Monday, April 1, 2013

Does Anyone Still Wear a Hat?

My husband and I love dressing up. And Easter is an ideal time for dressing up, especially if you like coordinated family outfits. And especially if you love hats. I do love hats, but unless you’re unusually fashion-forward or unusually good-looking, the only occasions when you can get away with wearing a hat are Easter and the Kentucky Derby. So this year, my daughter and I wore our Easter bonnets to church.
Our congregation includes a number of older ladies who are always stylishly dressed, so I was quite surprised (and a bit saddened) to find that the two of us were the only ladies at church on Easter Sunday who were wearing hats. I had been looking forward to admiring some lovely Easter hats!
When I was a little girl, the excitement of Easter was not just the promise of candy left by the Easter bunny, but of a whole new outfit that included a dress, white shoes, white gloves, a white purse, and a hat. I always felt so grown up and elegant in my outfit, mainly because of the hat and gloves.
Another early hat memory is also from my church. I was raised in a large Baptist church in a city with a number of other Baptist churches, and once a year all the Baptist congregations would have a combined service at our church, since we had the biggest sanctuary. It was always a fascinating service for me, since it was so different from our usual Sunday service. My church was quite conservative and sedate, a style that I would learn in college to refer to as “back-seat Baptists.” No-one ever sat in the pews closest to the pulpit, the pastor never said things like, “Can I get an ‘Amen’?”, the choir sang arrangements of 100-year-old hymns, there were no instruments other than the organ and occasionally the piano, and no-one ever stood up or raised their arms or said anything from the pew other than a polite murmured, “Good morning,” in response to the pastor’s greeting. But when Calvary Baptist joined us, the church service was a whole different animal. Calvary was a Southern Baptist, mainly African-American congregation, and they ROCKED. There was clapping. There was a constant chorus of “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!” and “Praise Jesus!” and “Preach it, brother!” – even while the pastor was talking. ESPECIALLY when the pastor was talking. There were raised arms and people stepping out of the pew. And if the pastor asked a question and you didn’t answer it loud enough, he would ask it again and again until he got a loud enough response. To a small child, it was fascinating and intimidating all at once. But the best part of all was the hats.
The Calvary ladies would not have dreamed of going to church without a hat. It was as unthinkable as showing up in your underwear. Or even worse, PANTS. I loved to look at the ladies in their beautiful jewel-colored suits and their magnificent hats. To my small-town eyes, they looked like flock of beautiful, exotic birds.


My simple, white garden hat adorned with a single pink flower doesn’t even attempt to match the striking stylishness of the hats of my childhood. But I will continue to dip my toe in the pool of millinery in the hopes that others will join me in attempting to bring back the hat. Derby Day is coming, and maybe I’ll be brave enough to wear something closer to the church ladies’ hats of my memory. Maybe something like this?

Hmmm, I think I might not be ready for that one quite yet.

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