Several decades ago when we were still very interested in hats, our ladies' group had a contest at a morning luncheon. Contestants had to wear hats they had created. I was busy at the office preparing tax returns. The tax forms came in different colors: gift tax returns were green, trust fiduciary returns were yellow, estate fiduciary returns were pink, and partnership returns were green while ordinary individual income tax returns were white. They became the inspiration for my hat. I covered a wide, floppy-brimmed straw hat with overlapping colored tax forms. A strip of used adding machine tape around the crown with the ends trailing behind became the ribbon on my hat. A pencil and an eraser were tucked under the ribbon in place of a feather and a small bottle of aspirins glued to the crown was an added adornment. I have never been very crafty but I was proud of this creation and won first prize in the contest
To tell the truth I was happy when hats fell off the fashion wagon, when we no longer felt we had to wear a hat every time we went to church or for every special event. I reflected on that a bit during a recent outing with my sisters. We were walking through a museum viewing a traveling exhibit of costumes worn in period movies produced between 1960 and 2000. We paid special attention to the lovely hats that were worn with the elegant gowns. They really did add a special touch of glamour.
Each garment displayed was accompanied by a printed legend telling the name of the movie and who had worn it. It made me wish I could go back and see those movies again to pay more attention to the clothing worn. I never realized how much effort is put into making sure the gowns are appropriate for the class of people wearing them. The dress worn by a tutor in a rich household differed a lot from the gowns worn by the children's mother.
We had some really good laughs when we tried to imagine our husbands wearing some of the fancy duds worn by noblemen, aristocrats and the royalty in previous centuries. Picture one of our farmers shedding his greasy jeans to don velvet knickers and a lacy cravat. Add to that a hand-embroidered, brass- buttoned, satin-lined jacket with a deep edging of lace peaking from beneath the elbow length sleeves. We couldn't talk our guys into accompanying us on our outing and we knew when they saw the first of the men's costumes, they would have been heading for the doors.
The exhibit tried to answer all our unasked questions. An authentic ball gown that Nicole Kidman was to wear was too short on her. They explained the tricks used to lengthen it. The 6 inch border added at the bottom looked for all the world like it could have been there all the time.
Those bustles and the dresses that stretched 18 inches out from the waist or across the hips also made one wonder what was done to make them hold that shape, There was a display ready to answer those questions, too. We saw examples of the corsets that squeezed the ladies in as well as the bum-enhancers and basketlike cages that kept bustles and the side-car-like hip thingies held out in all the right places. The hoops for ball gowns were not just a single hoop but a series of 3 or 4 hoops each a little larger than the one before it and all held together with bands attached to a belt which was also a waist-slimmer.
The women who dressed in these high fashions had to have excellent posture. It is no wonder they looked and acted like the true ladies most of our mothers and grandmothers hoped we would be as adults. It would have been virtually impossible to slouch, cross your knees when sitting or move at more than a lady-like stroll while wearing any of them.
We were talking about all we had seen as we drove home. My sister-in-law commented that women gave up a lot when it comes to fashion when we quit wearing hats. The hats we saw on the display did look glamorous but I have no desire to go back and wear anything like them. Let's face it. The women in England still wear hats as we saw at the wedding of Prince William and his lovely Kate. The press didn't call them hats but whatever they called those headpieces I thought they looked anything but glamorous. I suppose if wearing hats becomes a fashion-must in the future, I would go along with the trend but maybe I would make my own. I did like my income-tax-hat.