In which a pioneer husband saves his wife from a piecrust stuffed with leftovers from last Poppy Day
LIKE everyone else, I had read that the Gallup Poll said 34%, of all Canadians thought women’s hats were awful. I didn’t really realize until a few days ago just what dopes the other 66%, were.
I’ve been victimized by my wife’s hats for some time. I’ve dodged long, lethal feathers with the best of them; endured silently a green velvet football helmet, a Gibson girl thing that took three cloakroom caddies to handle, and a stunning assortment of chocolate boxes and model canoes.
This time, 1 decided, it would be different. Before handing over money for a new hat 1 would take part in its selection. I would try to get her to buy a hat that would have style instead of fashion—something that would be good five years from now instead of going out of favor simultaneously with the appearance of the next issue of Vogue.
1 explained all these objectives on the way downtown on the bus. My wife listened in what 1 considered to be rather stony silence. Then we started to make the rounds. In the first place we stopped, while we were waiting for a salesgirl, I absent-mindedly turned up the price tag on what i«>oked like one of the cheaper numbers. The tug read: $60. An instant later we were out on the street, me panting with terror, looking for unother hat shop (or shoppe, as the case may be).
Our first finding on this expedition was that if you are looking for a good $2.98 hat you may as well save your strength. It is almost fantastic to imagine anything being of worse value than a $50 hat, but if a $50 hat costs, let us say, $4 to make, a $2.98 one costs, let us say, 29 cents. It also has neither style, which will last five years, nor fashion, which will last five days. So by the time the hunt got serious we were sticking pretty closely to the $I0-$20 class, even if 1 could feel my pocketbook shudder convulsively every time we turned over a price tag.
Despite the distracting atmosphere of the hat salons, I learned quite a bit about hats. For instance I picked up one magazine which said that Canadian women sjjend $8,000,000 a year on hats. I learned from another rather hysterical tome that “from the small and flowery hats to the large swashbuckling felts the spring and summer chapeaux are insouciant
and young.” Hatters have their own language.
While a procession of salesladies with permanent smiles gasped in awe over the hats they tried on my wife, I kept a close watch for anything remotely resembling a sign that my wife was about to make a decision. By laughing loudly I saved myself from a tall, cloth-covered dunce’s hat decorated by three artificial (I hope) birds. By the same method I put the kibosh on a high felt job that started out in one direction for four inches, then altered course about six degrees to port and shot along for another foot.
They were close calls, but only momentarily interrupted the study I was making. And by the time we had been haunting the salons for five hours 1 was able to correlate my findings to the degree that I am able to report the most popular hats this year are: 1. the off-the-faee models; 2. the down-on-one-side; and 3. the off-centre.
The decorations run mainly to flowers, feathers, ribbons and tiny bits of shiny metal called nailheads. Occasionally you may find all four on a single hat, which really is something to behold. Veils are just as warm, practical and popular as ever.
Hat people have odd names for their creations. There was one called a “sugar loaf,” which was high, leaned to one side, was bashed in at the top, and had a flower like a great headlight mounted on the crown. It also had a wide ribbon around it, a veil, and a fragment of fur hanging down in front to obstruct the wearer’s view.
variations. It’s usually something with a two-
inch crown and a moderate brim, and can be
either straw or felt. One of the more arresting
had a snood of roses. Another gave the odd
impression that its
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wearer somehow had taken to wearing a white lace collar on the top of her I head, with the “sailor” clamped down ! on top of it.
There were Lwo other types for which 1 could find no proper name, but for purposes of memory 1 noted them as] the “Flower Seller” and the “My I Man” types. The former had an indeterminate shape and would do, without alterations, for use by the old fortuneteller in “Blithe Spirit.” The other 1 remember quite distinctly seeing several years ago in a movie in which a girl of doubtful virtue leaned against a lamp post and sang “My Man.”
When I could get one of the salesladies to unfreeze her admiring expression for long enough to answer some questions, 1 found that most of the good hats this year are made from imported stuff. There is a type of Swiss braided straw that looks like “Cellophane.” You’ll be seeing it a lot in the Easter parades. Also, many of the flower trims are being flown over from France. Plastics also are being used extensively.
Some of the more becoming hats were tricornes, something like our Wrens wore during the war. There was another type called a bicorne, and still another that was shaped exactly like a rowboat, with the bow slightly offcentre and the amidships part drooping closely over the wearer’s ears. This is called a “spooner,” for reasons known only to Lilly Duché.
Most of the good hats on sale were-1 imported jobs, although our own milliners make a few expensive ones — invariably following the lead set by the ! itpports. Only a fraction of the hats ortsale will be in fashion next spring— or even this fall. The hat business, like some others, uses its talent to devise I fashions for the moment rather than j styles that will last. After all, it would not be profitable to have women able to buy hats this year that would be in perfect style until they wore out. Most of the fashions, moreover, are not attractive. By that 1 do not wish to infer that they are not striking. Some of t hem struck me dumb. But women, who don’t mind being played for suckers as long as it costs them enough, love it.
Where Are We Headed?
If you’ll pardon a little idle philosophizing, the progress of the hat through civilization is getting farther and farther away from its original conception something to keep the head warm in winter and dry in summer. Clothing designers can go only so far; their limits prescril>ed by the basic structure of the human body. Hat designers have no such limitations, and the hats show it. Few fit the head. Almost all have to be clamped on by wires, elastic bands or hatpins.
By the time 1 had reached all these sol>er conclusions 1 found that a battle of bright smiles was going on between my wife and the saleslady. I was relieved to find that this time, at least, my wife had ranged herself on the side of sanity and reason. The hat she wanted was reasonably becoming, covered a reasonable area of head and cost a reasonable price. The one the saleslady wanted (“Both look lovely on you, my dear, but this one is breathtaking”) appeared to be a wedge of piecrust stuffed with leftovers from last
I pondered. We’d l>een looking for a good hat for the liest part of a working day. I hadn’t seen a single one that i
wouldn’t look funny in our snapshot album five years from now. 1 had wanted a hat with style, not fashion, but l had been defeated by a lot of posturing screwballs masquerading as artists of hat design. This one a simple, close-fitting felt—probably had been included in the shipment by mistake. 1 decided to compromise.
Extricating my ankles from the deep pile on the salon rug, I leaped to my feet menacingly. The saleslady took one frightened look, then popped the monstrosity she was sponsoring into a handy drawer. A few minutes later we were out on the street with the new hat.
It had been a saw off, but not a defeat, so I didn’t feel too badly about it. And, 1 thought, if I can get enough men helping buy their wives hats w.e’ll make further progress later. Maybe eventually (who knows) we’ll even reach the stage where women’s hats will keep their ears warm. And a large, green fig for Hattie Carnegie!
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