Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Way You Wear Your Hat

If we had a dollar for every woman who has ever complimented us on our hats and then said "Hats just don't look good on me" or "I just can't wear hats", we could both retire now. Comfortably. Saying hats don't look good on you - with the implicit understanding that is the reason why you'll never wear hats - is like saying Herve Leger's bandage dresses don't look good on you, so you'll never wear a dress. (Felt cloche helmets by artist Carol Markel.)

Neither of us suffers from cocklaphobia (fear of hats). Quite the contrary, we look for excuses (as if we needed any) to wear hats.

Did you try on a pillbox hat in 1960? You didn't look first lady-like, so you gave up ever wearing hats?

Or maybe you, like a million other young women (and like us), tried the Carly Simon floppy hat look in 1972. And when it didn't do for you what it obviously did for Carly, you thought you simply were not a hat person? (Jean got a bigger, floppier black felt version for her 20th birthday in 1970 and rocked it with her suede maxi-coat and long straight hair. Valerie got a brown one from her boyfriend in '72, and discovered brown does not suit her.)

For several years, we have wanted to do a posting showing several people wearing the same hat, to show how differently that single hat 'performs' on different people. You can imagine our difficulty in finding volunteers. So, when The Style Crone and The Forest City Fashionista came to town, we asked if they would help us create this post, and were absolutely delighted when they agreed!

Ideally, it would have been wonderful if we could each have worn an outfit to coordinate with each hat, but the logistics were too daunting and the results would have been too distracting. While we would have liked to take one full frontal and one profile head shot,  The SC and FCF were just visiting and had more important ways to spend their limited time here. So we established some very simple ground rules:

1. Every participant brings two hats of her own choosing and wears black, so as not to clash with the hats.
2. Photos are face-forward pose only. (But with two takes, in case anyone closes her eyes - or loses her earring - at the wrong moment.)
3. Like musical chairs, we move, but the hats don't. Each participant is photographed in the first of her two hats and then moves one seat to her left, a total of three times, so each person tries on each hat once.
4.  Repeat the process with the second hat.

Since each participant wore each hat the way she thought it looked best on her, you'll see that some hats were worn backward, sideways, high on the forehead, or low, tilted forward or back, angled a little or a lot.

So now, without further ado, here are the results.

 In this photo, we all wear our own hats. Left to right: Judith wears a feather hat in shades of teal by Eurona, from Fabulous Fanny's ('60s?), Valerie wears a blue and beige Italian straw hat ('40 - '50?), Shelley wears a red PVC newsboy's cap (age indeterminate), and Jean wears an unbleached straw hat by Ignatius (circa 2011).  Remember to click on the photo if you'd like to enlarge it.

Here's what happened when we moved one seat over while the hats stayed where they were:

And the next rotation:

And finally, this photo documents completion of the full rotation of the first round of hats:

While the first round of hats were warmish weather hats, the second round of chapeaux were cool weather hats. Again, in the first photo we're all wearing our own hats. Left to right: Shelley wears a black wool felt and satin hat with attached hatpin labeled "Eaton's Designer Collection" (probably '40s). Judith wears a forest green velour hat by Mr John from Cobblestones Vintage ('60s?). Jean wears a black hand-felted hat from Hut Up (21st century), and Valerie wears an olive green hat from Ginza Vogue Japan (late '80s).

As before, we all moved one chair to the left (ours, not yours).

Here's the next rotation:

And with this last of the series, everyone has again had a chance to wear each hat. After all our hard work, we thought it a good idea to reward ourselves with a bottle of chilled bubbly and girl talk.

Test Results:
The results, as you can see, are different for each of us!

So to all our friends out there who don't think you can wear a hat, we contend that you just haven't found the right hat.  Here are some of our helpful tips.

1. Try a training hat! Start with a black beret and experiment with it. Try tucking most or all your hair inside. (Image -

Try leaving your hair out, tilting it to one side, putting a big pin on the front.  Almost anyone can wear a beret. If you don't like it, it's a very small investment, and you can give it to a timid friend when you graduate to $400 Stephen Jones hats. Here, Nina Foch rocks her beret. (Image -

Warning. This may make you want to revolutionize your wardrobe.

2. Get an elastic hat band, because if your hat falls off your head, you'll get frustrated and give up. (If you don't have one conveniently tucked away in your purse, buy a $1 plastic mask, and take the elastic off that.) Carefully insert the hat elastic inside the crown where you don't have to make holes in the hat itself. The grosgrain sweatband is a good place for that.

