As I mentioned in the Beaded Satin Slumber Cap, I was helping a friend (also named Ann) clean out some of her sister's possessions when she gave me a hatbox. Inside was this wonderful beaded and sequined double crown. Since it belonged to her sister, Ann has no idea of its history.
When I searched online for more information, I found a few of these small beaded crowns for sale. My guess is that this one was a wedding accessory, perhaps with a veil attached. Here's a picture I found online of a sixties bride wearing one a bit similar:
When I tried the crown on, it immediately became apparent that it was missing the elastic, comb, or hairband that had originally held it in place. Perhaps that was lost with the veil. I rigged something up for the photo, though it wasn't easy to find elastic, since everyone is making pandemic masks!
I think the crown is from the sixties, but I am not confident in that estimate. Similar crowns online are listed as being from the forties to the sixties. As I've mentioned before, hats are difficult to date--you often have to go by style alone.
Sometimes writing this blog involves detective work, or just plain curiosity. In this case, I started wondering about Gigi Hats in Richmond. Fortunately, the hatbox had the address.
After doing some googling, I found another Gigi hat for sale with a hatbox from a different era. The store has been out of business for years; however, its signs remain. The barber shop that occupies the location has retained the sign on the side of the building:
Notice that the font is the same and that blue seems to have been their signature color. They also had a large neon sign. It is now repainted white, but here's a picture from 2012, before it was repainted:
It's hard not to see this picture as a metaphor. Hats, once a necessary accessory, have now declined to a niche product. Shops devoted to nothing but hats are rare and usually small. However, I take some positives from these signs. First, though the shop is gone, the signs are not. Someone has seen fit to preserve them as a legacy of a beloved local business, the same as my friend's sister preserved the beaded crown. And second, as my Instagram feed proves, many people like me are still interested in vintage hats, caring for them and cherishing them as much as the ladies of the past did.
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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.