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:
“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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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.
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.
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.
The first time I wore this hat was to a “Crazy Socks and Hats” New Year’s Eve party. I was in my 20s. I had bought this hat at a department store, but never worn it (as has been the case with so many of my hats through the years). I figured it was the closest thing I had to a crazy hat.
I’m not sure why I disregarded the vintage hats I had at that time, such as The Pink Hat with Roses. They probably would have made more of a splash than this one. Maybe I just wanted an occasion to wear this hat.
The people giving the party were friends of my older brother. He lived in the same town as I did, and we used to hang out in bars in downtown Palo Alto together. Sometimes other friends came, but sometimes it was just him and me. He knew bartenders and had made friends with some regulars. In one pub, when a great song came on the jukebox, the group of us would sing along. To this day, Squeeze’s “Tempted” reminds me of the Rose and Crown. I would never have had to courage as a young woman to go to those bars and pubs alone, but with my older brother in the bar I felt safe.
So the first time I wore this hat, I was dancing with a bunch of my brother’s friends on New Year’s Eve, shoeless, like everyone else, so I could show off my silver-threaded socks.
I’ve worn a few other hats on New Year’s Eve through the years, most recently The Lilac Parkhurst Hat at a scarily huge bonfire in the city park a few years ago.
After debuting as New Year’s Hat, this hat over the years has become my Christmas Eve hat. The red plaid band and bow make a subtle Christmas statement, and since it’s wool, it’s a good winter hat. This year I wore it on a rainy Sunday before Christmas. But maybe I’ll wear it again on New Year’s Eve, for auld lang syne.
Wishing all of you a happy 2020!
I met my husband on a job interview for a job I didn’t get. As the project lead of that group, he was one of the people interviewing me. Though that group didn’t hire me, they passed along my resume to another manager in the organization, who did hire me as a project lead in her group. So instead of working for my future husband, I became his peer. Since we would never have dated if he was leading my work, I’ve always been grateful I didn’t get the first job I interviewed for.
We had known each other for about a year before we started going out. At first, we kept the fact that we were dating quiet. Having seen many workplace romances become a source of gossip, especially when they didn’t work out, I didn’t want to be the subject of speculation. We didn’t leave the office together, or go out to lunch every day, or meet up in the coffee room accidentally on purpose.
However, after we had dated a few months, the company got acquired by another, bigger company. We had to decide whether to accept a job with the new company or take a severance package and look for a new job. Both of us decided to quit.
As a send-off before the acquisition, the department took a day trip—sailing from Santa Cruz to Monterey on a chartered sailboat, having lunch on the Monterey wharf, and returning to Santa Cruz in a limo. I wore this hat on that trip. Here's a picture of me in this art fair cloche taking the ship’s wheel with a look of nervousness and delight on my face (I kept thinking of the Gilligan’s Island theme).
For the first time on this trip, Russ and I were a bit more open about hanging out. After all, we would both be leaving the company soon. We sat next to each other at the group lunch. (A couple of people ordered lobster on the company dime, but as a vegetarian I contented myself with pasta).
The next day, back at the office, one of my coworkers commented that Russ and I had spent a lot of time together.
“We’re dating,” I told her, the first time I had said it aloud in the office.
“I thought you two would get together.”
I was surprised. Apart from anything else, I’d had a different boyfriend for part of my time at the company.
“You were single; he was single. I thought something would happen.”
If only it was that easy to find the right person, I remember thinking.
I feel incredibly lucky to have met my husband. Christmas is a time to remember your blessings, and he’s been the greatest blessing of my adult life. This picture is taken in his hometown, in Santa’s Sleigh on the main downtown street.
Wishing you happy holidays!
PS--In this close up of the hat, you can see that the flower decoration is a detachable pin. I've worn it on the Madame X Hat sometimes to jazz it up.
My first Christmas in my first apartment, I bought a tree so tall I had to cut the top off in order to stand it upright in the studio’s one room. That’s how enthusiastic (and clueless) I was, getting my first Christmas tree. I bought lights and more lights for it, distributed the few ornaments I had (gifts from my college roommates, inherited ones from my grandma Alma) and then bought more.
