Before Christmas, I met my friend Karen for lunch. Karen runs an Etsy store, Lion and Lamb Vintage, so she's always on the lookout for cool vintage items. She showed up with a shopping bag of gifts for me, including a vase I had admired in her store and a vintage dress (sadly, not my current size, but if I lose some weight...). She also included a couple of hats: a vintage one that she had described as "unusual" (more about that one later) and this black hat with a pink flower bow.
"I used to wear it every year on Christmas Eve," she said.
"Why don't you keep it and wear it this Christmas?" I suggested. Hats are fun. I think everyone should get the pleasure of wearing them more often than they do, so I try to encourage hat wearing.
But Karen was firm. "I want you to have it."
To be honest, this hat is not in my usual style. There's something romantic and dreamy about that pink flower, something Stevie Nicks-ish. I have never seen myself as especially girly, despite my interest in clothes and hats. Though I was not exactly a tomboy growing up, my two older sisters were so much older than I was that they were wearing makeup and miniskirts while I was still dressing Barbies. My three brothers were closer to me in age, so I was more likely to wrestle with them than try on lipstick with my sisters. I still have a bit of a reflexive feeling that fashions that are too lacy, frilly, or flowery are not for me.
Also, having seen my wardrobe in these blog pictures, you can imagine I was scratching my head about what to wear to match the bow's muted, tasteful sage green and rose. Muted and tasteful does not describe most things in my closet!
However, recently I nabbed this multicolored embroidered sweater/coat. And I remembered a fashion lesson I learned long ago--instead of being hard to match, multicolored clothing matches everything. Sure enough, that sage green and dusty rose both appeared in this coat. And together...well, you know when an outfit feels good? That's how I felt walking around a beach town in this coat and hat. Like I'd nailed it. Even the flower felt right--a small bit of girlishness I could claim for my own.
Though I know the hat is meant to be worn with the decoration in the back, I couldn't resist turning it around. I confess I like to see a hat's frou frou when I look in a mirror. So here's a closeup of the hat with the bow in front.
In the photo at the top of the blog, I'm snapping pictures of surfers. Here's one of the shots I took, to close out a dreamy day at the beach:
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One year ago, I started The Hat Project. I thought it would be simple--wear a hat, take a picture, write a few words. And I thought I'd be done in a year, since I had about fifty hats. But, my hat collection grew. So, instead of finishing on this anniversary, I thought I'd celebrate by creating a clickable gallery of all the hats I've worn. I'll update it as I go, and link to it from the header page. So, if you want to make sure you haven't missed any of the hats, take a look.
This mini bowler is the last of the three hats I got from my friend Sheila's downsizing neighbor. The other two were the Brown Hat with Brown Velvet Bow and the Gray Mini Top Hat. I had my doubts about what to call the top hat, but this hat is clearly a bowler. See how much it looks like a tiny version of the one in the classic Lucky Charms box? (And why do leprechauns so often wear bowlers?)
All three of these hats are distinguished more by shape than by fancy decorating. They are monochromatic, with ribbon trims matching the hat bodies. Yet each has some nice details. On this hat, the ribbon band's bow has an interesting fold and the veil has a windowpane pattern.
People at church are becoming inured to my hats. This Sunday, no one mentioned the hat, though a few people commented on my Black Watch plaid jacket and my brooch. Or maybe this hat is so subtle the showy brooch outshone it.
I got the brooch at a consignment store. As soon as I started looking at it, the sales clerk offered me a discount. Apparently it had been sitting in the store for a while with no interest, but I loved it. (I often find this situation--that I love what others don't want to buy). The brooch was in perfect condition, too.
Unfortunately, it no longer is perfect. One time when I was wearing it to the theater, I lost it. I became ill during the performance, and while I was sitting on the fountain in front of the Center for Performing Arts waiting for my husband to bring the car around, I took off my jacket and the brooch fell off. Into the fountain. I was far too sick to think about it.
I told my husband about the lost brooch a few days later, and he went back and fished it out of the fountain using mechanical fingers. Between the days spent under three feet of water and the scratches from the wiry mechanical fingers, the brooch is no longer pristine. But I love it all the more because it reminds me of my sweet husband performing a rescue while I was too sick to do so.
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Some people love Valentine’s Day—the roses, the romantic dinners, the stuffed bears holding hearts. Some people hate Valentine’s Day—the jacked up rose prices, the crowded restaurants, the stuffed bears holding hearts.
I’ve always liked Valentine’s Day, but with a caveat: for me, it celebrates all kinds of love, not just romantic love.
