Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Historical Hats

I began my morning yesterday realizing I had a few things to do that didn't have anything to do with any of my goals or work....making appointments for others....finding paperwork for others....washing clothes for others....and thinking about two or three projects I needed to finish up for others.

It's not that I mind doing these things...hardly.  I like to help, but more and more I find my day is full doing a list of things that don't have anything to do with a table of contents I must flesh out, articles to write, and seeing writing opportunities......or at least answering the emails when the opportunities seek me out.

Just a normal day for me as I grew more frustrated by the minute, but this time my thinking and my realizing left my brain, moved down my arms and out my fingers to a Facebook status that said, "I wear too many hats that aren't mine...some by misguided choice, some that are inherited and some are foisted upon me.  I'm going to stop.  Take your friggin' hat and wear it yourself....'

Later, while I was working out at the gym I thought about my status, and then my mind wandered to hats in general.

My first introduction to hats was at Greenbriar Mall west of Atlanta when I was five or six.  Mother frequented  Rich's department Atlanta mainstay....quite often.   Well, actually......very, very often.  She knew most of the clerks by name, and they knew her, too.    I can close my eyes and actually walk around the store in my mind I was so familiar with the layout.  

Right in the center of the store were the escalators with the bakery on one side and the hat department as well.  Every now and then if I caught Mom in the right mood she would give the clerk a smile, and they would let me sit down at the table and chair in the hat department and try on a few. 

I generally went for the flimsy, wide-brimmed pastel creations...but secretly I really loved the veiled concoctions.   At the time I just knew I liked I know I liked them because they were deliciously sexy...add in a pair of matching leather gloves you can only remove by unbuttoning five or six covered buttons, and.....

Oh my....

In another life I had to have worn hats....I MUST have....and mourn the fact that they just aren't worn that much least not in the circles I travel.  

I turned away from my hat desires to think about other hats....hats in history.

Historical hats....

There had to be some.....right?

Earlier this year the Victoria and Albert Museum had an exhibit regarding hats.  Of course, since the exhibit ....a collaboration between the museum and Stephen Jones....was in Great Britain the collection included hats belonging to former queens including Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

When we think of Queen Victoria we tend to think of a rather large aging lady in black as she spent the last several years of her life mourning the passing of her husband, Prince Albert, but for many years she dressed very colorfully including fancy bonnets.  The collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum included a bonnet from the 1840s....a construction made of plaited horse hair and salmon pink ribbon.   You can just make it out along the bottom half of this picture.  

The beige tulle and lace hat worn in the late thirties by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also in the collection.   She wore the hat for a series of well known photographs taken by Cecil Beaton on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.  
Turning towards American History the most iconic man's hat would have to be Abraham Lincoln's use of the top hat.  Lincoln was already a tall man.  It is said he was taller than most no matter where he went, so wearing a top hat was like a six foot woman deciding to wear five inch heels.  

This hat is the one President Lincoln wore on the last night of his life...April 14, 1865.  It's on display at the Smithsonian Institute.  

My research indicates President Lincoln bought this particular hat from J.Y. Davis, a Washington hat maker.  Notice the black silk band....Lincoln had this added to the hat in remembrance  of his son Willie.  

Following the assassination the War Department took possession of the hat and other items left behind at Ford's Theater.  From there the hat became the property of the Patent Office and later was transferred to the Smithsonian where it has remained.  In those days the employees of the Smithsonian Institute were instructed not to exhibit the hat and not to mention that it was there because of the furor it might cause in those early years following the President's death.

The hat remained in a basement storage room for almost thirty years before it was finally displayed in 1893 when the Lincoln Memorial Association borrowed the top hat for an exhibition.  

Of course,'s one of the most popular artifacts of American History the museum owns.

Unfortunately, another iconic hat in American History is also connected to an assassination ....the Kennedy assassination.

The American public was first introduced to the pillbox hat during the Kennedy inauguration.

This article states:

[The hat was] a fawn-colored domed pillbox created by a then unknown 29-year-old named Roy Halston Frowick.   The hat sat tilted toward the back, nearly doubled the size of her head, frankly, and creating a pretty contrast to her striking dark looks.  She was nothing the country had ever seen.   A fashionable, beautiful and highly cultured First Lady, one who not only spoke fluent French but effortlessly shopped in Paris and New York.   Across the country, women unanimously agreed:  This young woman was their new fashion icon.  For his part, Halston had no idea what was coming.

Jackie Kennedy also wore a pillbox hat on that fateful date in Dallas, Texas.

The pillbox hat First Lady Jackie Kennedy wore the day her husband was assassinated is as iconic as the pink suit.  

This article from 2011 advises the suit was turned over to the National Archives, but the hat is missing and remains missing to this day.

Somewhere inside the hospital [that fateful day in Dallas], the hat came off.  "While standing there I was handed Jackie's pillbox hat and couldn't help noticing the strands of her hair beneath the hat pin.  I could almost visualize her yanking it from her head," Mary Gallagher, the First Lady's personal secretary, who accompanied her to Dallas, wrote in her memoir....

The pink suit, blood-stained and perfectly preserved in a vault in Maryland, is banned from public view for 100 years.  The pillbox lost, last known to be in the hands of [Gallagher], who won't discuss its whereabouts... 

....[At some point following the assassination], a box arrived at the National Archives, where such treasures as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are kept.  In it were the suit, blouse, handbag, shoes, and even her stockings, along with an unsigned note on the letterhead of Janet Auchincloss, Jacqueline Kennedy's mother:  "Jackie's suit and bag worn November, 22, 1963.

No hat.

One has to wonder about the  hat.....

Ah.........yet another mystery in history.


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