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134. Hats AKA Hair Bows for Grownups

4 Dec

derby hatHere in Seattle, folks mostly use hats as protection from inclement weather. Usually, these “hats” come attached to the collar of one’s jacket, sweater, or sweatshirt. Yep, I’m talking hoodies. Considering how our weather changes more quickly than a teenager’s love interests, it helps to be prepared. Because we wouldn’t want to carry an umbrella. Umbrellas are for tourists.

For Southerners, hats fall into two major categories: A. Functional or B. Fashionable. Although one could argue that even the most fashionable hat serves a function i.e. rectifying a bad hair day situation.

I’m mostly talking about women’s hats because, frankly, Southern men’s hats aren’t all that interesting. For every ruggedly handsome gent in a cowboy hat, you’ll spot twelve dozen dudes sporting baseball caps or fishing hats.

fascinator hatWomen, on the other hand, have options. Watch any Southern movie, “Gone with the Wind” to “Steel Magnolias” and you’ll see what I mean. From floppy garden hats to prim pill boxes. Pastels to basic black. Traditionally feminine to futuristically flamboyant.

You’ll find hats at every occasion, from weddings and graduations to baptisms and funerals. But never will you see a more extravagant display of head coverings than at the Kentucky Derby. Which, truth be told, is less of a horse race and more of a HAT competition. Buying one of these gravity-defying, view obscuring headpieces can set you back a car or mortgage payment. As far as I know, there’s no official contest or wagering system. But I can say with speculative certainty that if you bought your hat off the rack at Belks, you lose.

derby hat 2This summer, my sister snagged an invite to a fancy garden party, which she used as an excuse to purchase a decorative hat. Having become a recent convert to Downton Abbey, she set her sights on something Mary might wear to afternoon tea. Alas, such hats are a wee bit harder to locate without 1. a props department or 2. the Grantham’s recovered wealth.

Her quest began on the Internet, the ideal place to find goods of questionable quality. Unfortunately, all the hats that met with her approval surpassed her budget. Besides which, the date of the party was quickly approaching, so she had to abandon the mail order idea and make do with what she could find nearby. Much like Scarlett with the dress made of curtains, except in Jenna’s case there was no sewing involved.

Turns out she was in luck as our friend Tammy had a gorgeous brown Downton-esque hat with teal accents that would have been perfect had Jenna’s dress contained similar hues. As I may have mentioned before, not matching is never an option for Southerners.

Y’all who know my sister will remember that she begins every story with “After our ancestors stepped off the Mayflower…” and doesn’t finish until every minute detail has been mentioned and expounded upon. I’ll fast forward a bit.

Hello, gorgeous: Tammy T and Jenna

Hello, gorgeous: Tammy T and Jenna

She finally settled for a festive, feathered black number for which she–only out of desperation–paid full retail.

After all this (by which I’m referring to a heap of stuff I edited out), she found out that Mom’s collection of hats was safely tucked away at dad’s house.

“Oh!” I said, “I wore one of mom’s hats to a party once.”

“What did it look like?”

“Sort of a 20’s cloche style with an off-white lace band and a red silk flower on the side.”

“What color?”

“Black.”

“(Expletive!)”

Even if she’d had time to run over to Dad’s, my sister’s under the mistaken notion that all sales are final, so she stuck with what she had. And looked totally adorable. Because that’s how she rolls, y’all.

One of the highlights of working at Red Lobster during college (and there are not as many as one might hope, let me tell you) was seeing the after-church crowd decked out in some of the most extravagant hats I ever did see. Plenty of bright colors: violet, magenta, electric blue, cherry red. With ribbons, lace, flowers, feathers, and occasionally all of the above. Hats that enter the room before the wearer does to announce, “I am HERE, y’all!” Plus men in suits. Suits! Know what they wear to church in Seattle? Fleece.

Mom rocking one of her many hats.

Mom rocking one of her many hats.

Most folks at my dad’s church never really bothered with hats. Perhaps covering one’s head is one of the lesser-known Baptist sins. I suppose wearing a fancy hat might tempt folks into a festive mood and before you know it, somebody will start dancing. The road to Hell is a slippery slope.

Me–carrying on the tradition.

Me–carrying on the tradition.

If this is true, someone forgot to CC my mother on the memo. For her, no outfit was so stylish that it couldn’t be made MORE attractive with the addition of a coordinating hat. One of her daughters inherited this philosophy. I’ll give y’all a hint: it’s not my sister. Not that she’s opposed to decorating her head as evidenced by the aforementioned wild hat chase. I’m just saying that if I’d been the one looking for a garden party hat, I’d have been able to locate half a dozen suitable contenders without leaving my armoire. Yes, y’all, I have an armoire. I am my mother’s daughter.

Do you wear hats? When, where, and why? Or why not? Please do tell.

