What A Hat May Do
( Originally Published 1924 )
Once upon a time in a certain kingdom, there was a man so distinguished for his homeliness that he was looked upon as the ugliest person in the realm. According to the romancer, he was so distinctively unpleasing in form and feature that he attracted the attention of the king who, in whimsical mood, made him a royal retainer. This man, so conspicuously lacking in beauty, enjoyed his position and privilege for some time. But even ugliness, if it attains eminence, will excite envy in the low-minded. One day, a former associate of the retainer brought word to the king that there lived an old woman in his domain who was even uglier than the man now enjoying royal favor. The king answered, "Bring her to court. Judges shall be called to decide. If she is uglier, she shall stay and he shall go." When the old woman appeared, it was apparent to all that she was indeed the uglier of the two. At the critical moment, when the king was about to dismiss the homely man from his retinue, a friend of the unfortunate one cried out, "Put her bonnet on him!" This was done, and lo! a fearful change was wrought. By unanimous acclamation, he was positively declared to be "the ugliest creature on the earth." The old woman, true to the instincts of her sex, refused to wear her bonnet again. Like many of her sisters of modern times, she had not previously discovered what havoc a bonnet may produce.
The Englishman's custom of wearing a high silk hat, or topper, to business conforms with all our ideas of his formal temperament. Hats are as expressive of people as the amusing slogan, "Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are," which characterizes their judgment in food. There are hats which declare the invincible purpose of the wearer; there are those which are so languishing and so affected that they easily suggest the mid-Victorian.
Nothing is quite so disturbing in people of today as indecision. Some hats seem to hesitate between strength and weakness. If a feather decorates the hat, it should be there for a purpose and assert with definiteness which way the wind is blowing. IT there is a rose, it should seem to belong there. If a hat is for horseback riding, it should declare that, and not attempt to look lady-like. If a hat attempts to be coy and coquettish, it should quite frankly admit it. If a hat is to frame the face of a nice old lady, it should be very tender. One's hat should never be an advertisement for its trimmings. Its purpose is to bring out the wearer's best qualities. She may be quite peach-like herself, but her hat shouldn't suggest an overflowing fruit basket.
We all have bad days ! No amount of belief in "'tis only the thinking that makes things true" can always lift one's spirit from the Slough of Despond. Of course, the men may "grin and bear" till some good wind clears the sky, but for the fairer sex there is no more blessed antidote for gloom-dispensing than a hat. A smart and becoming hat will buoy up a woman's spirit, give her confidence, increase her power of repartee, and make her wit scintillate.
A woman should always try to select her hat when she is in a happy mood, for her feeling at the time will later reappear like the rush of sentiment which follows the perfume of a certain flower, or like the strange thought current that awakens the taste of grandmother's cookies, or like the clinkle of ice in a goblet after a fever. One's soul may sink beneath the hat which sneers at the soul's quest for Beauty. It is hardly possible for any woman to be spiritual in a hat which is hideous and caricaturing. The art of selecting hats to express one's moods seems to be inborn.
We are told that the really smart Frenchwoman will not be satisfied with a ready-made hat. Her chapeau must be designed for her by an artist who understands, not only the immutable laws of design and color combinations, but who has sufficient in-sight to find the latent and real woman and to express her in terms of millinery.
An American milliner, crippled, and obscure, but artistic to her finger tips, raised the art standard in her own community by insisting that there be an especially designed hat for each customer. She even demanded two or three fittings for the hat which was made under her own direction. Each hat was an unrepeated design. This artist searched for fabrics which, by their texture and color, supplemented the line of the hat, and all blended in giving to the wearer a completed harmony which never failed to bring out her hidden attractions. In her quiet way, this obscure little woman expressed her art appreciation without any thought of gain. She was in very truth, an Unknown Apostle of Beauty.
A woman may discover that she has a "real genius" in the fashioning of her own hats, or she may discover that she is a "dismal failure." One must be sure that one has such a genius before adopting one's own handiwork permanently. More crimes are committed in the name of Hats than in that of any other part of Costume. Workman-ship must be absolutely perfect. The woman not a professional, who can successfully fashion and trim her own hat, is very rare, altho, with the great number of our popular millinery classes, no woman needs to be totally ignorant.
