Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hats She Wore

They are on their way to the costume room of a nearby theatre. Most of the actresses who will wear them are high-school age, young women who will never have seen their own mothers or even grandmothers wear a dress hat. If the costumer for the productions knows his or her stuff, there will be pairs of gloves to complete the look for each actress.

Long after my mother had stopped wearing hats for church or weddings and funerals, she kept her favorites on a high shelf in her bedroom closet. The hat boxes were all clearly labeled: "(Old) Black Felt Hat," "Straw Pill Box Hat," "Summer Navy Hat." From New Orleans department stores like D.H. Holmes, Maison Blanche, and Godchaux's, the boxes each carry the original sales slip glued in place with my mother's home address. She would have taken the bus to the stores on Canal Street in the morning and arranged to have her purchases delivered to our house later. The date of sale on each label remains legible: these were the styles of the Sixties.

Easter Sunday afternoon I accompanied one of my nieces down into the basement of her house. She and I brought four hat boxes up from where they had been stored since my parents' house was sold. When I opened the boxes later on the back seat of my car, I found each of the hats still stuffed with the paper my mother had used so her hats would keep their shape. It felt important today to take a picture of each hat before I forget -- again -- what that part of home life used to look like.

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