Spring is springing and Easter is almost here! Many Easter traditions have their roots in pre-christian, ancient times, including the Easter bonnet.
During ancient times women wove crowns of fresh flowers to wear at Spring gatherings to celebrate the renewal of the earth and the end of winter. By the 16th century it had become customary to wear new clothing at Easter and in the 1870s the NYC Easter parade was established where couples strolled 5th avenue en mass, to show off their Easter finery. Competition was fierce and fashions were cutting edge. As hats were considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe, a fabulous Easter chapeaux became essential. Victorian women loaded theirs with ribbons, silk and flowers.
Although hat trends changed drastically over the decades, the idea of the festive Easter bonnet remained steadfast. Even the simple cloche of the 1920s took a fanciful turn for Spring and during the depression of the 1930s, when most women were diligently pinching pennies, they still found a way to make or buy a new hat at Easter time. After WW11 women were more than ready to relax their frugal ways and the fashion industry was there to oblige. Styles became more feminine and lavish and the idea of a new outfit for Easter morphed from tradition to craze. Of course the “Easter Bonnet” took on special importance, with many women coordinating their entire ensemble around the hat they chose…gloves, purse, shoes, jewelry and dress or suit.
Back in the day women didn’t need much of an excuse to get dolled up, but today our closets are filled with jeans and T-shirts and dressing up is the exception instead of the rule. But weddings and Easter are two of the final hold outs where one can pull out all the stops to look like a million bucks. Dressing up for Easter is still pretty popular nowadays. And although the Easter bonnet might not be as common as it once was , it’s still a fun way to herald Springs arrival.
Now the question is, how DOES one find a fabulous Easter hat, when milliners have become rare as hens teeth? You really need to hit the vintage market. The array of choices will astound you, as will the quality and prices. Maybe a sweet pastel cloche from the 2os or perhaps a smart 40s tilt hat, bedecked with ribbons and veil. Like a bit of drama? Look for wide brim, portrait or platter hats. Want even more drama? The plain pillbox might be iconic of the 60s but there was a lot more going on in the hat world at the time. Fashion was being pushed to the outer limits and bold, statement hats were having their day. Millinery might have been fading from popularity at the time but you can find some jaw dropping designs from this era.
Too timid to wear a full hat? I have a personal fondness for the little 50s flowered half hats, or what is often referred to as “cracked egg style” or shell bonnets. Or try a decorative vintage or retro headband or even a simple silk flower tucked behind your ear.
Whatever your choice, hello Easter Bonnet goodbye long cold winter!