Sunday, April 4, 2010

In Your Easter Bonnet with All the Frills Upon It

Valerie says:

After venturing out for Easter 2009 and getting our pics in the paper, of course we had to see if we could repeat our triumph on 5th Avenue for the second year in a row.

Costume planning is always tricky since New York's Easter weather is very unpredictable. In the dozen years I've gone parading, there was snow once, rain on several occasions, and many cold and cloudy days. This year, I think, was only the third blissfully sunny Easter in the past twelve. You always have to have a back-up plan. If it snows, you'll look perfectly ridiculous in your straw hat. If it's sunny and warm, you'll feel silly in a white felt hat, regardless of how chic it is. If you don't have a back-up plan, you'll be cobbling together a make-do outfit at the last minute. And if it rains, you had better have a see-through umbrella with very shallow curves, or no one will see how fabulous you are.

As you can see, Jean was all in black (aside from her red rings and monarch butterflies); I was almost all in white, and that posed many photographic challenges that we are hard put to surmount with our limited experience and equipment. (We also refuse to hire an 18 year old, even though we know anyone young enough to be our grandchild would have a good grasp of Photoshop and a better grasp of the bells and whistles on our point and shoot digital cameras than we have.)

Above are our friends Tziporah Salamon and Tim John. Both of them have had more appearances in the Style Section of the New York Times than (to quote the wonderful English expression) most of us have had hot dinners. Maybe hanging out with them will be good luck for us, although we won't know till next week. We WERE photographed by The Master, Bill Cunningham, but there's no guarantee that we'll make the final cut. It's a little like waiting for the opening of the envelopes at the Academy Awards - except, of course, we're better dressed!

At the parade, Jean and I were a bit like two characters in a half hour sitcom. You know how it is: there's always one very prissy character, and one very bohemian character, to create comedic tension.

I was the very prissy character, bewailing the shortage of truly fabulous, chic, well made hats, and Jean was the very bohemian character, embracing the sheer variety and inventiveness of the costumes, and the palpable carnival-like atmosphere as the parade has evolved over the years. We took photographs of both. In this blog entry is just a hint of what we saw.

Above left, Sarah Hartley wears a scrumptious Gretchen Fenston creation. Check out the fabulous veil material that's been starched and laid out in a fan shape. Right, a couple in outrageous wigs and costumes spins on a Segway for the crowd.

Jean says:

New Orleans has its Mardi Gras, Philadelphia has its Mummers Parade and New York City has its Easter Parade. This year, record crowds turned out on Fifth Avenue between 49th and 57th Street, to enjoy the sunny 75-degree weather, to see and be seen promenading up and down the Avenue past St. Patrick's showing off their Easter hats and assorted finery. As you will see from our rogue's gallery of photographs, the amount of effort that went into some of their outfits is astounding.

Astute readers may recognize Daniel from our Valentine's Day posting about the Metropolitan Pavillion's Manhattan Vintage Clothing Show. Here he is with his sweetie Carole out and about in the bright sunshine.

Shiho, our partner in crime at last year's parade, made a surprise appearance late in the afternoon, with Peter, her beau-in-tow, dressed obligingly in his own hip chapeau. It was a great and unexpected treat.

Sara Coldstarea and Ms. Candy Mann from Brooklyn really had their act together today. They seamlessly combined vintage and contemporary eyewear, headgear, footwear, handbags and clothing to create a unique look. (Striped stockings dyed pink by their wearer.)

This woman put together a wonderfully sophisticated look, perfect for a traditional Easter Sunday.

These wonderful hats hark back to the brief period of surrealist hats. The felt tea pot hat, left, worn by Sarah Liston and made by Carrie MacGregor (House of MacGregor), is reminiscent of Schiaparelli's shoe hat [or is it a sly reference to Alice in Wonderland???]; the vintage hat with horseheads (nooooo.... don't you DARE mention The Godfather...!), worn by Helen Uffner, recalls BesBen hats.

Remember what W.C. Fields said about children and animals...

Polka dots were obviously hot among the pre-teen set this year. Two adorable sisters pose in their pink polka dot dresses, accessorized with bunny hats, white gloves and pink sunglasses. Another little girl made a big hit in her black and white polka dot dress with green accents at the waist and on her Easter bonnet.

While the rest of the clan milled about, Clark Kent donned his baseball cap complete with his alter-ego on top, and showed us his stuff. His tee shirt riffed the same Super Hero theme, and he wore a matching red cape.

Last summer, Judy Berkowitz and I went to the church on Hudson Street in the West Village for the Blessing of the Animals and met Emmett and MeiMei and their flamboyantly chic companion human, Carlene. Imagine my surprise to run into Emmett and MeiMei at the Parade, in outfits and straw flowered Easter hats. We also encountered this festively decorated chihuahua late in the afternoon.

