A sea of hats as far as the eye could see

Published 11:17 am Friday, May 6, 2011

Having mentioned to the local press that I would love attending ladies to please wear hats during the “Royal Wedding Tea Benefit” I had the privilege of hosting, I was simply delighted to take in the scene before me: tables adorned with crisp white linen and dotted with vintage bone china and silver spoons with enormous, blowsy, English roses in cobalt blue vases standing sentry.

And around each table the most wonderful hats!

Yes, I do rather go on about it – I suppose because it is such a rarity for my generation. Watching an ancient Doris Day film the other night, there was a telling scene regarding the culture of the day.

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Upon learning that her second husband, a very young Louis

Jourdan, murdered her first husband with plans now to do away with her (why it took her so long I’ll never know; Louis Jourdan didn’t blink in a single scene and when he walked, his arms didn’t move and everyone knows that’s the first sign of a psychotic killer – their arms stay still when they walk), Doris flings open her closet to pack her things and on the shelf above her rack of clothes were a good dozen hat boxes.

It immediately drove home the sheer necessity of such an accessory; for men as well. One simply did not go out without a hat.

Surveying the well-coiffed heads around the restaurant I couldn’t possibly decide on a favorite.

Was it the ‘fascinators’ made popular by Kate Middleton: coquettish little adornments of tulle and feathers fastened securely to the hair, or the becoming wide brimmed affairs, dipping slyly over a perfectly arched brow and wreathed with lace and ribbon?

Certainly nowhere did I witness a single fashion faux pas as many saw, shall I point out over my saucer of milk, when the image of Princess Beatrice was flashed over the wide screen with what appeared to be a beige telly tubby perched upon her red head.

Why she didn’t follow my lead and just drive over to Fred’s and pick up a straw number for $8 and pin a few roses from the garden to the brim, I’ll never know. Royals are different.

“Excuse me,” came a soft and almost apologetic voice behind me. Turning, I saw a dear thing tidily attired in a suit from another time with a natty matching hat.

“No one else in my family wanted to come to the tea and I didn’t want to miss it for the world, so I’m all alone. Is there a place for me?”

“You’re not alone, you’re with me,” I smiled, clasping her white gloved hand. “And of course there’s a place for you – I’m going to seat you with some lovely ladies.”

She smiled brightly and allowed herself to be led to the table. “Oh, my,” she whispered with incredulous eyes. “I haven’t seen so many hats in Landrum in over 30 years!”

She was right – it was as if we were suspended in a long past decade and I reveled in it. We now live in a garish time of tanning booths and purposely revealed bra straps. How different from the elegance before me and, afterwards, glancing over photos of the event, I remarked to Paul how much younger we all appeared.

“It’s the lighting,” he pointed out in all seriousness. “Nothing is more unflattering than to have unfiltered overhead light pouring down on someone’s face – it settles in all the lines and wrinkles. The brims of the hat block that light for a more uniform look.”

Well that’s all I had to hear. Forget the botox, ladies. Let’s go back to hats!