Thursday, September 16, 2010

How I Got The Hat Habit

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time should have tumbled to my reliance on the hat. Hats shield you from sun, protect from wind, keep you warm.......give your face a great frame on even the worst of bad hair days, add color, design detail, an antique or vintage flavor to your outfit......and, given the waning popularity of hat-wearing over the past decades, donning a chapeau is the easiest way to stand out in a crowd.

Hats have become one of my style 'trademarks'. People i don't even know, who i just see regularly on my walks, know me as 'the hat lady'. But for my formative years, all through elementary, junior high, and high school i never really wore hats. The truth is, not many hats are that flattering to me - i have to try on dozens to find 'the one' that works. Of course, if you only wear 'the one', people will think you automatically look great in hats (or high heels, belts, dresses, etc.). And truth to tell, many are uncomfortable or scratchy. And we all have heard of the dreaded 'hat hair'. So, given all these drawbacks, what drew my attention to hats and eventually turned hats into an integral part of my personal style?

Well, i got in a car accident at age twenty one or two* (stoner kid turned in front of my VW bug) and split open my forehead. The ER called a plastic surgeon in to stitch me up (he stopped counting at 150 stitches). In order to get the least-noticeable scar, i had to keep the sun off of my forehead for a year. That meant sunscreen (in the early days of sunscreen, with SPF 15 and a mucous-like consistency) and wide-brimmed hats every day. My family felt bad for me, and i was able to shop for some great hats. Two extra-nice ones were a dove-grey felt fedora style, and a dark teal felt 'boater-shaped' hat with black grosgrain ribbon.

I've always been fair and had sensitive skin. The first thing i noticed on the 'sunscreeen and hat' regime was that my skin calmed down a lot when shielded from the sun, and sunblock and sun protection in general became my best friend. I also found that great hats that fit me and expressed my style WERE out there, and that i loved wearing them. Other people liked them on me, too - i got a lot of compliments and smiles. A habit i'd been forced into by unlucky circumstance turned out to be something i really loved and have stuck with for decades since.

So many 'fashion/style advice' resources focus on how you can achieve the most flattering or up-to-date look, or how to make 'the' style (that's all the rage) work on you (even though it's a color you hate and the cut is designed for someone twenty pounds lighter in a completely different climate and life circumstance). There's a lot of advice on how you can fit in and look decent in the styles and colors that 'everyone fashionable' is wearing, how you can look like everybody else, in a lot of cases......and i suppose it sells magazines and clothes.

But what about YOU? What about YOUR body, hair, face, skin, likes and dislikes, history, interests, lifestyle, hobbies, background? What if lime green is the 'IT' color this season and you can't stand that color to begin with, and that bitchy high school popular girl had a lime green key chain and you just fume inside thinking about it? Being in fashion is fine. But if you want to develop your own personal style, it's going to be as much about what you DON'T do as what you DO do. What you don't like, what you can't stand, your fallen arches or mohair allergy or dowager's hump or.......these limitations are crucial to editing and developing your own personal style.

My love of neutrals? 95% of mass produced 'colors' are completely unflattering on me and i don't like to look at them either. My love of vintage/old-fashioned clothes? I could afford the (then) cheap vintage clothes during college and as a result found that those styles actually fit and flattered much more than up-to-date clothing. My dependence on natural fibers? Polyester and nylon make me sweat and itch. Plus i'm one of those 'electric' girls who gives everyone shocks - plastic clothes make it even worse. All those wonderful skirts and dresses i wear? It's because of incurable nerve damage to my legs that makes most pants painful or worse. Why do i design/make so many of my own clothes? I can spend days shopping and never find anything that flatters or fits properly. Hats? see above.

Personal style is defined as much by what you don't choose to wear as what you do. Think of any two people known for their strong sense of style and try switching their wardrobes on them to see what i mean. Katherine Hepburn dressed as Coco Chanel, with turban and cigarette holder? Or Audrey Hepburn in casual Kate Moss style (flip flops no less)? Or Kate Moss pulling off Princess Diana's diamond tiara and beaded white bolero? This is a fun game to play, and there are people who would come across believable and relaxed in someone else's style - usually because of an overlap or similarity of said style. But i hope you get my gist.

