Lids

Editor’s note: Dr. Lois Goodwill is a retired clinical psychologist and co-author, with the late Don Asher,Lois Goodwill of Entangled: A Chronicle of Late Love, a memoir in two voicesreleased by Heyday in July. Born in Montreal, Canada, she holds degrees from McGill University in Montrealand the Wright Institute in Berkeley. She enjoys attending theater and symphony performances and volunteer work. She is an enthusiastic hiker and walker. She is the mother of four children and grandmother of eleven. She lives in San Francisco.

She wore the finely striped cloche at an insousciant angle, pulled down just so. The thin pink and orange stripes set off her sweet firm cheeks and her cornflower blue eyes glowed with pleasure when she spied her Grandmother right beside the stroller. There is little as charming, even bewitching, as a gal in a hat. Of course if the gal is nine months old and looks at the world with wonder and delight, then the bonnet can only add to the charm.

Older gals go for hats too! And so do guys. Think of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones! There was style. And Gene Autry in his white cowboy best. And a lot of young contemporary fellows in fedoras with the brims getting unfortunately more and more narrow. A brim frames the face. Women know that, although in the era of the flappers, their cloches had minimal brims and those ridiculous “ fascinators” favored by some of the royals at a recent high society wedding had no brim at all. I’m not even sure there was any hat there to speak of. Just a whimsical concoction perched on the head by means of a headband or some other invisible means of attachment.

Bill Cunningham in Sunday’s New York Times captured images of stylish NY women outside Tiffany’s emulating a famous shot of Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress and a very wide brimmed black hat. That was a stunning look then and today’s homage to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene recaptured some of that glamor. Today’s women were not all hatted but all were chic with shoes of the envy category. Some wore elegant long black gloves. Only the most elegant had chapeaux in homage to the memorable Miss Hepburn of long ago.

I too have a collection of hats. Five cylindrical boxes, each about nine inches deep and about fourteen inches in diameter are stacked on the top shelves of my wardrobe closets. Each hat box contains an accessory that made me feel wonderful when I bought it and ever so beguiling when I wore it. Interestingly, I never wore any of those hats, save one, to any event with gentlemen in attendance. My hats were chosen to compliment clothes that I wore to a women’s club that met weekly. It was a place with a staid and genteel elegance where women wore hats at least once a year on a commemorative Hat Day. Of course, a member or her guests could wear a hat on any day, but that special once a year day honored the tradition of the earlier years when the properly dressed woman did not go about without gloves, a hat and shoes and handbag that matched her outfit.

I have another hat that travels about in the trunk of my car. It is a reminder of a brief love affair. The gentleman who had bedazzled me said that I must have a hat to protect me from the hot sun when we went walking in his neighborhood or sat in his garden. If the gentleman said I must, then it was to be done. While visiting a friend up in Grass Valley I chose the simple straw hat with a leather thong threaded through a wide brim. The thong can be shortened by means of a wooden bead that slides up closer to the chin to keep the hat on the wearer’s head in event of a breeze. Loosen the thong and the hat hangs girlishly down one’s back. I was not a girl, had not been a girl for many decades, but I was in love, a transient state that made me feel oh so girlish and pretty. The lover had soon decamped; the hat was not my best look but still it travels about in the trunk to remind me whenever it catches my eye that there was such a moment of hope and happy frivolity.

Another hat lingers in my memory. Or perhaps it was a montage of hats, all worn by my slim and very fashion conscious mother. She was a sales woman in a high end department store, specializing in designer clothes for the well -to-do upper crust of Montreal where we lived. She traveled to work on the city buses wearing suits and accessories of the same level of refinement as the clothing she sold. Each suit had a hat of toning shade, sometimes fashioned from the same fabric as the suit and created by a local milliner from yardage that was bought with the suit. Mom had a peculiar habit of dressing in the following order: panties, girdle ( even slim women wore that underpinning) , stockings, bra, slip, suit skirt, high heeled shoes and then the hat. I do not recall when she put on the blouse and jacket but to this day I have an image of my mother clicking about her bedroom in those splendid hats with a suit skirt and high heeled shoes, making ready for her day as a shop girl to a wealthy clientele.

My father wore hats too. No baseball caps nor golfer’s hats for gentlemen in those days. He wore a fedora to work and I loved to play dress-up in his hat and big shoes. The hat tilted downward over my face and the shoes would stay in place if I  attempted to step forward in them. I didn’t want my mother’s chic hats and shoes, only my dad’s sartorial badges of adulthood for me.

In my San Francisco front hall I have a collection of vintage photos. One of my favorites is from the time post-depression when WPA funds were made available to pave my hilly street with bricks. The bricklayers all are shown wearing white shirts with rolled sleeves, dark pants with braces for support and dark derby style hats as they toil bending over their physically challenging  government funded work at another time when jobs were scarce.

All these reflections unleashed by a smiling baby in a cosy knitted cap as her Mom pushed her stroller up that same San Francisco hill where the long ago derby hatted men had laid the brick road now paved over with decades of asphalt.  Hats off to all the memories!