This is a very daring hat, but she carries off both the color and the shape perfectly.

The parade is a multicultural event. Here, two women from Spain join in. The woman on the right (Marga?) designed both hats. (Her company is Hatini.)

A hat made of strips of dyed cotton.

This woman wound a length of cloth through her hair.

This merry trio is a vision in pastel.

This mother and daughter duo had matching grass-bodiced outfits and egg-filled birds' nests from the tops of their heads to the tops of their shoes! If you look closely, you'll see butterflies around their waists. The intricacy of the design was outdone only by its execution.

They HAD to have been hand-made. Can't help but wonder if the mother said 'let's have matching outfits', and the daughter said 'ok, can we have matching nests?' A mother's prodigious love and a child's prodigious imagination???

Great artistic license is taken with the concept of Easter bonnet. Case in point: hot pink wig embedded with brightly colored artificial roses.

What is an Easter Parade without a Mad Hatter? Too bad, Johnny Depp was otherwise engaged!

At some point, a distaff Mad Hatter (far right) joined our boisterous group for a photo.

This gent and his stylish friend sported pastel suits, ties and fantastical hats and carried Easter baskets brimming with plastic eggs. The lady on the right wore a terrific '50s feather hat.

This wonderfully tall husband and wife were out celebrating their wonderfully tall daughter's 16th birthday (left).

You can't tell how tall they are? Here's how tall they are (right). Didn't we say wonderfully tall?

These women are taking classes in how to wear a kimono. On Valerie's right is Yuka Hasegawa, who sells her own original hat designs at Barney's.

These two women sport huge origami cranes.

Should have asked these ladies what material their hats were made of. It looked like paper. Wonderful colors! LOTS of VERY intricate - and well crafted - work.

Men more than made their contribution to the goings-on. Here are a few:

Jean on her hat: One of the chief inspirations for my Easter hat was Ana Juan's March 28, 2010 cover of the New Yorker titled "Homage" which was an illustration of a woman's head covered in Monarch butterflies - an allusion to the Phillip Treacy hat worn by Isabella Blow, muse to the recently deceased Alexander McQueen. So I was especially tickled to see the gentleman in a hat of New Yorker covers, with the black and red "Homage" cover front and center.

Left: One dapper gent in straw boater. Right: Two dapper gents crowned in pussy willow.

This bouncer-size gent wears a tiny hat made by a tiny burlesque dancer/milliner. He told us her company's name (something like Tiny Dancer's Tiny Hats - VERY easy name, he told us), but we can't remember, and search words aren't bringing up any likely suspects. People: ALWAYS carry your business cards when talking to women of a certain age!

Designer Phillipe de Loach keeps it real with a low key rustic fuzzy wool cap.

Men in Black.

Jean befriends a young dandy in spats with a huge bankroll in his basket.

Greater love hath no man than that he don a hat for the pleasure of his beloved.

The colors of the tie worn by the man above left (unfortunately unseen here) match the colors of his wife's outfit.

Valerie is wearing a vintage hat labeled Chapeau Creations by Ruth Kropveld, and made of lacquered straw or possibly plastic (cellulose?); ebony and holly brooch by Georges Larondelle, red leather brooch by Tereza Symon's mom, slightly vintage cockeyed sunglasses, Champion red cotton and lycra racing (ha!) back tank top, white linen Calvin Klein pantsuit, red plastic ring, red wood bangle, and Arche perforated white suede shoes.

Jean is wearing an Ignatius hand-made straw hat (from the Philadelphia Craft Show) to which she added a dozen Monarch butterflies on wires from Tinsel Trading. She is also wearing a black Ensemble sleeveless shawl-vest over a 3/4 sleeve DKNY v-neck nylon and spandex top, Brigitte harem pants, Dansko clogs, red neck torque from Angela Caputi, red Tokyo Boy watch, 4 vintage red bakelite rings, vintage red bakelite earrings, red Made Her Think skull ring, red and black hinged vintage plastic bracelet, wooden rosary (gift from Kirsten Hawthorne) and Moss Lipow glasses.

A special hello to our first visitors from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and South Korea. And we've had our first visitor from South Africa, who is also our first visitor from the African continent. Welcome all, and please visit again soon!


  1. I may have to steal some ideas for my next costume for Living History Farms Race in November! I LOVE THIS!

  2. Hi, Ladies!
    FYI: The horse hat which you say "recalls Bes-Ben hats" IS an original 1940's Bes-Ben hat!!! ..and OMG, could you not have cropped that picture of me just below the corsage? (laugh) I look like such a blimp!

  3. You were my first picture and you both looked fantastic!