There was a real charm about the quaint little bonnets which women used to wear when they came to what they considered a great age, and what we call forty! Many of these little bonnets were most alluring. Now-a-days great-grandmothers as well as grandmothers consider themselves young. The hats for them should be comfortable and softly flattering, yet dignified. If only some one with real understanding could fashion a hat especially designed for grandmother, I wonder if she would discard it lest she seem to appear "too old !"
Where is the dogmatic one who reasoned thus :—a plain hat, prim and precise and without imagination, should be worn for the hours before the two hands meet at the top of the clock; after the sun is directly overhead, a floppy, flower-trimmed picture hat or a sweeping velvet is suitable; lace and silver and gold and tulle and all the posies combined be-long to the evening. What difference does it make if a hat preaches propriety and yet loses its popularity? Even the most harum-scarum lass knows enough not to wear a tam-o'shanter with a Marie Antoinette evening dress. She might, however, decide to wear something a little bit off-key and, by her very daring, create a slight stir of admiration. But she must be quite sure of herself. First of all, let me repeat, one must know absolutely what is the right thing; one must be able, in other words, to "speak by the card." Then, too, she must know what is becoming. Not until then should she at-tempt to be original. It is always the amateur who moves without her cue and who, in attempting to be clever, finds that she is but ridiculous.
It is sometimes true that face and figure seem to be mismated. In that case should the hat be chosen to fit the contour of the face, or the size of the figure? When the whole figure is to be taken into account because it will be seen walking or standing, then the figure demands attention. If the occasion is one where the woman will be seated, as at a club meeting where she will be closely surrounded, or at a reception or tea, so that perspective does not count, becomingness of face should be given precedence over other considerations.
A whole month's allowance may be invested or squandered in the purchase of a hat which was be-witchingly displayed in a shop window. When it arrives home or perhaps even before that, one has the feeling that it is an intruder. In the whole plan of one's personality what earthly part can it take? Plainly, there was no rime nor reason in its purchase. Many have had to learn by just such an experience. It is always best to select every other part of the costume first, and then with assurance can one select the creation that will complete her appearance with reason as well as with rime.
Things have changed since grandmother put on her old gray bonnet with the blue ribbons on it, and now-a-days one hat will not do for every occasion ; one must at least have two! A sports type, soft and comfortable and with little or no trimming, will answer for every ordinary occasion. We need, too, a hat that is suitable for church, club meetings, and other occasions. It is better, if there can be but one of this sort, for it to have a brim, behind which one can hide weary eyes. Now if it is possible to possess a third hat, let it be one which can be worn for several seasons. Every woman needs at least one article of apparel which she buys simply because she wants it and not because she just has to have it. Luncheons, informal dinners, many social affairs, will give use for this flattering little bonnet.
Twenty years ago on a Europe-bound steamer, a man took from his pocket a folded felt hat. He turned it, twisted it, and crushed it in on one side, but the shape and smartness still remained. Many of those who watched him and marveled at such a remarkable hat, acquired as soon as possible a similar blessing upon their heads. The felt hat lends itself admirable for sports wear. Choosing a sports hat from the infinite variety which is offered is in reality a sport in itself, for each one is as alluring as the sport for which it serves. Tho it is not difficult to make a choice, there must be art in wearing the choice. To be jaunty and yet not look untidy, to be careless and yet not appear slouchy, and, withal, to be comfortable, appears quite a task. And, yet it can be done, and no woman on earth can do it so effectively as does the American.
We find, as we grow older, that the appearance of age can be deepened by too somber apparel. Hats should suit one's age, of course, but that does not mean that they should give one the appearance of an octogenarian.
Hats do possess a youth-preserving and a resurrective power which is recognized by all women who have a sensible view-point in regard to clothes, but from this belief do not let there be a mistaken selection of youthful hats. A woman of thirty-five has been known to select her hats in the juvenile department of a hat shop and be successful, but it would not be wise to let her experience become universal. The hat that has more dignity than youth in its lines and color has a less aging effect. A person may be youthful and yet not appear childish, and so should it be with hats. Let them be a blessing upon your head and so shall you come to bless their creator.