3. Stick to simple, single colors at first. Don't buy a polka hat yet. If you never wear it, you'll blame the hat. Or us. (Image -

4. Consider your hairstyle. Carly Simon could not have worn a beehive with her floppy hat. If your hairstyle is flexible, you can wear a greater variety of hat shapes. Also consider whether you have straight or curly hair. That changes things too.

5. Remember your hat color should work well with your hair color. (Don't look so surprised! The same is true of your dress!) Of course, some hair colors present more of a challenge than others... (Katy Perry image by

One of the great advantages of grey hair is that it looks great against black. Valerie wore this vintage black straw number for her birthday celebration last summer at Bar Pleiades at the Surrey Hotel.

6. The right hat shape can make you look taller and slimmer, so try on different shapes to see what flatters you. Lady Gaga loves hats and wears the most amazing headgear.  She wore this silver inter-galactic number to the Grammys. But you don't have to go to quite such lengths to look great. (Image -

This pink hat gives Gaga height without bulk. (

When all else fails, give it the horn! (

7. Most materials make great hats, so don't worry about that. Just be aware that different materials are good for different purposes. The more structured fabrics and styles - like a fedora, a pillbox or a bowler - may appear more formal than the softer shapes, like a turban. (Image -

Valerie chose this black straw toy hat to complement her black structured but semi-transparent voile jacket for brunch at All's Well on Bedford Street in Brooklyn.

If you wear structured clothes like suits, a structured hat may look more appropriate.

If you wear flowing, deconstructed knits or lots of vintage clothing, less structured headwear may work better for you.

Jean paired this simple knit turban from Urban Outfitters with a vintage Norma Kamali leopard jumpsuit for an outing at Pravda on Lafayette Street.

For those of you who would like to try to wear hats, we hope we've given you some good ideas and the necessary encouragement. Now go ye forth, and wear hats!!!

Any questions? Just refer to any of our postings!

(And thanks to the marvelous Gershwin brothers, who gave us our title.)


  1. How can there be no comments yet to this terrific, not to mention funny, posting? It was fascinating to see your experiment with different people wearing the same hats. And really, because of you all, I'm wearing a hat these days--a cute little red number--and I get compliments on it every time I wear it. So, yes, you have inspired and continue to do so!
    jill in Ontario

  2. So cool to see the fruits of our labor! Great post, especially the advice regarding trying different shapes, fabrics and colours. There truly is a hat out there for everyone, although we are not all so lucky to be able to suit almost every shape and style like you two! I loved that blue feathered hat, and I'm glad that my black one got so much wear while I was in NY.

  3. As a milliner, I say: "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!", and shall I add, as a French woman: "Merci ! Merci ! Merci !"

  4. This just proves my belief that a hat just needs a stylish attitude under it. Gorgeous post!

  5. I love hats! I need more, more, more!

  6. Dear Valerie and Jean,
    Well we all live in Hatatopia, the most hatful, heavenly haven for hordes of hers who have to inhabit a hat. Holy hat! This was a hatabulous post.

  7. I must tell you how much I love the hat-rotation project - tremendous! Your encouragement and hat-selection pointers are greatly appreciated.

  8. How I love this post! It was so much fun to participate in your brilliant idea. I was not aware that there was a term for 'fear of hats,' so I've learned something by just reading your commentary.

    I too frequently hear the phrase, 'I can't wear hats' and appreciate your suggestions for those who would like to begin participating in the playful, powerful, and magnificent world of hat wearing. It takes practice and 'just putting it on your head and walking.'

    I love Carol's fabulous cloche helmets on the two of you and her comment was brilliant. So happy to have found others that love hats as much as I do. It makes life so much more fun!

  9. What a fun exercise in hats! Love them all, although I must say, Jean rocks that Ignatius baby better than anyone!

  10. Oh my what a post! Being a follower of both Judith's and the Fashionista's...and being a consummate hat wearer I so applaud your post! Kudos to you for encouraging the practice of hat wearing! After years of being dedicated to the rearing of my wonderful children, I had lost my hat wearing mojo...lost a part of has only been through a year of blogging that I have found my way back to me...and my love of wearing hats. It was Judith and her dignity and candor in her transitioning life...and her celebration of stylish hats and individual style...that helped breathe life back into my own.

  11. Wonderful- I've been looking for hat-wearing tips (I'm a dedicated headscarf person, myself, but would like to explore hats). Thanks for the exploration of the face+hat equation, and for the tips.

  12. Glorious post and wonderful project- I say return to this theme. I'd love to see a series of portraits of upclose of each of you lovelies wearing the same hat.

  13. This post is such a fabulous example of hat wearing and how different faces can change the look of the hat, or vise versa!

    It was a very informative and inspiring post ~ and my only conclusion is: I need more hats.... :) ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill