Fashion and Easter bonnet were once two words that went together every Spring. They were a rite of passage and much time and energy was spent on finding just “the right” Easter dress and bonnet. It was nearly as exciting to go shopping for these treasures as it was to hunt for Easter eggs on Easter morning.
Going to church was like a fashion parade and we’d get to see what everyone else was wearing. Unfortunately the days of pretty dresses, white gloves and an Easter bonnet has sadly fallen by the wayside except for southern ladies, little girls and the Easter Parade in NYC. The shops along 5th Avenue often have displays of Easter Bonnets in their windows and compete to see who has the best display. The windows are a real tourist attraction.
Unlike most parades, the Easter Bonnet Parade has no official ceremony; instead, people just dress up, walk around and admire each other’s costumes. The parade is a New York tradition dating back to the mid-1800s when the social elite would parade their new fashions down Fifth Avenue after attending Easter services celebrating their hat designs with such wild accoutrements as live bird nests, portable flower gardens and pets. You still see these wild and outrageous designs in the Easter Parade today.
Irving Berlin’s 1948 musical, “Easter Parade,” made the Easter bonnet a popular culture staple and you cannot overlook the role that the Kentucky Derby has played in promoting fashionable, adventurous and outrageous hats for women and men since 1875. The hat became a symbol of social status, whereby the more elaborate the hat, the more likely its wearer was a person of a higher social standing. That’s not true today but it is the more adventuresome who have the fun.
Joy-Anna Wadsworth posts in Fashion For Real Women how she started a trend at her church At first, I was the only hat wearer in our congregation of 500, so I was hard to miss. Lucky for me, I’m not shy! After services, so many people, both women and men, would compliment me on my hat. Several were our older members, pre-baby boomers, but surprisingly just as many were not. Over the years there have been more and more ladies sporting Easter hats, Now, in the weeks leading up to Easter, ladies stop me to “just make sure” that I’m still going to wear a hat, so they won’t be alone!
All this seems like a lifetime ago. Easter Bonnets come from European traditions of wearing flowers on a hat to celebrate spring. It was developed over the years into a way of ladies celebrating Easter and of showing off to family and friends as to who had the best Bonnet! So what better a way to celebrate Easter and Spring then to lead a parade of our own.
Diane Pemberton-Sikes in Fashion for Real Women gives us her thoughts about an Easter ensemble and Easter hat etiquette. Here are her tips to keep in mind as you search for and wear that “perfect” hat:
1. Formal hats can be outrageously expensive, so look for once that you can wear multiple times in order to justify the expense. Opt for a classic shape to which you can add embellishments (ribbons, scarf, a brooch) and consider wearing it for Mother’s Day, garden parties, weddings, and the like.
2. The hat does not have to match the color of your Easter dress or suit exactly, but it should have some color or embellishment that mixes and matches with your ensemble. It should always be in the same mood as your clothes.
3. If your hat is elaborate, your clothes should be simple. If your clothes are elaborate, your hat should be simple. The hat should finish the ensemble, not compete against it for attention.
4. A lady adds embellishment to the right side of her hat band; a gentleman adds it to the left.
5. Easter hat brims may be small or wide. However, since both Emily Post and Miss Manners says that you should keep your hat on while in church (and while eating Easter brunch at a restaurant), consider those who will be seated behind you when making your selection.
6. Daytime hats should be removed at dusk. Evening hats may be worn with evening attire throughout the night.
7. Always store elaborate hats in hat boxes to keep them dust-free and in correct shape. If your hat gets misshapen or damaged, take it to a milliner for repair.
Easter hats can be fun and elegant so long as you follow these few simple rules. Match it to your ensemble, keep it on during services, and garner glances and comments while it’s on your head. You’ll wonder why women don’t wear them more often especially as you watch this incredible excerpt from “The Easter Parade”
There’s still more. Check out these pics from the 2014 Easter Parade in NYC courtesy of 40 Plus Style