Of all the art fair hats I’ve bought, only the milliner of this one, Delores Pride, put her phone number in it. I haven’t called it—that was her phone number in the 90s, but it shows that this is a pre-internet hat. Now a hatmaker would likely put in a URL, or even a Twitter or Instagram handle.
I don’t know whether she still sews hats or not, but this is an especially well-made hat. The bow is on a pin for decorative flexibility, but she’s tacked it down to stay in place. So you can remove it if you like, but as long as it’s on the hat, it’s staying put and not curling or shifting.
The style is cute, too, sort of an adorned, slightly casual pillbox. So why haven’t I worn it for years?
The fabric. I loved it when I chose it, but to me, this hat’s fabric has not dated well. The tapestry look has not been in style for a while. If you don’t believe me, type “tapestry vest” into Etsy and see what wonders from the eighties and nineties come up. Also, though when I bought this hat, I thought of it as purple, in reality it has just as much beige as purple. Beige is the color (if you can call beige a color) that looks the worst on me.
I would probably still wear it often if I had simply chosen a different fabric.
I had a plan for wearing this hat…I was going to go wine tasting. The pattern is of grapes and leaves:
I thought it would be a nice fall hat, but I didn’t get to it this fall. No problem, I thought. I’ll wait till spring when the vines leaf out again. Of course, I didn’t count on every wine tasting room being closed.
So, instead of tasting, we drove out to a local winery for curbside pickup. They kindly let us walk around the grounds. If you have a favorite local business to support (be it winery, restaurant, auto shop, etc.) now is the time!
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I miss my friends. I see some virtually through zoom, text others, phone others, but it’s not the same. I miss seeing them at rehearsals and the gym and church. So, in the early days of the shelter in place order, I began to dream of throwing a party.
I had long planned that when I finished The Hat Project, I would have a gathering. I’d invite a bunch of people and ask everyone to wear a hat. For those who didn’t turn up in a hat, I’d provide some of mine to wear (My husband suggested that I let the guests take the hats home as party favors, but I simply laughed at that idea).
As is true of so many plans these days, I had to give up on the party…for now. But I find it comforting to start dreaming about what such a party would look like. It’s an act of hope. I’m not sure when a party will be possible (especially since some of my friends are in high risk categories), but I live in the hope that the days of parties will return. When that time comes, I can wear the Black Ring Hat and sequined tunic somewhere other than the backyard.
The first thing I did was order hat-shaped cookie cutters from an online cookie cutter store. I wasn’t sure whether a company like that would still be working, but a week after I placed it, I received a box from Missouri, full of cookie cutters: bowler, top hat, stocking cap, cowboy hat, and more. They came in various sizes, so I’m not sure I can use them all at the same time, but I’m looking forward to trying them out. Of course, I’ll have to wait until I have people to share them with…and until I can buy flour again.
Next, I started to fantasize about the music I would play: all songs about hats, that mention hats, or that have hats in the title. Maybe even a song by Men Without Hats or Foghat. Some occurred to me right away, like Lyle Lovett's "Don't Touch My Hat" and Prince's "Raspberry Beret." I started combing online lists of hat songs, and discovered many that I had never heard of. It was fun to play them. Some were kind of novelty numbers, such as Rhett & Link’s goofy but great “Nilla Wafer Top Hat Time.”
Of course, some of them weren’t appropriate for a party—for example, “Some Questions about Hats” by Slapp Happy, which was a bit avant garde. Though I liked the lyrics:
Can a hat aspire to higher things?
Can one dismiss hats as simple things?
Scant, evanescent things?
the song itself might not promote a party atmosphere:
And some were popular songs by more modern groups, like “Purple Hat” by Sofi Tukker. I'd never heard of this group, mostly because I have't listened to popular music for a long time:
I found hat songs I’d never heard by The Rolling Stones, Marvin Gaye, Jim Croce, Cyndi Lauper, The Kinks, Bob Dylan, Brian Eno and many others.
I might also include songs that mention hats, such as the standard “Tangerine” which describes the titular woman as having “mascaraed eyes and chapeau by Dache,” referring to Lilly Dache, the legendary milliner.
I have a list of thirty songs with the word hat or a type of hat in the title (Steely Dan’s “The Fez”) and another handful that mention hats prominently in the lyrics (The Temptations' “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”).
Will all these songs go together in a party situation? I don’t know. The Andrews Sisters next to Beck next to Bob Marley next to Merle Haggard? But it’s fun to dream about.
Next, I have my eye on a hat-shaped chip and dip set.
Got any other hat party ideas or songs to suggest?
