The frosty grip of winter is about to give way to budding trees, greenery, and a sense of euphoria about the days ahead.. . and nothing says Spring quite like an Easter Bonnet! The wreaths of laurel and flowers used by the Romans to welcome the season of new beginnings have evolved into fanciful toppers of ribbons, nettings, bows, whimsy and razzamatazz so delightful – that baskets of eggs and chocolates just can’t compete!
But how'd we get here? After the Civil War a reunited Nation put aside somber memories and came out of mourning. The “Sunday of Joy” allowed mothers and daughters to dress in pastel colors and incorporate spring flowers into their bonnets. The 1870’s also marked the beginning of the Easter Parade in New York as women eager to show their new spring finery made their way down Fifth Avenue in a festive walkaround donning hats that kept getting more elaborate each year. Before long, a new Easter hat was considered an absolute necessity and ladies in the thousands were displaying the kind of fancy millinery that was etched in popular culture by Irving Berlin in 1933 in "Easter Parade."
Another celebrated hat-wearing event on the horizon is the Kentucky Derby, which is part spectacle and part great Southern tradition. Sometimes the horses in the race have a hard time getting press because the array of wide-brimmed straws in salmon, aqua, orange, lavender, lime, fuchsia, pearls, organza, and plumage is so dazzling - they look like they could have come from only one place. England. Where the art of wearing a hat seems to be bestowed at birth!
Because even though the word ‘milliner’ comes from Milanese haberdashers who set up shop in London – British girls have a certain Je Ne Sais Quoi when it comes to hats. Just turn on any TV. From the refinement of Downton’s Maggie Smith to the whimsy of the church pews at Kate Middleton’s wedding, their stylishness and magnetism can’t be matched.
But on our side of the pond, hats pretty much vanished after the 1960’s, and now jeans, a T-shirt and athletic shoes are pretty much the "national uniform" for most of us. Maybe that's why it's so much fun to imagine the romance, nostalgia, and splendor of a pretty Easter bonnet - and maybe even dream of wearing one someday!
In the meantime, here are some of our favorite hats of all-time: What are yours? And what are your fondest memories about getting new clothes for Spring?