Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hats and Crowns

I have a colleague who originates from the South who is sort of famous for wearing hats at General Assembly. I also have a lay friend from the sort-of-South who also wears hats every day at GA, and I don't mean a sun visor or baseball cap, I mean a HAT.

I think this is rather fabulous, and I am wondering if summer church-goers wear hats where any of you are, and if any preacher ladies wear them in the pulpit. Is this a trend in any of the churches? Would it be appropriate to preach in a hat? I should think that it would be, given Paul's sniffy little comment about women covering their heads in church. I imagine a suit and hat would serve as terrific summer preaching wear. I am guessing that a marvelous chapeau might even lift a mediocre sermon into the realm of the transcendent.

One of my favorite books is called Crowns and is a photographic study of African-American church ladies and their hats:
The women in the photos were also interviewed for the book and their words grace the pages opposite their photos. Any Fashionista for God should read every word of this book, for not only is it delightful and funny, it also provides a fabulous theology for why we should dress up when doing the Lord's work.

PeaceBang's grandmother Minnette was a rather famous and beloved milliner in the 1940's and 50's, so loving chapeaus is in her blood.

Remember in the acerbic and genius song, "The Ladies Who Lunch" from Stephen Sondheim's "Company" when the drunken Joanne sings, "Does anyone... still wear... a HAT?" Remember that?
Joanne, my poor gin-soaked friend, they do. They do, and they should.


Blogger Kim in KCK said...

When I lived and worked in the South (not a pastor then, still an engineer) I took to wearing hats with my suits. I received many positive comments from the men upon whom I called as a salesperson. I have gotten out of the habit being back in the stodgy Midwest. THere are a few women in my former church who always wore hats. I may have to consider wearing one in my new church, but I'm afraid that it would look odd with a clerical robe.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Fairfax said...

When I was growing up (in New England) there were always two women, only two women, rather, who wore hats every Sunday. And they always sat front and center so they could show off their hat-wearing selves to full advantage. I noticed the trend was to introduce a new hat at Easter, wear it through the spring and summer, then switch to something different in the fall, after Labor Day I suppose, so it would match their fall/winter shoes. I was back at the old church this Easter, so I can testify that they are currently still there, making this post somewhat relevant to your questions.

3:19 PM  
Blogger jledmiston said...

I take it we're not talking mitres here.

I don't think I could wear a hat in the pulpit because 1) it would fall of with all my moving around passionately proclaiming The Word and 2) because I look a lot like Dopey with a hat on my head.

But the right woman with the right hat . . . that might work.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Erin Elizabeth said...

The book "Crowns" has been turned into a musical- I saw it at the Guthrie in Minneapolis, and it was great. Hat have not been kind to me, and since I'm at the tail end of Gen X, very few people my age wear hats. At an art fair a few weeks ago, though, my mom and I ran across Diane Harty Millnery (dianeharty.com), where we found a dusty pink hat with navy trim that looked like it was made for me. So now I have to find a chuch to wear it to.

5:07 PM  
Blogger Aola said...

Miss Fannie's Hat

One of favorite books I ever bought for my daughter was Miss Fannie's Hat about a little church going granny and her outrageous hats.
I remember in my early childhood my GrandMother wearing hats, gloves, and always carrying a beautiful hankerchief.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Caroline Divine said...

LOVE hats. Wore a divine royal blue one with a broad brim to a wedding recently. A big hit -- it was a gay wedding and the boys loved it, but so did everybody else, and there was another woman in a blue hat, also broad-brimmed and perfect for a late spring wedding, and we had our picture taken together. None of this competition garbage, we were each thrilled that the other had such good taste. A little girl (age 5 or 6 I think) also wore a hat and we made sure to compliment her. Hurrah for the next generation. I decided to wear the same hat to the next two weddings of the spring, both straight weddings. Also a big hit.

Note: I was not officiating at any of these. I was wearing a dress (and, at the third wedding, GLOVES, ladies -- short ones; fishnet short ones!). I'm not in favor of hats in the pulpit, but that is a denominational thing, my church's clergy and other ministers wear liturgical garb and a big hat really doesn't work with an alb or cassock-and-surplice. And even bishops take off their miters during part of the service. Also, hats with broad brims are very flirtatious, and although I tend to be a flirt, I'm big on professional boundaries and flirtatiousness in the pulpit or overt sexualizing of the occasion is not cool in my book. (Oooh, I will bet this one starts a conversation.)

For those of you whose worship assemblies do not customarily require or prefer liturgical garb, what do you think? Hats in the pulpit (if you use a pulpit) or not? I think they might be distracting, except for a tasteful Buchari kippah. (See below.) If you are Jewish. Or maybe if you are not. Or if you are not Jewish and you feel that interreligious or intercultural appropriation is not the right thing to do, try a nice Jackie pillbox hat. Anyone old enough to remember THOSE? They do look fabulous. Bring them back!

In that general discreet but elegant shape, there are African American cultural equivalents, equally fabulous. For instance, kofi hats. (These are traditionally worn by men, but I am sure there is some gender-bending out there.) http://africaimports.com/hats.asp?CartId={34445538-76E0-4E2E-98D1-1F128C2AEVEREST5822}&url=

Again, beware inappropriate appropriation. There's another conversation thread. When headgear is explicitly culturally marked, is it not respectful to observe some boundaries? If you are African American, how do you feel when someone who is not Black shows up in a kente cloth or mudcloth kofi? If you are not African American and you wear one, have you thought about or discussed issues of fashion and cultural appropriation? Do they matter, and if so how? Do they matter more or less in worship situations or at a party or in general?

Same issue when you are just dying to wear in the pulpit one of the fabulous little Buchari kippot you will find here:

Which leads me to...