When I turned forty, we gave a big party—Malaysian food, every novelty light string (chili peppers, bees, flamingos, Hawaiian shirts) draped around the house, my favorite chocolate orange almond cake. On the invitation, I specified no gifts, but my friend Sheila turned up with a hat box. In it was this hat—a beautiful creation in a nice, neutral straw that goes well with a colorful dress.
This hat and The White on White Hat were my two go-to hats for Easter for years (except last year, when I went with The Birthday Cake Hat). I've included a picture of me wearing it on Easter 2016.
That 40th birthday party was the first time we had given a really big party in our house: the kind where there aren’t enough seats for everyone to sit down at once and so many people are talking you can't hear the music. A friend remarked that she was seeing people she hadn’t seen since our wedding—the last big gathering we’d had. (Side note—my fortieth birthday outfit included the turquoise and green shoes I’m wearing in The Madame X Hat’s full body picture).
Though it was a much smaller gathering, until we left the Bay Area, my husband and I also hosted an annual Easter party. Sometimes we only had family; other times we had friends as well—anywhere from six to sixteen people. We always had an egg hunt. One of my brothers was the Easter Bunny, dying the eggs, arriving early to hide them, and providing the silly bunny-themed prizes. Many years I was the youngest participant. Not long ago, visiting some friends’ house, I noticed they still had the bunny cotton ball dispenser (you remove the cotton tail) they’d won years ago. Some other favorites—bowling for bunnies, where the pins were bunny shaped, a bunny that pooped jellybeans, and my pastel pink Koosh ball, which I took to work and was tossing with a coworker when the big Loma Prieta earthquake struck.
It seemed quite lonely this year with no church and just my husband and me for Easter. Though we no longer live so near our extended families, usually we can entice a family member or two to come. But we tried to make the occasion special, even under quarantine conditions. We listened to our church’s recorded service at the usual time, then Zoomed in for virtual coffee hour. I wore my hat there. We had a special dinner: salmon risotto and asparagus, followed by nectarine cobbler. We used our wedding china and had some roses picked from our yard on the table.
Because this hat always reminds me of good times, of family and friends, it seemed a good hat to wear this year. I wore it in memory of gatherings past, and in hope for gatherings in the future that are once again in person, instead of virtual.
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It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been sheltering at home for three weeks now. It’s not that I never leave the house; I try to go for a walk every day. As extra motivation, I’ve started posting pictures from my walks on social media (to see them, check my Instagram account). And I’m fortunate that my husband is such good company, since he’s the only person I see.
Besides my walks, I’ve run a few errands in the last three weeks: to shop at the farmer’s market, to pick up takeout, to pump gas, to walk in the river park across town. Probably more places than I should go, but I’ve been trying to balance safety with getting food. I also wanted to spend a little money at the struggling restaurants in my town. Since we have a tourist-based economy, they are really hurting. Even if everyone in town bought takeout at their normal rate, it still wouldn’t be enough to support all of them, but of course, most people are eating in. Many of the restaurants are closed; I hope they reopen after the order is lifted. I’ve also bought some gift cards to support local retailers that had to shut. It seems so little I can do.
Because my work is always online, I haven’t had much of a shift in that area, but everything else has changed. Sitting in a restaurant and eating with a friend seems like such a luxury. Going to the theater, watching a concert, singing in a group, all seem distant recollections, like remembering the days before people wore bicycle helmets or cars had air bags. Movies showing people meeting in crowded restaurants, taking a standing-room only bus, flying on planes—they make my pulse race in panic as if they were horror movies. It’s hard for me to remember that I did all of those things less than a month ago.
Usually disasters bring communities together. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, I met all my apartment neighbors, including a man holding a scared chihuahua, as we congregated around a pool half-emptied by the earth's shaking. Now, though, the nature of the disaster separates us, and while after the earthquake everyone gathred to help each other, now the best way to help others is by staying home. It goes against our basic human need for connection.
However, my virtual social life is picking up. I’ve been able to go to virtual writers’ group meeting, virtual church coffee hour, and virtual meetup with my chorus members (no singing). Today’s hat is one I’ve worn for the Project before, The Sweaty Palms Hat. I wore this hat to virtual coffee hour this week.
We adapt. Before all this started, I only had about eight hats to go for The Hat Project. I had a rough schedule, arranging hats around the hat I wanted to wear on Easter and the last hat of the hat project. Now, I'm moving forward more slowly, and under different conditions than when I started this project, but I’m still moving forward. Sunday is Easter, the best hat holiday of the year. Though I can’t attend church in person or host a family dinner, I will still be wearing a hat.
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.