Recently I read an article about CHURCH HATS & it reminded me of my younger years. When I was a little girl my mother sewed most of my clothes, and each year I looked forward to the Easter dress she would make for me. But….my favorite thing about Easter was that I usually got a HAT to go with my new dress😊 Hats for church aren’t so popular these days (at least in my neck of the woods), but when I was growing up all the ladies in my church wore a hat almost every Sunday. I remember one lady who wore the biggest hats, to the chagrin of anyone sitting behind her….and she somehow always sat in front of me! I also remember my mother wearing small hats with a veil that covered just the top half of her face. I always wanted one of those, but Mama said I was too young for a veil.
The article got me to thinking about HATS & so (being the life-long learner I try to be) I did a little research. It’s not really known how long hats have been in existence, but they probably began as a way to protect a person’s head & face from the elements. Wearing hats became mandatory for women in the Middle Ages when they were required to wear one when attending church. During the Edwardian Age in the early 1900s, hats became a fashion accessory, rather than a necessity. Most were rather small & sat on top of a pile of hair.
From 1910 until WWI hats grew in size and were adorned with feathers & flowers.
When the war began hats again decreased in size. It was considered unpatriotic to think too much about how you looked or that you had spent a lot of money on a hat! And in the 1920s the cloche, a close-fitting hat, became popular. I am the very proud owner of one of these that belonged to my Aunt Katy who died when she was quite young.
Through the decades hats changed with the times and the styles. During WWII they were even taxed at 33% as a luxury item! Then the 1960s showed a real decline in the wearing of hats for any occasion. Of course, none of us will forget the beautiful Jackie Kennedy with her pillbox hat during this time.
Although hats are not popular in all sections of society, one area where they are still very popular is with African American women and their beautiful CHURCH HATS. During the days of slavery, Sunday was the one day black women could shed their drab working clothes & show their individuality & creativity by wearing hats adorned with ribbons, flowers, or other decorations. They also saw their hats as a way to honor Bible scripture dealing with the belief that women should cover their heads when in church. One article I read said that these ladies designed their hats to “catch God’s eye” in hopes He would answer their prayers. (bglh marketplace.com)Another article said it was their way to honor God. “The harder women worked to create the perfect hat, the harder they were working to show God just how seriously they took their Sunday church service. After all, if you're going to worship God the right way, you need to look your most elegant!” (samuelshats.com/church-hats-history) This tradition of wearing beautiful CHURCH HATS continues today as a cherished part of African American women’s culture, at least here in the South…and I am totally envious. Such creations; such beauty!
A few years back a beautiful book entitled CROWNS: PORTRAITS OF BLACK WOMEN IN CHURCH HATS was written by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.
It has wonderful photographs and also some of the “rules” for the wearing of your CHURCH HAT. I’m not sure all women abide by these rules, but they are interesting and fun to think about….
“Don’t wear a CHURCH HAT that’s darker than your shoes. Even if Mother Nature sends you six inches of snow for Easter and it feels like anything but Spring, this rule still applies!”
“Don’t wear a CHURCH HAT that’s wider than your shoulders.”
“Never let your feathers get ruffled. If your feathers get bent or broken, it can be seen as disrespectful.”
“While the hat should be the focal point, it must not compete with the matching outfit, jewelry or accessories, such as pocketbooks and gloves.”
“Don't borrow CHURCH HATS. If you want the respect and honor that these hats were built on, make sure yours comes from your very own closet.”
“Always have the right attitude. Never forget the history behind these hats. Wear your CHURCH HAT with pride and walk with your head held high.”
It’s what Deirdre Guion calls "hattitude…there’s a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat. There’s something special about you."
Of course, another American tradition that dates from 1875 & calls for a hat is the KENTUCKY DERBY. If I understand correctly, it’s a real fashion faux pas if you don’t wear a hat to this annual event.
I probably will never attend the Kentucky Derby, but if CHURCH HATS ever come back in style, maybe I’ll wear one of these….
I bought this at an antique store years ago...love that veil!
This belonged to my mother-in-law; I'm wearing it backwards! Looks cuter that way:)
But definitely NOT one like this....
There are a lot of things from the “old days” that I don’t miss, but I would love to see CHURCH HATS come back into vogue….even if the lady in front of me wears one that is so big I have to peak around her to see the preacher😊
The lovely pictures are courtesy of Pinterest & the internet.