed. In fact, when the friend of a friend of a friend offered me her mother’s hats, sending along a less-than-stellar cellphone picture, this white hat was the one that I was most excited and curious about. (The photo was so bad, one hat I took to be cello straw turned out to be velvet). I couldn’t quite tell this white hat's shape or material, but I loved the little embellishments. When I got the collection, which also included the Brown Wool Hat, the Red Breton, and the Black Hat with Scarf, I finally got a closer look at the hat. The milliner sewed on pearls and some long thin beads that were probably silver originally but tarnished over the years.
The veil is in excellent shape, though it’s one of those long veils I’m never quite sure how to wear. For it to lie correctly it seems like I have to tie it. Yet, unwilling to harm the veil, I always tie it very loosely; it inevitably comes untied. I have other hats coming up with the same kinds of veils, so perhaps I’ll learn some tricks for wearing them before I wear them. Suggestions welcome!
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The Black Hat with Scarf
This black hat was one of the hats given to me along with The Brown Wool Hat and The Red Breton. I initially didn’t take to it, because I thought it was too plain: a black hat with a thin black band. (Longtime readers will remember my unhappiness with the black-on-black Forgotten Hat). But then I thought, “Why not jazz it up with a pin or a scarf?” I tried this gold, red, and green scarf, and voila! I liked the hat much better.
Though I accessorized this hat, I am not a milliner, any more than I am a jeweler. People sometimes ask me if I sewed a hat, or put the feather or flowers on it, or if I made a piece of jewelry. I answer no, that my talent is shopping. 😊
Of course, I can’t take credit for buying this hat, since it was a gift, and the pin was my grandmother’s (the same grandmother whose White Pillbox, Navy Pillbox, and Cello Straw hats I’ve previously worn). I can take credit for choosing the scarf, though, a William Morris print that I’ve had for years. My husband gets the credit for choosing the background for this photo, a bright mural gracing a downtown building.
The Leopard Print Hat
I bought this hat while visiting Mendocino, just as I bought the blue Parkhurst hat and the gray Parkhurst hat there. I don’t wear a lot of brown, but I make an exception for leopard print.
I took this cozy hat to Washington state when I visited my mother over Christmas. In this picture, I’m posing with a view of a wintry Mt. Rainier.
At my mom's house, I encountered pieces of my childhood everywhere—those bird ornaments that I unpacked and hung on the tree every year, those plates that witnessed so many family meals, that battered metal loaf pan that held so many batches of molasses oatmeal bread.
My husband found a leather sun visor in the bottom of the coat and hat closet. I recognized it immediately as one I had made during a junior high art class' leather working unit. How it ended up in Washington is a mystery—I suppose my parents must have boxed it up with all the other hats in the closet when they moved from California, years after I had my own apartment.
Why I decided to make a sun visor, out of all the leather choices I had, is no mystery, though. Even then, hats interested me. I remember stamping the visor with the acorn pattern and working to get the colors just right. I wore the visor a lot after I made it.
However, as for many people, for me seventh and eighth grades were a dark time. When I saw this visor, I did not want to wear a hat that reminded me of those years, however much I loved wearing it at the time. It seemed haunted by that girl with big glasses and acne and wavy-soled Earth Shoe knockoffs, who hid in the science room at lunch and wrote science fiction stories on college-ruled paper. I didn’t even try the visor on, just slipped it back into the closet after snapping a few photos.
As I’ve been working on this project, I’ve had to stare often at the photographed signs of aging—the crease between my eyebrows, the puffiness beneath my eyes, the multiplying strands of gray hair. Sometimes I succumb to vanity and photoshop some wrinkles out. But for all time’s depredations, I wouldn’t be thirteen again for anything. I’m quite happy to be wrinkled, in my fun leopard print hat, enjoying a beautiful day at my mom’s house.
The Red Beret with Flower
Like the Black Hat with Pearls, this hat caught my eye while I was Christmas shopping. I was buying a few last-minute items in the little shops in the cute downtown where I lived in the Bay Area. Though I had been practicing frugality, I had just had a financial win—I don’t remember if I had just gotten a raise, or if I had just completed a side editing project, but for some reason I felt I could spend some money on myself. I do remember that I was wearing this multicolored red scarf. I saw this hat in one of the stores and decided I would splurge on it. The clerk asked me if I wanted to wear it instead of taking it in a bag, and I said, “Sure!”
Then I was walking down the street on a bright winter’s day, wearing a festive new red hat, feeling happy.
A lot of people love berets, but this is the only one I own. For warm hats, I prefer cloches—looser and more comfy. But I always wear this one a few times around the holidays, and recapture that happiness of having a bright new hat on a cold winter’s day.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and nonfiction and collects hats. In this blog she vows to wear (not just model, but wear out of the house) every one of her hats, blogging about their histories and their meanings for her.