I always have a Christmas tree, even when I’m going to be traveling for the holidays. I love the fir’s forest smell, the glow of the lights in a darkened room, the sparkle of ornaments in the sunshine. Though I’ve never again had a tree as big as that first one, I love the process of choosing and decorating a tree. I can reminisce looking at the ornaments—those from my roommates and my grandmother, those first sparkly glass pine cones I bought for myself, and also the mariachi man I bought on my honeymoon in Cancun, the nativity scene in a dried pomegranate from Budapest, the many ornaments given to me by loved ones through the years. A Christmas tree is a connection to my past, to all the years of decorating a tree as a child (even the scrawny living tree we had for years in the seventies), and as an adult.
No matter how busy I am, I always want a fresh tree in the house for the holidays. The only year in memory that I failed to have one was the year we were remodeling our kitchen, with the kitchen contents crammed into boxes that took up half the living room. At the same time, we were in escrow on our new home, going through the inspections and repairs. I had to settle for a tabletop model (complete with ornaments and lights) from the grocery store floral department that year.
Even last year, when my husband was out of town, I still managed to bring home a tree in my Miata, a much smaller tree than my first tree, but just as beautiful.
This red Breton (bumper?) seemed perfect for a tree-hunting expedition. This hat was one in the collection I got from Sandra that included the brown wool hat. Note that in this post originally, I had this down as a bowler, but I never felt comfortable with that identification. I think now it's more of a Breton, so I've changed the designation.
Almost four years ago, my husband and I moved to a new area where we knew no one. After settling in, we started venturing out to explore the area. We went to the local river park (even though the river is dry most of the year), walked the boardwalk along the coastal bluffs, and sampled syrah at local wineries. We also poked our noses into stores beyond the home improvement stores we haunted initially.
Probably because the town is a tourist destination, it has several antique stores,including one a little outside of town, right next to a vineyard. One day we decided to check it out. It’s a cramped store with items stacked atop display cases and chairs hanging off the walls to save space. I moved from room to room, examining depression glass, rhinestone jewelry, a jar of old marbles.
Then, perched on one of the display cases, I saw this hat. Now, I knew I had a lot of hats. I’d meant to go through them before I moved but had run out of time (lucky for The Hat Project). The boxes had moved from one house’s spare room closet to another house’s.
But the new house’s spare bedroom had a bigger closet.
So, I thought I could break my hat moratorium and buy this black velvet one. Something about the jaunty way the little bow stood up called to me. It seemed a friendly hat.
Though after moving I felt the lack of my old friends and family, I quickly found out that people in this town are very outgoing. Before I learned to relax about it, I’d get impatient when grocery checkers stopped to chat and people waved each other through intersections instead of observing the right-of-way rules.
Almost as soon as we hit town, we joined a chorus and started to make friends. We found a church we liked and became members. After the first Easter, the pastor said that next year we’d be up front singing, and we were. I wore this hat at the service the next Easter. as one of the musicians.
Here I am singing (actually, rehearsing before the service) on the recent Sunday I wore this hat. I think visitors to our church say, “What a friendly little church!” I hope this friendly little hat makes a good addition.
I recently realized that “hat lady” rhymes with “cat lady.” The way some people can’t resist a box labeled “Free Kittens,” I can’t resist a box of free hats. I want to give them a good home. I want them to be appreciated and worn. OK, I just want them.
Several months ago, my friend Katheryn let me know that a friend of a friend was looking to donate a collection of hats that had been her mother’s. The woman, Sandra, hoped to give them to a local theater company, but hadn’t gotten any interest. Would I be interested?
Free Kittens? Of course!
We made connections, and soon Susan was pulling up in my driveway, passing off a box of hats.
When I brought them inside and unpacked them, I discovered that they were all winter hats, made of wool and velvet. Some were probably from the early sixties, and some might be more recent (perhaps as late as the eighties). Hats are difficult to date, especially classic hat shapes without labels inside. Like my grandmother’s hats, these hats were in basic colors, but those basics included bright red, as well as black and white.
Among the black, white, and red hats was this one brown hat. I’m guessing it’s from the sixties based on its shape, veil, and union label, but I don’t know for sure.
I thought this would be a perfect hat for a fall day along with the vintage Pendelton coat given to me by my friend and fellow JewelTone Jeanne. And where did I wear it, besides around town to take pictures? I went to Bruce Munro's Field of Light installation.
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.