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Thursday, April 13, 2006

White Women Can't Wear Hats

At my house, a few days ago . . .

Susie: I've been thinking of writing a post about hats. I don't quite know what I want to say, but I've been thinking about how white women can't wear hats, you know?

Jif: It's true.

Susie. You know what I mean? We don't wear them. Because we don't like them? Or because we just can't do it the way it should be done?

Jif: Can't. White women used to be able to wear hats. But then they lost the ability. It's a Darwinian thing.

LG (believing she has overheard the beginning of a fairy tale): Ooh! Tell me! What happened to the white, hat-wearing women of Darwinia?


This post may not be politically correct, but I believe it to be true. With the possible exception of those attending the Kentucky Derby, white women can't wear hats. We simply don't have the knack for it. This wasn't always the case. When I was very young, my mother wore a hat to church every Sunday. She had beautiful hats that matched her suits. (And her "bag" always matched her shoes, too.) She had hats with short, delicate veils in the front, and hats with peacock feathers on the side. She and Jackie Kennedy. And my mother-in-law, too, although I didn't know her back then. She told me that once, early in their marriage after she had quarreled with my father-in-law, she spent her entire paycheck on a hat. Hats used to mean something, to white women.

In this city, on any given Sunday, you can go into any church in the African-American community, and you can see you some hats. In any color and style you can imagine, and some that you can't. My church, like most churches, is only slightly racially integrated. So I go into the grocery store down the street from church on Sunday mornings after church, if I need a hat fix. And there are the lovely hat-wearing ladies, pushing carts, to pick up just a few forgotten items for Sunday dinner. And I love to compliment them, and they love to be complimented. And I covet their hats. Yes, I sin. I covet right there by the milk case.

In my church, there are about three ladies who will wear a hat on Easter Sunday. Four, if I join them, which I do on rare occasion. Easter seems to be the only time (other than Derby day) that white women even make the effort (except for sun protection at the beach or gardening, which, while wise, really doesn't count). A few years ago, we planned to spend Easter in the South, which I had not done in a couple of decades. I got it in my head that Southern women, of which I am one (when it suits my purposes ;) by blood and by relocation, would not have lost the ability to wear a pretty hat to church on Easter Sunday. So I went to a store in which I was by far the palest shopper, and I bought me a hat. My dress was a black, short-sleeved sheath style, with ivory tulips casually bordering the hem. My hat was black straw, with an ivory magnolia blossom on the side, and a loosely woven veil on the front, black veil with . . . ohmygosh, I swoon to think of it now . . . tiny ivory baby's breath blossoms strewn here and there.

I looked FINE.

I went off to the Y'all Come Baptist Church thinking that I would fit right in with the steel magnolias in the neighboring pews. Um . . . not so much. I was the only freakin' magnolia with a hat on my head, not to mention the only magnolia with a magnolia on the hat on my head. And everyone stared at me. And afterwards, people came up to me -- I was a "visitor," and Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, will always grill greet a visitor. And after inquiring as to where the hell I came from, many speculated, "Y'all still wear hats to church up North? I wish we did . . . " Yea, yea, whatever.

Last year, LG and I decided that we would wear hats to church on Easter. Well, LG always does, so far, but I decided to join her. We went to a place that has a lot of hats. And we were not alone. If there is any public activity more fun than trying on Easter hats with your little girl and three strange, elderly black women, well I'm sure I don't know what it is. LG is still young enough not to be mortified by her mother striking up conversations with strangers in stores, and these ladies were nice enough to welcome us in to their hat party.

I started out by complimenting the one trying the lime-green silk with the polka-dot bow. "Oh, that one's nice."

Then it got a little more enthusiastic, with the compliments and the hats flying, "Oooh, chil'! That hat is YOU!"

Then it became almost frenzied, with all five of us trying, and posing, and passing, and praising, and I received perhaps the most memorable compliment of my life, and one I don't expect to top, no matter what hat I may end up wearing on any Easter for the rest of my life:

"Ooooh, girl! You show up in that one, Jesus ain't the only thing'll be resurrected!"

40 heads are better than one . . .

Blogger Squirl said...

I had all kinds of comments until I read that last line and, literally, laughed out loud. That was great.

But, I've got to say, my mother wore hats, but I couldn't wear one to save my life.

Bucky used to wear some pretty cool hats when she was a teenager. I don't think she does anymore, though.

This is a perfect pre-Easter post. I love it, sis! :)

 
Blogger Jim said...