So next time you come across some limitation in what you can or want to wear, look in the opposite direction. Over there, can you see it? It's the refined essence of your personal style, trying to catch your attention..........

* yep, i'm also REALLY BAD at remembering dates.

p.s. and yet no hat in this outfit! i just liked my hair that day, and it was cool enough to go without. i'm glad i did - we were in Berkeley and i saw about twenty college-age kids rockin' the hat thing. don't want to blend in with the crowd and all that! : )

Jacket: Donna Karan for Vogue Patterns #2862, made by me
Capris: Royal Robbins
Blouse: own design, inspired by some girls wander
Shoes: Clark's Passion
Scarf, Ribbon Flower: own design
Necklace, Earrings: Tail of the Yak, Berkeley, CA


  1. I do not comment enough, I know. But I just had to say, Girl, I love you. I love your voice, and your style and your CHARM. And that jacket? I am so so amazed and bowled over by your talent. That thing is BEYOND cool. And so are Y-O-U.

  2. hi Erin! no commenting is required. BUT - it's awfully thoughtful of you to take the trouble to leave such a sweet comment for me!!! (goodness, i'm blushing..) it's especially nice since you have some considerable talent going on yourself! anyway, thank you very much - and i hope you feel better soon or even already : ) steph

  3. Great post, my dear. 8-) I remember that teal hat with the black ribbon - wow. The Library is having a BIG BOOK SALE this weekend, should you and Mr. E be in the mood for a drive.

  4. Well after all this time I FINALLY made it over here to say hello! I love your style, and the fact that you're a fellow hat person!

    Your post got me thinking about a time when I used to never wear red, thinking it didn't look good with my skin tone. It all stemmed from one horrible picture that was taken of me in my then favorite outfit, which was all red and white. So for years I never wore red at all, until I finally realized it was only the lighting in the photo that was bad!

  5. That jacket is killer - it looks fabulous on you. And you made it?? Awesome.

    I totally agree with everything you've said. Fashion is not the goal! Style is the goal - select what works for you from the "fashion" (which is random, ever-changing and often ridiculous) of today, yesterday and yesteryear, and create your style from it!

    You do it so well. :) Great post.

  6. hi ma! well, 'someone' is having their 'annual celebration day' it's up to them! he volunteered thru work wed. at the crisis nursery in clayton, helping with a fund-raising garage sale. he picked up some great books, incl a bio of Lola Montez.......

    which brings me to - Hi Audi! come on in ; )
    * nor cal represents *
    that's a shame about your fave outfit! but a good lesson to learn. it reminds me of that bumpersnicker you see around: 'don't believe everything you think'. i'm glad you're back in red : )

    and thank you Sheila! i did make that jacket, but it's a Donna Karan for Vogue sewing pattern. over the years they've put out some mind-blowingly awesome designs. they still do. i think that's the main reason i've never regretted not having the cash for big designer name clothes - you can custom-make some incredible pieces from Vogue designer patterns. the directions include how to do different seams, closures, interfacings, custom linings, etc. so you can increase your skill set big-time, as well. and you can get out of print or used ones inexpensively these days they are pretty steep.

    and that's a great sum-up statement there in your second paragraph. Thank you!! steph

  7. I just came across your blog, and I wanted to tell you that I love your writing style and your sartorial choices are fantastic too!

    I am digging this jacket and the socks with heels thing you are rocking here!

    I used to fear the color yellow, and didn't own anything yellow at all for years. But I used the start of my blog to get over my phobia. I didn't have any underlying reason to hate the color. I just assumed it looked like crap on me because of my coloring.

  8. Welcome, LHdM! thank you for the compliments!'s interesting. i've noticed a lot of people start 'OOTD' blogs to help them keep on track with some resolution or other about their wardrobe - remixing more, branching out into new colors/styles, (how to put this next one?) 'not being such a slob', etc. it's true for me. there's some things i love to do that just aren't feasible or are ridiculously difficult (physical troubles). but i love dressing and you have to get dressed every day why not put in the effort (and get the fun) everyday instead of just the weekend when other people see me? and i'm vain enough to know i wouldn't be into posting a lot of boring, lo-effort outfits online. it can be a way of keeping yourself honest.

    i'll have to go over to your blog and check out your yellow looks!! : ) have a great weekend! steph

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