The Final Flourish: the Rhetoric of the Hat
Margaret Bruzelius, Smith College
Sunday, April 2, 2017 at 2 pm
Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA
Clothes always denote meaning, whether or not the wearer controls or is aware of that meaning. In its heyday, a hat was the punctuation mark, the final inflection of the sentence that was the outfit for both men and women. Beginning with illustrations derived from 30's screwball comedies, Margaret Bruzelius will discuss the patterns of meaning in hats in film: high crown versus low crown, broad versus narrow brim, feathers and trim, and where and how the hat fits on the head.
Now that the hat is largely a stretchy wool or acrylic cap worn in cold weather wear to preserve our ears, the discourse of hats is now opaque to us. But hats, like every other part of the system of clothing, have always sent messages about their wearers: hats have their rhetorics, even if that rhetoric is no longer familiar. Historic Northampton's hats are now separated from their wearers and the clothes they once accessorized, but we can, by thinking about basic hat vocabulary, once again appreciate the messages sent by the feather cocktail hat, the high leather fedora, the cherry bedecked straw hat, the bright straw summer hat.
Women's Headwear from the collection of Historic Northampton (left to right):
Bonnet, circa 1861-1864. Various woven patterns of natural straw, linen thread, and plastic-like material. Bavolet, bow and wide ties of cream and blue striped silk with black ”dashes” through smaller cream stripes. Narrow ties of cream silk. Outer brim edge accented with frayed blue silk and off-white lace. Inner brim decorated with black lace on outermost edge, off-white tulle and lace and blue and cream cloth flowers, one with yellow center. Bonnet and bavolet lined with coarse net and wire.
Boater style hat, circa 1892-1898. Hat form of coarse mesh on wire, covered in strands of slightly twisted straw in wave-like pattern. Trimmed with three layers of silk ribbon with one large bow, top- sheer, tan. Middle and bow-plaid (dark blue, light blue, white, yellow, green, red). Bottom and bow-peach. Bow is wired, hat lined in white linen.
Dark grey silk bonnet, circa 1848-1850. Silk gathered on multiple reeds, with four rows of fine, black lace trim. Silk bavolet with two rows of black lace and a net lining, ties of grey silk a shade lighter. Interior wrapped wire supports run to back of the bonnet.