Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Those Crazy- Popular Red Hatters

When Red Hat Queen Eleanor Rollinson asked me to perform my Retrospective Millinery Fashion Show at her district branch convention, I was thrilled and a little intimidated. In a room full of 200 red-hat, purple dress-wearing women, would my various millinery museum pieces be noticed? Even Evelyn had her concerns; she asked me to cut my presentation time by half as she was concerned that her audience of red haters might become bored.

Bored? At a retrospective millinery fashion show? In my 19 years of presiding over Mobile Millinery Museum events, it’s never happened. I was confident of my ability to hold these hat-loving women in thrall as six of their companions modelled beautiful couture hats from each iconic fashion decade. These fun-loving red hatters did not let me down.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I love those crazy- popular Red Hatters:

1/ The Red Hat Society identifies itself as a “play group for women”; and true to their tagline, hanging with Red Hatters makes you feel like a girl again. Dressing up is iconic girls’ play, so why should we give it up when we’re grown. No one does dressing up better than these purple-dress-wearing women who top their outfits with the zaniest red confections possible.

2/ The Red Hat society is bringing hats back, albeit one colour at a time. Since the Red Hat society was founded in 1998, the group has done much to boost the manufacture and sale of red hats and have now designated pink hats for members under the age of 50.

3/ Nothing stands out like black in a sea of red and purple. As I travel to present the Mobile Millinery Museum’s signature Retrospective Millinery Fashion Shows, I try to wear a different hat on each occasion, and I am partial to black.

person woman model vintage
Photo by Pixabay on


4/ The red hatters can take a joke. I never tire of telling members that it wasn’t always easy to find a red hat; in fact, it was rumoured in Victorian times that a woman in a red hat might not be wearing any knickers. And sometimes, our Red hatter models raise their skirts to prove the red hat/no knickers rumour wrong.

5/ You have to love the irony. Though not licenced to the Red Hat Society, the poem “Warning” (an ode to non-conformity) by Jenny Joseph was the inspiration for thousands of women worldwide to dress alike in red hats and purple dresses.


Did you Spot the Royal Wedding “Vintagey” Hat?


A CNN reporter interviewing Vogue Magazine’s Style Editor this week remarked on Oprah’s Royal Wedding hat, describing it as “vintagey”. What a great word! It is high time that the word vintage, as it applies to “fashion”, was redefined. Perhaps in the interim, “vintagey” will do.

Sort of like vintage, but more important in its own way. I contend that the word ‘vintage’ has lost its caché. With so many vintage stores and thrift shops selling unremarkable pieces that have nothing to qualify them but their age, it’s time to take a new look at the concept of vintage, hence:

VINTAGEY  (Blue Apple dictionary definition)


  • Being or appearing to be an iconic or high-quality costume artefact distinct to a previous season or era.
  • A costume artefact produced in a particularly distinctive fashion season.
  • A costume artefact crafted to resemble that of an iconic era.
    1. “It has the vintagey feel of the 1940s”

Oprah’s “vintage” hat, which caused a stir at the

Oprah hat choice for the Royal Wedding. Source:

Royal Wedding, was identified as a 2005 Philip Treacy. That’s not so long ago; and strictly speaking, the topper might be more correctly referred to as “retro”.  According to (Sept. 8, 2016):

“Retro clothes don’t refer to a specific time period during which they were created. Instead, ‘retro’ relates to the style in which the items are made. Clothing which has been made recently with the intention of imitating the fashion of the past is considered retro.”

By this definition, there were a number of retro pieces worn at the royal Wedding:  Doria Ragland’s beret (a classic style reproduced in different fashion decades with subtle variations), Gina Torres’ fedora (a 1930 & 50s women’s favourite originally designed for men), and Silver Tree’s reproduction lampshade (the much maligned ’60s hat designed to offset beehive hairstyles).

gina torres
Gina Torres’ fedora. Source: Ian West/AFP

So, what makes Oprah’s high crowned Philip Treacy “vintagey”? If you were thinking that Oprah dug into her closet for a hat she has had around since 2005, you would be mistaken. Rather, Oprah’s high, sloping-crowned straw hat was a flattering selection, particularly suited to her silhouette, and iconic of 2005 Philip Treacy styling. Indeed, her hat was created by internationally renowned milliner Philip Treacy.

A distinction can be made between costume and millinery when it comes to dating style. Throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, period fashion silhouettes and style details for women’s costume generally prevailed for a decade before major shifts in hem length, waist elevation, and workmanship was altered.  Millinery, on the other hand, which is highly reliant on trims or the lack of them, can show significant season by season alterations. An argument can be made, therefore, that the dating of vintage millinery can be accelerated, and perhaps referred to as vintagey.