Photo Credits: Pink Derby Hat available from LadySalisbury at Etsy, Blue Fascinator available from RealHousewifeHats at Etsy, White Derby Hat available from theoriginaltree at Etsy. All other pictures from Holloway Family Archives.

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123. Making Things Personal in a Decorative Fashion

28 Feb

k pillowIn the South, if you leave a tote bag, towel, or drinking glass unattended for too long, someone’s liable to come along and embellish it with initials. (The Pacific Northwest equivalent is to “put a bird on it.”)

If there’s anything Southerners like better than the sound of our own voices, it’s the sight of our own initials. How else do you explain the obsessive compulsion to monogram everything from pillow cases to table cloths, not to mention all the jewelry and clothing in between. If anyone can figure out a convenient way to etch initials into casserole dishes, I will buy plenty of shares when your company goes public.

In an effort to provide y’all a little background on the tradition, I took a quick stroll around the Internet and got so overwhelmed I had to sit down and rest a spell. Monogramming is a topic far too broad to tackle in a single blog post, so I’ll just tell y’all what I know about it and encourage you to explore the subject on your own. Google will direct you where to go.

il_570xN.418700762_10crFrom as far back as anyone alive can remember, Southerners have embellished household treasures like silverware, linens, and crystal with the family’s initials. Using a single initial to represent one’s surname would be easiest, but then there wouldn’t be much to argue about. Consequently, most monograms expand to include three initials. The question becomes: “whose?”

Frankly my dears, I haven’t a clue. So many variations exist, it makes one long for the days when swooning was fashionable. Often, monograms consist of two smaller initials flanking the left and right side of a larger letter. For single folks, the formula is pretty simple: small letter on left represents an individual’s first name, large letter in center represents the surname, and small letter on right represents the middle name. (Now that I think of it, you hardly ever see “Jr.” as part of a monogram, so I don’t know how men from consecutive generations know whose personalized camo hat is whose.)

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Get your own beer, Bubba!

Marriage complicates things, including monograms. Folks start asking, “Is what’s mine A. Mine, B. Yours, or C. Ours?” When it comes to whose initials go on what and in which order, opinions vary. Shocker, I know…

These days when Southern brides register for linens, cutlery, and the like, they often opt for a joint monogram featuring the couple’s soon-to-be surname in the center, flanked by his and her first initials. Some say the husband’s initial gets top billing; others say that honor goes to the wife. I imagine at least a handful of engagements flame out before the registry is finalized. In the interest of fairness, I recommend tossing a coin or playing “rock, paper, scissors.” Or why not mix it up–he gets towels, she gets pillowcases.

I don't just make this stuff up...

I don’t just make this stuff up…

For personal items like hair bows (seriously, y’all) or golf club covers, stick with individual monograms. Like peeing standing up, selecting a monogram is much easier for a man, seeing as his initials rarely change. For married women, the question becomes: should the initial right of center represent one’s maiden name or middle name? Decisions, decisions.

You may be wondering: “What about folks with hyphenated surnames?” Well, y’all, correct me if I’m wrong, but I imagine folks who hyphenate surnames aren’t exactly the monogramming type.

At the risk of losing some of my Southern cred, I must admit that I, myself, have never developed a taste for monogramming. I did once buy a purse with a “K” on it, but that’s about it. I’m far more inclined toward objects featuring words, such as a vase that says “bloom” or a pet bowl that says “drink.” And, yes, I realize that flowers and cats aren’t exactly known for their reading comprehension skills…

Apart from the occasional piece of jewelry, my mom wasn’t much of a monogrammer either, with one notable exception: sunglasses. Ever since I can remember (and probably before), my mom liked her sunglasses large and monogrammed. While she liked to be stylish as the next person (or more, if we’re being honest), she never could bear to compromise when smaller frames became de rigueur. She had me always on the lookout for generously sized lenses suitable for the task at hand. For a while this search was about as fruitless as my current quest to purchase jeans of any type other than “skinny.” (Attention merchants: Not all of us are!)

Rockin' Mom's sunglasses

Rockin’ Mom’s sunglasses

Of course, the summer after she died, every store on the planet stocked ginormous sunglasses, each pair larger than the next. Thanks, fashion industry, for that extra dash of salt.

My dad, ever on the hunt for a bargain, once happened across an incredible deal on a wool sweater from a fancy menswear store. Sure, it had someone else’s monogram on it, but my dad is nothing if not resourceful. This was back in the 80’s when Izod was all the rage, so he simply repurposed a lizard from a pair of socks and stitched it over the erroneous initials. Problem solved.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen monogrammed? Do you like adding your initials to stuff? If so, what?

Photo Credits: K pillow available at the HAWthorne Etsy shop; vintage-inspired napkins available at the KristinesEmbroidery Etsy shop; monogram hair bow available at the LittleGoodieTutus Etsy shop; me in sunglasses courtesy of Holloway family archives.

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