That was fun! Like Squirl-bob, the last line just got me.

I wish men wore hats too. I have a secret love for fedoras and have a few of my own. I don't wear them, however, because whenever I do, I get "the looks".

*sigh*

 
Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

Hehe, well done.

Two of my nieces still do the Easter Sunday hat thing, but that's about it 'round these parts. Unless you're an OLD white lady. Very modest, short hats can still be seen on Sundays. (When I'm you know, out of the house to see humans.)

 
Blogger Nina said...

A most wonderful memorable compliment!
I love it . . .

 
Blogger Karen said...

I love hats, but I don't have any good ones. I pretty much only wear them in the garden, though -- and that, apparently, doesn't count. ;-)

I hope you will be getting JIF to take some pictures (from behind, of course) so we can get a good look at this fashion statement?

 
Blogger Greenthumb said...

There is nothing finer than a say something hat day.

Excellent post!!!

XOXOXO

 
Blogger Effie said...

I LOVE hats--I have a hat collections and I have all sorts of intentions to actually WEAR those hats outside of the house but they all come right off my head the moment I walk out that door. I wear hats in winter. Toques. And sometimes tams. I wear ballcaps and sometimes bucket caps in summer. That is all I have the guts to wear. When I was little I always wore a lovely Easter bonnet--or straw hat to church on Easter.

Thanks for the laugh!

 
Blogger ieatcrayonz said...

Blesses be the hat store ladies.

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

I LOVE hats! LOVE them! I never actually wear them, though because I feel foolish. Someday, though, someday, I shall wear all sorts of hats in all colors and styles and not give a rat's patootie about what other people may think.

What I want to hear, though, is the story about what happened to the white, hat-wearing women of Darwinia. Really.

 
Blogger Susie said...

squirl, I think we white women need to take hat-wearing classes, and get back to our roots. Or cover up our roots :)

jim, see, I love a man who can wear a hat and not look . . . foppish. What the hell does that word mean? I don't know, but it's the one that comes to mind. I love Fedoras. I picture Ricky Ricardo . . . I think the key is in the attitude. If one wears a hat self-consciously, it doesn't work. If one wears the hat as though he or she forgets it's even on . . . that's the ticket. Oh, hi, Jim . . . forgot you were there . . . just contemplating proper hat-wearing technique . . .

mrB, little girls in their Easter bonnets are one of the loveliest sights of Spring, I think :)

nina, thank you :)

karen, I considered your request for just a moment, just long enough to imagine asking Jif to take my picture from behind for the blog . . . it goes downhill fast, from there, Karen . . .
I don't really know if I'm going to wear a hat this Sunday; I haven't even bought a new Easter dress, my one shopping excursion warranted a blog post . . . maybe I'll show y'all LG's, maybe the nieces'...

greenie, now that's what I'm talkin' about: a say-something hat! :)

effie, see there are so many of us who love them, but just don't wear them in public. We should start a movement . . .

crayoneater, yes, bless them indeed :)

ck, that's what the whole "red hat club" is all about, women deciding they're old enough to not give a rat's ass . . . I think the age of not giving a r.a. needs to be lowered.
And yes, doesn't that sound like a good story? Maybe I'll get Jif and LG to make it up. They're good at that sort of thing.

 
Blogger Mr. Bloggerific Himself said...

If I'm lucky, I'll get some photos Sunday and post 'em so's you can check 'em out. Two of the pertiest grrls I've knowed.

 
Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

Does Jif know about this? Hoo boy.

 
Blogger Traci said...

Well now, my 16 year old "I don't give a rat's ass what you think" daughter has an amazing hat collection! There's the Court Jester hat, the Big Blue Dorie hat, the Crabby hat, the It's So Cold Here In Russia During Winter hat, the I Am 16 And Wearing All Black So Be Very Afraid hat, the...are we getting the picture here?!!! LOL

 
Blogger mrtl said...

Bug's making a hat at school today; I'll be sure to get a picture.

Did you know the hats of which you speak are referred to as "crowns"?

 
Blogger MrsDoF said...

Then how come I always see Queen Elizabeth and Camilla have on hats? They're white as it gets!

There's a play, I'm thinking it is playing in Chicago with the title CROWNS. All the stars are black, tho.

 
Blogger MrsDoF said...

Oh yeah, there's a play gone on the road, and the star is Regina Taylor. The play is based on a book
_CROWNS: African American Women and Their Church Hats_ by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry.

