I wore my last Easter had back in the 80’s, a gray straw with a matching chiffon bow. During the final quarter of the 20th century, what once had been a rite of spring had become a choice with few takers. My hunch is that I won’t see a single woman wearing a hat at my rural church tomorrow morning. I’d love to be surprised by one of our elder women who still remembers the day when shopping for a new spring hat was a real occasion. I don’t hold out much hope. We simply don’t live like that anymore.
Back when I was a kid, each year girls got new Easter hats to go with our frilly dresses, Mary Janes, and ruffled socks. The boys got new suits. All this finery made for a grand day. My parents and I spent Easter with one set of grandparents or the other. Along with egg hunts and hams there were the requisite group photos that were taken in the front yard right after church. Arranged in rows under the noonday sun, we came out looking like a well-dressed family of squint-eyed kids with extra long noses.
This isn’t to say that Easter bonnets have gone by the wayside altogether. Until 2012 my husband and I lived in LA where our route to Sunday services took us by several African-American churches. Those women wore hats! While it was a fashion show deluxe every week, at Easter the bar went up with a wide array of colors, feathers, tulle, bows, veils, and crystals that vied for splendor with the Paris runways.
Parade Rehearsal in Front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral 2015
So, too, does NYC still have its annual Easter Parade. Although time has morphed the bonnets depicted by the Rotogravure into sculptured headpieces akin to those seen on opening day at Ascot Downs, the feeling is the same–everyone out in their finery walking around having a grand time.
I hope these last vestiges of Easter bonnet finery don’t fade in coming decades. There’s nothing like a magnificent hat to make folks smile.
Happy Easter, everyone!