When I was in high school, I had a brown tweed blazer I loved. I wore it with brown pants and brown shoes and felt that I was grown-up, classic, sophisticated. To me, that brown tweed jacket represented the advice I read in ladies’ magazines: buy basic pieces that you can wear forever.
Now I wonder why the hell I was dressing for forever in high school. Around me, my peers wore tulle miniskirts and ripped gloves, emulating Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.
Of course, I wore my share of jeans. I also had some black parachute pants (look it up, younglings!) with a cummerbund waist, which I wore with a tuxedo shirt and a black ribbon tie. But nothing made me feel both comfortable and grown up the way that tweed blazer did.
I might have had another reason for preferring brown in high school—with my brown hair and brown eyes, I could disappear in brown. Many times disappearing was my highest goal. Some other kids got sentimental about their high school graduation, but I hardly was. Bring on college, I thought. Bring on adulthood.
As I grew older, I stopped wanting to fade into the background. My Sunday hats were part of that—no one who wears a hat expects to be unnoticed, except maybe at the Kentucky Derby. I rarely bought brown clothing. You can catch sight of a brown denim jacket in The Floppy Red Hat and a brown tank in The Black Hat with Scarf. The vintage Pendleton jacket in The Brown Wool Hat was a gift which has become a favorite casual fall and winter jacket for me.
So, when I bought the online Goodwill lot that included this pillbox (as well as The Pale Pink Turban Toque), I no longer got excited about brown tweed. I could tell it was a quality hat in the listing, even with the lousy listing pictures. It’s by a company named Utah Tailoring Mills, which was known for their high-end suits. Movie stars and socialites wore Utah Tailoring Mills clothing. One of their vintage suits is for sale on Etsy for almost four hundred dollars.
Given the maker, I imagine the hat might have originally had a matching suit. These small pillboxes that matched suits were popular in the late fifties and early sixties.
Here's Doris Day in Midnight Lace, from 1960, suitably suited up to tell Scotland Yard she’s receiving threatening phone calls.
I can just imagine a similar suit/hat in two brown tweeds.
I don't own such a suit, but recently I came upon this vintage goldish boucle suit in an antique store and bought it on impulse. Although this suit is not in one my usual colors, I couldn't resist buying it, partly because it reminded me of a suit my Grandma Hillesland is wearing (with cateye glasses) in an old photograph. From the color, collar shape, and material, I'm guessing the suit is of a later vintage than the hat, but it's as close as I can come.
Here's a closer look at the hat, where you can see the contrasting tweeds, one on the side and the other on the top and the decoration.
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.