All this information cannot compare to actually having the memory of a shopping trip and style show and wonderful compliments.]

 
Blogger Andrea said...

I can too wear a hat. I wear my husband's baseball cap every time I have a bad hair day, and I do look FINE in it (well...OK...maybe not fine. But better than if I did not, to be sure).

And you are indeed a Southern woman based on your current residence, as a good friend once informed me that Maryland is on the south side of the Mason-Dixon line. I never would have guessed.

 
Blogger whfropera said...

mrsdof beat me to it...

~wod~

 
Blogger Spurious Plum said...

Journalist Patt Morrison always wears a hat. She's in the paper, on NPR and on KCET all the time.

And looks pretty darn good too!

But not as good as you and LG, I'm sure. Post some pictures woman!

 
Blogger Closet Metro said...

white women can too wear hats: a baseball cap with their ponytail sticking out the back.

 
Blogger MrsFB said...

Oooh, I was enjoying your tale and the shopping-by-proxy but you totally reeled me in and gave me a much-needed laugh with the fabu-finish. Bless your shoppin' friends!

I, too, have a collection of hats that I admire on the bedpost, in the closet nook, on the shelf, and most anywhere but on my noggin. They all look so inviting and so fashionable as my fanciful thoughts begin to imagine looking like a fashion plate. It all fizzles fast the minute I actually put a hat on my head and check my look. Bah!

Enjoy the Easter season with it's promise of renewal - maybe hats for white women will follow and make a grand revival.

 
Blogger eclectic said...

Angels can wear hats. And you're an angel to me, so I grant you hat-clemency despite your skin tone. It helps to know you're where I am. I'm thinking of you this day, and holding you up in my prayers.

 
Blogger Andrea said...

Yeah, Metro, that's exactly the look I was talkin' about!

'Cept I don't have long enough hair even for a ponytail at the moment :(

Word verification: fuvupukn. Don't know what fuvu is, but it sounds like it's pukin'.

 
Blogger Circus Kelli said...

Andrea, "fuvupukn" sounds like "farfrompukin" which is the best take on the Volkswagen "farfegnoogin" I've ever heard. :)

 
Blogger Tess said...

I too lament the loss of hats -- I used to wear them all the time in the 80s/early 90s, but then I stopped (I'm not sure why). However, I'm pretty sure I know the reason they won't make a strong comeback: HAT HAIR. Once you've put on the hat for the day/occasion, you can't take it off!

 
Blogger Andrea said...

CK, I was trying to come up with the correct spelling of that VW car, but gave up since I couldn't. Your alternate spelling is even better :)

 
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

hHow about some pictures of what women wearing hats? I can’t remember seeing one (even in church) in many years. Hmmm. Maybe Sunday I’ll count the Easter bonnets.

 
Blogger abcd said...

Susie,
I do not know you like my sisters
and Nikki do. But thank you for
holding their hands. Thank you
for their present, and above all
thank you for loving them.

Regards,
Marcia Kaplan

As I type this I can hear Sarah
and the girls mocking me in my head.
The endless jokes they make about
my profession, all made with love.
Shoshie told me our voices sound
very similiar. Thank you for helping
her today.

 
Blogger Susie said...

mrB, I'll look forward to it. And your "knowed" makes me smile. I haven't heard that since I moved back up North ;)

hoss, Jif is sharp. He knows purty much everything.

traci, not exactly what I had in mind, but maybe it's a start :)

mrtl, I'll check her site for it. I did not know . . . and now I see that someone else is on the whole "white women can't wear hats" thing...

mrsDoF, I did not know this! See, if only I'd thought of it a bit earlier, I could have written a musical (well, and if I had talent). You are right, those are some WHITE women. Maybe white American women can't wear hats . . . wait, though, that makes us sound cheesy . . .

andrea, disguising bad hair does not count (actually, it probably does). And I know about the M-D line, but really, this here ain't the South.

operagirl, I'll have to check this Crowns thing out.

plummie, there are exceptions, I am sure. I'm sorta not in a hat-wearing mood any more. But I'll try to get my kid and my nieces, for a pic.

closetmetro, well, yea, there's always that.

mrsfluffybottom, are you a bunny rabbit? Welcome :) Your name makes me smile and wonder at your species. I'll have to come and see.

eclectic, just loving you so much; and so thankful for you.

andrea, it's pukin', alright.

ck, oh, well maybe it isn't . . .

tess, hmmm, interesting angle. This could be different for white women than for black women . . . and welcome :)

andrea, ck is a fine speller, among her other many fine qualities.

ssnick, maybe you just haven't noticed. I hope you'll see some.

marcia, you are more than welcome, and no thanks are necessary. I am honored to hold those hands, and they are very easy to love.