Check out the kippot of some of our Jewish sisters (and brothers) --- now *that* works in the pulpit (or, to be exact, the bimah). See http://www.israel-gifts-flowers.com/art-judaica/products.asp?category_id=33 (making sure to scroll down to the beautiful Buchari Kippah, click to enlarge.

See also a recent an entry in the (very good - read her regular biblical reflections and recent stories of wedding rituals) blog of the Velveteen Rabbi

For more Buchari (aka Bukhari, Bukhara) kippot, go directly to
http://www.zionjudaica.com/Buchari_Kippot-30.asp (You know you want to look at those again.)

And who knew? A kippah mannequin! http://www.headcoverings-by-devorah.com/TurquioseKontaShabbatShawlKippah2.jpg
Some of these are reminiscent of the lace headgear in the Catholic days of yore. http://www.headcoverings-by-devorah.com/BlackGoldBlackVeniseTrimmedBuchariKippah.jpg and http://www.headcoverings-by-devorah.com/WhiteVictorianBuchariStyleMantillaKippah9.jpg

Again, beware insensitive appropriation. If you are not Jewish, ask your Jewish colleague what she or he thinks of your wearing the darling Bukhari embroidered kippah.

LOVE the "Crowns" book. Thank you, Peacebang, for the reminder. Dignity, beauty, honor, pride, sass, reverence. Distant echoes of Africa. And fun!

Now -- tiaras in church, anyone?

Warm greetings from the land of muggy weather (only short hair does it in the summers here, though someone observed to me the other day that perhaps the muggy weather of the Southeast is at the origin of Big Hair) --

Caroline Divine

(I signed at the bottom of a post on June 23 but at the same time posted as "anonymous" -- took me a while to catch on to this Blogger thing.)

5:48 PM  
Blogger Sojourner said...

Although not on the topic of hats, I thought you might like to know that some of your beauty tips were read during the UU service that I attended this past Sunday. They had everybody giggling.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Faithful to the Zombie Jesus said...

It is my policy to offer a special hug to any lady who wears a hat to church, a completely respectful and appropriate hug, of course, and graciously withdrawn if declined,as my small part in encouraging the hat trend with positive reinforcement.

9:32 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

I wore a hat in the pulpit on Easter Sunday. I was one of the few in my church wearing a hat that day. My motivation was that the hat looked great with the white Jones New York suit that I wore in my wedding 12 years ago, and which I could finally wear again after a stint with Weight Watchers this year. I questioned a non-clergy friend as to whether it would be okay to wear a hat while preaching, and her response was "Well, when you have such a flexible theology already, who's to say what the rules of pulpit attire are?" I don't think anyone even commented on it, but that's my congregation--very little feedback about anything other than "Nice sermon..."

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Melanie in Jersey said...

I'm wondering about the identity of the UU woman minister referenced obliquely in the blog as the "colleague who originates from the South who is sort of famous for wearing hats at General Assembly." Could it be moi??

If so--and even if not--I would like to clarify for the record that I am actually famous for wearing hats almost everywhere, except in the pulpit. In fact, I did wear a nice navy felt with an upturned brim and plain grosgrain band to my appointment with the Ministerial Fellowship Committee--it went so well with the little navy and fuschia suit I was wearing!--but I took it off to preach and then donned it again for the interview. (A member of the MFC asked about that little maneuver, and I replied that I don't wear hats to preach, but I do for other important occasions, such as MFC interviews, which seemed to suffice. At any rate, I passed.)

My Southern heritage is specifically from New Orleans, a fact which many people know, and I still tear up when I recall how many strangers phoned my office in NJ after Hurricane Katrina, saying something like, "You don't know me, but you're the minister from New Orleans with the pretty hats at GA, and I just wanted to say how sorry I am and ask if you or your family needed anything."

My husband of 2 years is also a hat person (naturally!), and St. Louis was his first GA. I can't tell you how many times we were stopped in the convention center or on the street by UUs who wanted to compliment us on our style and our hats. (Downtown St. Louis has a very nice hat store, Levine's, which my spouse patronized while we were there, gaining a new white straw derby. He pronounced the store the second-best hat purveyor in the U.S., after Meyer the Hatter on St. Charles Ave. in New Orleans, of course.)

Since we drove to GA, we didn't need to worry about luggage limits, and between the two of us, we brought a total of 8 hats with us to GA, which was probably excessive, but we did actually wear them all at one point or other.

Thanks for the blog on ministerial stylings, and all I can say is, how come you didn't take my picture at GA??

Melanie in Jersey
(once dubbed by the late John DeWolfe-Hurt the "Creole Queen of New Orleans")

12:58 PM  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Miss Melly! I only saw you once at GA, and I didn't have my camera with me!

Yes, darhling, it's you!

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, that settles it -- only one person in all UU-dom calls me "Miss Melly" and so now I too am in the know as to the identity of the wonderful, eloquent, and somewhat acerbic PeaceBang! (I feel I am now part of an exclusive club, not something I get to feel very often.) I do so regret that lack of a camera, PB, as appearing in your blog (as a "Do" picture, I sincerely hope!) would be the height of ministerial sartorial achievement!

I'm with you, Girl, on those damn scraggly older-guy ponytails. I'll go insies with you on a nice pair of shears for next GA in Portland. I'll bat my eyelashes and dip the brim of my chapeau at the distinguished colleague while you come from behind and do the actual snipping. I think we could get a lot done for improving the image of the learned clergy.

One thing more -- in addition to the lack of aesthetics in GA footwear amongst our colleagues, there's the pedicure issue. (Excuse me, I mean lack of pedicure issue.) If one is going to sport shoes that bare the toes, dear colleagues, those toes should be worth looking at. Nuff said.

PB, keep on keepin' on with your bad self.

Melanie in Jersey

3:07 PM  

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