For a decade by decade look at bridal fashion, shoe styles, and millinery see Accessorizing the Bride: Vintage Wedding Finery Through the Decades, In Step with Fashion: 200 Years of Shoe Styles, and 1,000 Hats, respectively.

1950s Swimsuits, a Feature of our Frantic Fashion From the 1950s Travelling Exhibit


Swimsuit styles of the 1950s are worth taking a second look. We’ve pulled them out of the archives in readyness for our travelling exhibit of iconic 1950s fashion. Here’s what makes them so interesting:

At a time when suburbia was in its infancy and backyard pools promised a luxury lifestyle, swimsuits were not only structured with hidden corsetry, but were fully accessorized with straw hats, beach bags, rubber bathing caps, bold sunglasses, cabana jackets, and sarong cover-ups.

During the 1950s, swimsuit designers ensured that fit was key, and flattering styles could be found to enhance every figure. How could they not? Bathing suits rivaled evening gowns and sundresses with their glamorous styling and meticulous dressmaking details. Designers like Tina Leser, Orry Kelly, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Mary Ann DeWeese, and Netty Rosentein achieved hourglass silhouettes through the use of boning, inner corsetry, padded bra cups, elasticzed tummy panels, and careful seaming.

In addition, dressmaking details were used to draw the eye away from figure flaws and toward figure features with techniques such as bustline embellishments and petal skirts.

Buttons and bows, rikrak and ruching, smocking and tucking added impact to all suit designs whether they be the one-piece maillot style, the two-piece bathing suit or the bikini. In 1952, for example, swimsuit bodices boasted pompon fringe and wing-dings — contrast fabric bustline flaps which would be tilted up to minimize a large bust or slanted down to enhance a small one. These flaps mimicked the tailfins which characterized the cars of that era.

While brightly-colored plaids, polka dots, and prints were popular for cotton bathing suits, glittery metallics like gold and silver lame also made the scene. Swimsuits of the 1950s are especially popular with vintage fashion collectors and are easily identified by their sturdy fabrication, inner corset-like construction, and modest bikini-line coverage. Most were cut in a straight line at the bikini line, shortening the leg but emphasizing an hour-glass silhouette. Removeable straps and/or halter necklines, which could be untied, aided sunbathing.

Swimsuit advertising posters of the 1950s — which are also highly collectible — embody the spirit of the times and exemplify both the male and female silhouette, iconic of that fashion period. Magazine ads and cardboard posters promoting high fashion swimsuits by Janzen, Gantner, Cole, and Hollywood present an idealized image of the 1950s lifestyle. Brylcreemed male models in boxer-style lycra swim trunks worn high to cover the navel, lounge poolside, while sleekly coiffed pin-up girls in red lipstick and dark eyebrow pencil strike alluring poses in their highly structured pool and beachwear.

The 1950s was an age of television beauty contests. Swimsuit competitions which highlighted these events, did much to further the popularity of the high fashion swimsuit and were the genesis for specialized swimsuit glamour photography.

One advertising newsreel ca. 1952 featured suits by Cole and Hollywood touted “ Heavenly bodies” bathing suits in the new gold lastex, 2 piece skirted petal suits and mother-and- daughter matched suits. A Janzen’s tagline boasted the “most beautiful, beautifying swim suits in the world.

Collectors looking for authentic 1950s swimwear should look for petal suits, and skirted bikinis, with features like halter neckline, strapless or removeable strap maillots, elasticized fabric, ruched tummy panels, pointy bra cups, metal zippers, elastic gussets and belts.

There is still time to book our Frantic Fashion from the 1950s vintage costume exhibit for your location.

Titanic era Dresses Headed to Mississauga

In between studying for two psychology exams this week, I’ll be pulling some pieces from archives and packing them for a presentation of #EdwardianFashion. The Mobile Millinery Museum & Costume archive will be returning to Parkland on the Glen Retirement Residence April 14th our ‘Unsinkable Fashion from the Titanic era’ show, An exhibit of authentic Titanic era fashion, much of it as ethereal as the fog that surrounded the fated ship itself.  

These are the days that give me joy, so, I’ll be putting on my white gloves and thinking of our foremothers in their elegant silks and wide brimmed hats. I know it wasn’t all lace and tea cakes, (there was suffrage, and war, and tragedy), but we’ll be looking at beauty on the weekend and marvelling at the talent of those who created it. Parkland on the glen.jpg What treasures have been handed down in your family?