When I was a girl, my mother always baked us kids special extra-large heart shaped cookies. She decorated them with fancy frosting frills and piped our names on them. She had six kids, and she took pains to make each one different—a white border on a pink cookie with a red name on one, a white background sprinkled with red sugar and bordered in red on another. Those cookies were special, one-of-a-kind and made with love. Plus, they were delicious!
In high school, student clubs would raise money by delivering pink and red valentine’s carnations to students. I never got one from a boyfriend, but friends would send them to each other, celebrating love of friends, long before Galentine’s day existed.
The love of family and friends buoyed me up, even in those years when I didn't have a Valentine's date, such as the year I spent Valentine's Day at the movie theater alone, watching Pulp Fiction.
These days, my husband and I usually opt for a quiet Valentine’s Day. Often I’m working in the evening, so we have lunch out. If I’m not working, we usually have gourmet takeout; something neither of us has to cook. We long ago stopped trying to go out for fancy dinners, fighting the Valentine's Day hordes. The first year after we moved we were still unpacking and went out for pizza. Another year we did a bunch of my favorite things during the day: watched the sea otters, went to the monarch butterfly grove, ate pie. This year, my ukulele club is spreading a little love by playing at an eldercare facility's lunch on Valentine's Day, so my husband and I will go out for breakfast.
I’ve always been lucky to feel lots of love around me, even when I didn’t have a romantic partner. And what could be better than a holiday about expressing your love to everyone?
So happy Valentine’s Day from the Hat Project! In these pictures I’m wearing a red velvet hat that came from the collection of hats that included the brown wool hat, the red Breton, the black hat with scarf, and the embellished white pillbox. I saved this one red hat from the Christmas red-hat-a-palooza for this occasion.
May all of you have a happy day. I love you, readers!
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As I wrote in The Blue and Purple Hat with the Blue Feather, around Easter last year, when I had just started The Hat Project, I decided I wanted a new hat. I found a black hat I really liked, and it had one cent shipping (as I mentioned before, with Goodwill hats, often the shipping costs more than the hat).
I liked the black hat for itself, but also because it reminded me of a hat I didn’t buy in the past. Once, during my habitual trek to the antique store near my in-laws' house, I had seen a blue velvet hat with a similar shape. When I tried it on, it looked good on me. But I thought the price was a little high. Also, I had a hat moratorium. No more hats, I told myself—especially since I never wore most of them. So I let it get away.
Many times I have said no to a hat and forgotten it by the next day. But some hats linger in my memory, and I regret not buying them. The next time I was in town, I looked for that blue velvet hat, but it was gone. (I blogged about a similar experience in the same store with an antique mirror).
So when I saw the similar black hat in an online auction at shopgoodwill.com, I bid.
I was instantly outbid. I bid again. The same thing happened. I realized that someone had put in an automatic bid to outbid anyone up to a certain price.
An online Goodwill hat auction is a risk, because you can’t see the hat in person and don’t have an accurate assessment of the condition. Therefore, I was only willing to go so high on a hat that could have stains or a torn veil. Someone else was willing to go higher. I conceded defeat. I let it get away again and bought the blue and purple hat instead.
I often look at hats for sale online; I find it soothing. Though that blue and purple hat slaked my desire for a new hat, a couple of weeks later, I was browsing the Goodwill online hat listings again. And there it was—the same black hat. Whoever had outbid me had not ponied up the cash by the deadline, so that hat was for sale again.
I couldn’t let it get away another time. Even though there was no one cent shipping, I bid. This time, I was the only bidder, ensuring that the hat was within my price range, even with shipping costs. And when the hat arrived, it had no major condition issues (yay!).
As soon as I got this hat, I had a vision of wearing it with my leopard print coat. So, I waited all summer. When cooler weather arrived, I tried it on with the coat and was not blown away as I had expected to be. I didn’t rush to wear the outfit. Christmas (and its flurry of red hats) came and went. Then, looking to spend some Christmas money, I found a gold lamé coat in a local antique shop. I had absolutely no need for the coat. I told myself not to buy it. But I kept thinking about it, so later that week I went back to the store and took it home.
It is a very 1950s coat. The label says “Vogue Special Design,” which was a line of patterns put out by Vogue that included labels home seamstresses could sew into their finished garments. That seamstress could have chosen any fabric, but she opted for gold lamé, rhinestone buttons, and a (I think) fake fur collar. A woman after my own heart.
So here I am, wearing the hat that (almost) got away and the coat I didn’t let get away.
For some reason, gold lamé doesn't seem to photograph well. Here is a picture of the coat that is more true to the color, though you can't see the shape as well since it's unbuttoned:
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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.