The royal wedding had more pomp and pageantry in a different way on April 29. The hats and matching outfits of the female guests at Wesminster were a “sight for sore eyes” as the old saying goes.
I was reminded of one of my favorite read-aloud children’s picture books which I read each spring around Eastertime to the youngest students: JENNIE’S HAT by Ezra Jack Keats. a childrens’ author and artist, who won the coveted Caldecott Award for THE SNOWY DAY is the author. “Jennie’s Hat” by Keats featured a young girl who admired the women’s fancy hats at church and wanted one for herself. When an aunt gifted Jennie with a wided-brimmed, but totally, plain hat the girl had a hard time being grateful..she wanted a fancy hat. Jennie fed birds in a park each Saturday and the first time she walked to church wearing her new plain hat, her birds came flying and adorned her hat with fantastic beauty…fresh flowers, ribbons and pieces of lovely veiling, their own nestfuls of eggs, and other colorful things—- so that when Jennie arrived at church, she had the most beautiful hat anyone had ever beheld. Kid loved that story. The artwork by Ezra Keats was wonderful. He used collage as his technique and the color of all sorts of materials pasted on the art paper made a most unusual and beautiful picture book.
The hats at the royal wedding were almost as fantastical as the one that Jennie’s birds made for her as she walked. The spring colors of the women guests’ hats and outifts were dazzling. It was fun to watch them arrive at Westminster. It was obvious that British women love Hats! It seemed as they had outdone themselves in choosing hats to wear to the royal festivities. in Nature it is the male birds and some animals that are the most colorful and most beautifully adorned. Not so with Humans! Ladies’ hats far outshine anything a man can wear!
At the same time as I was fascinated by the multiplicity of hats and their colors and designs, I could not keep myself from being …….(I want to say “catty” but it was more than that….I found myself thinking like the cast of Monty Python’s Flying Circus of old..making light of British customs and even British women and their styles and fashions. So here goes…I cannot help myself.
I am definitely not an admirer of Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall or her Twit of a royal husband, Charles the Prince of Wales, and heir to the British crown after his mother dies or abdicates. So Camlla’s hat reminded of a combination of a flying saucer and an upside down butter tub. She seems to choose that type of hat. I recall the one she wore when she married Charles…it appeared that somewhere. there were hundreds of dead birds of a feather lying in a dark alley…slain by the milliners who designed Camilla’s hat of that day. One of the Duke of York’s daughters (child of Andrew, Charle’s brother and the infamous “Fergie”) who looks just like her red haired Mum)….wore a hat that looked like a piece of playground equipment or maybe it looked like the glassy curled tubes you see in a science lab experiment. It was pink and it matched her dress of course, but she looked like she could have pressed a switch and taken off vertically like a helicopter..maybe in honor of her cousin William who flies helicopters for the RAF. Her sister had a blue hat that matched her blue and green dress but I noticed more that the Princess Eugenie is “buxom” like her Mum and appeared to have been poured into the dress. Posh Spice Beckham was there with her famous soccer husband, David. Posh is heavily pregnant with a 4th child and wore a hat that appeared to be stuck on the front of her forehead like the end of a black rubber pub dart had been shot at her head and had stuck there. There was another similar “stuck on the forehead hat” on another unknown guest but that one was a deep blue and was shaped like a Lund fishing boat. How they stayed in place on the foreheads remains a secret to the Mad Hatters who designed them. There were a number of guest’s hats in a rainbow of spring colors that looked like Direct TV Dishes.
Some also looked like alien spacecraft that are regularly reported to be “saucer shaped” with glowing lights blinking on and off. Only the blinking lights were missing from the hats.
I liked the Queen’s hat the best. Like other British women she does not have to make a “fashion statement” or try to outdo her contemporaries. She had a dignified lemon yellow hat with lemon colored roses on the brim and everything matched. She looked lovely for a mid-80′s time to “walk into her feet.” She is going to be on that throne as long or longer than her relative Queen Victoria and her son (the Twit) will be in his 80s or 90′s before he becomes King. No wonder the Brits prefer William as their next King. His youth and easy manner and the more casual genuine friendliness (reminiscent of his mother Diana) outshines the stiff, stogy , discomfortable “fake friendliness” father he has. There were few loud cheers for Charles or Camilla compared to Elizabeth and Phillip and of course, the Newlyweds. Perhaps Charles and Camilla should retire at Highgrove and tend to the gardens, talk to the plants and be horsey like they seem to enjoy most.
The history of hats is fascinating. On a website which was fun to see and read (hatsuk.com) it was said that “Hats have been around for a very long time. It is not known when the first animal skin was pulled over a head as a protection against the elements and although it was not a hat in the true sense, it was realized that a head covering sometimes had an advantage.” (hatsuk.com)
Early paintings by people in the early Egyptian culture (times of Pharoahs and pyramids) show women and men with hats on their heads.
At an early stage in human history “Women were expected to cover their heads by veils, kerchiefs, hoods, caps and wimples” (hatsuk.com)
By later in the 17th century womens’ hats emerged in their own right.
Remember the “Mad Hatter” from “Alice In Wonderland”. Early hat makers used amounts of mercury in their hat-making and the mercury went to their brains and nervous systems giving birth to the term “mad hatter” because they often went mad after so much exposure to mercury.
By the early 1900′s womens’ hats were enormous, wide-brimmed and loaded with adornments of flowers, feathers, gauze, and much veiling material.
Since fairly early times, women wearing hats was required by Christian and other non-Christian churches…think of the veiled women in Islam. Hindu women are also covered by veils and big scarves over their heads. There is a Biblical admonition in one of Paul’s epistles for women to cover their heads when they are at worship. Many of us who of an age can remember when women simply did not step inside a church without a hat! I remember how important hats were to my Mom and aunts and other women of that era. My mother wore a hat to “Ladies’ Aid” (Lutheran version of Hadassah) and even to PTA meetings and other public functions. It was just expected of women to wear hats! Even young girls like me had hats..usually a new pretty bonnet for Easter! Think of the old song “In Your Easter Bonnet With All the Frills Upon It” !!!!!
The Brits have never departed from that tradition and big, small, feathered, flowered , wide-brimmed, no- brimmed hats still flourish in Britain, especially at formal events.
I remember walking from my south Moorhead college to Watermans’ Department Store and buying a nice green winter hat to wear to church when I was a freshman in 1957. I had a nifty red hat too at that time and I alternated hats with my coal black winter coat!!!!
If you go to the UK Telegraph webside there may still be a number of pictures of the hats at the royal wedding. I you are fascinated like I am about hats and other parts of British culture you may enjoy seeing the colored pictures on the wedding hats site.
I can’t resist using a quote about hats by Katherine Whitehorn (whoever she is!)
“Hats can genrally be divided into three classes: offensive hats, defensive hats, and shrapnel.”
I saw all three classes yesterday on the royal wedding coverage!!!!!