This elegant black hat is the last of the hats in the collection Sandra gave to me that included the brown wool hat, the red Breton, the black hat with scarf, and the embellished white pillbox, and the red velvet hat. Like the others, this hat is in a basic color, but the details are beautiful: The layered ribbon bow, the bit of embellished netting, the cord around the body that gives this pillbox a more defined shape than the classic straight sides.
Perhaps the most interesting detail is one no one but the wearer sees: the mod fruit-patterened fabric lining. The lining coupled with the shape makes me think the hat is from the early sixties. Note the union made tag that signals this is a vintage hat.
This is the first time I’ve worn this hat. It was the runner up for the tea luncheon with my friend Kate, but I decided it was more of a church hat. Of course, now I can’t wear it to church, since gatherings are cancelled because of the virus, but I did wear it to our charming downtown.
My husband (the photographer for all these shots) and I often head downtown for pictures. I pose against historic storefronts and brick walls, down alleys and against spray-painted back walls (I photoshopped out some graffiti). We've also shot in the park and on the play equipment, at the old Carnegie library, and at the children’s museum,. About a quarter of all the shots in The Hat Project are from downtown.
The town I live in started as a spa town because of the natural hot springs (the reason a couple of blocks occasionally smell like sulfur). People built a train station and a hotel to capitalize on the spring’s healing power. The famous Polish pianist Paderewski came to the springs, which he credited with helping heal his injured hands. He planted a zinfandel vineyard nearby, an early adopter of the current major industry of the area, winemaking.
Nowadays, the town relies mostly on wine tourism for its economy. Our downtown is full of cute shops, now shuttered for the pandemic, and good restaurants, now doing a limited takeout business for locals. It’s sad to wander around the mostly empty streets. I just hope the businesses make it. Even when they open, it will be a long time before the tourists return.
However, one of the first things that struck me about this town when I moved here was the public-spiritedness of the locals. The tractor parade that brings out the crowds, the free pancake breakfast during the county fair. The fundraiser for playground equipment and the support for the Paderewski festival. The friendliness that would give a box of hats to a complete stranger.
I’m grateful for the hats and I’m grateful for this town for taking me in. Here’s hoping we come roaring back.
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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.