Shoshie told me we both have the "MH" voice ;) That we would say, very calmly and softly, "Everyone, the house is on fire now . . . we should get out . . ." Talking with her helped me, too.

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the hat in the beginning of Titanic. It was an awesome hat era.

Williams brother

 
Blogger echrai said...

I love this! And just for the record, I still wear hats. Not often, but I do. And I look good in them. It always surprises me because I don't think of myself as looking good in much, but I have a good hat-face. :)

 
Blogger Odd Mix said...

I like hats on ladies - I think it is sad that they have gone out of style. My little girls still wear one to church on Easter and Christmas. And, Jim, I wear a hat every day and just revel in "the looks". Of course I am also the guy who went to the gas station on Christmas morning wearing a bathrobe and fluffy duck slippers...

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow the white women of England have escaped the inability to wear hats. They manage to pull it off quite well.

Princess Diana was one serious hat-wearing white woman! And she wore them very well. And don't forget the late queen mother. Something was lost in the voyage across the Atlantic.

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved your comments. I am an African American woman of the younger generation and my husband is from the deep, deep south and loves me in hats. He has bought me a closet full of beautiful church hats.As I get older and care less about trends and more about classic style and true grace, I wear them proudly and more often. My father passed away last year at christmastime and he had always loved a hat-wearing woman, so I chose an especially lovely and dramatic hat in his honor to wear to the funeral. I believe that hat's give an air of mystery to a much too-revealing generation. I am sure I am in the minority for my age group but I also love shirtwaisted dresses, sling backs and capelets too!
Thanks for a good natured laugh!

 
Blogger Susie said...

anon, thank you for such a lovely comment, it made me smile. And I, too, LOVE shirt-waisted dresses and sling-backs. So feminine, so fun. My condolences on your father's passing; I am sure he was proud to see you in your fine hat.

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back around 1990, I was living on the West Coast. Heat and sun were a serious issue for both eyes and skin. I had a very simple solid navy blue medium-brimmed hat with a bow on the crown band, no veil, no fou-fou, which went perfectly with my simple navy and white tweed suit. It protected my eyes and seemed appropriate for church.

Before I could get to my car in the apartment parking lot, two of the neighbors literally chased me from the laundry room and stood there gaping at me with their mouths hanging open.

After church, the minister went on and on about my hat and wouldn't stop making fun of me for wearing it, even in subsequent weeks. I thought that since he was British, he'd certainly seen women wearing hats before, but apparently not.

I do love hats, but at most churches now, they won't even let you dress nicely, much less wear a hat. I had another minister announce rather loudly after the service that "SHE spends all her money on clothes! Heh, heh, heh!" Ironically, the simple green suit I was wearing (with no hat and minimal jewelry) had been purchased for less than $40 on clearance, less than the jeans that some wore to Sunday services without the pastor's criticism.

We're at the place in our society now that being appropriate is somehow seen as inappropriate. I still have my lovely navy hat, but now am afraid to wear it.

 
Anonymous dressed and blessed said...

HI I love readying all of your post about hats I am a hat wearing woman and will wear a hat until the day I die I have even told my family to bury me in a hat they said how Itold them have it cut in the back yes I wear A hat to church every Sunday they have a lot of suits with the hat suit, and purse to match and I perfer this style and the ladies at my church wear a lot of beautiful hats to and as far as a hat being call a crown that is true we call our hats our crowns of glory and I feel that every woman no matter what color can wear a beautiful hat on Sunday hats are still in style hats for the week or hats for Sunday their are a lot of women that I know that even call their self Hat divas I and when one of the women step in church you can tell that she know that she looking good and that she has a hatattude today well I really really enjoyed reading all of the different post
dressedandblessed

 
Anonymous TC said...

I gave this a "thumbs up" on Stumbleupon.

And I think "foppish" is a genteel way of saying "gay."

 
Blogger hatehathaters! said...

I look damn good in all kinds of hats and I am WHITE thank you. Just because you look like crap in hats doesn't mean you need to hate on the rest of us that look fabulous in hats. Youre the type of person that criticizes anything that walks by you, but thinks the man in the mirror is perfect arent you?

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch Joan Collins in Dynasty and see how a woman should wear a hat.

 


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