Monday, October 31, 2011

My Life in Hats

While looking over some old photos yesterday I realized that, among other things, I had inherited my Mother’s love of hats. Normally I avoid posting pictures of myself on my Blog; however, I have decided to throw caution to the winds just this once and share with you a few of my favorite hats.

Here I am with my Dad in my favorite Easter hat. The entire outfit, including chapeau, was made by my Mother.

She may have made her career as an opera singer, but I never saw her happier than when she had a needle and thread in her hands. Sadly, I did not inherit her sewing skills.

Incidentally, this is the biggest smile you will ever get out of a Frenchman of my Father’s generation. Can you even imagine a big toothy grin on the face of Charles De Gaulle? Impensable !!

I, on the other hand, clearly had no trouble giving a big, gap-toothed grin on command.

A few years after that photo was taken I had my one and only brush with fame.

Princess Grace of Monaco was to visit her hometown of Philadelphia and a big celebration was planned in her honor.

She would be welcomed by children of every nation wearing their native costumes. I was chosen to represent France and present a bouquet of roses to Her Serene Highness.

My picture appeared in the paper (I’m on the right) wearing the traditional headdress of the Alsacian woman. The huge black bow, courtesy of my Aunt in Alsace, was made of heavy satin with wires inserted to keep its shape. Wide ribbons ran down the back to my waist. The whole thing weighed a ton and needed an alarming number of bobby pins to stay on my little head.

When the big day finally arrived, we waited for what seemed like hours on a platform in the middle of Convention Hall. Their Serene Highnesses were running very late.

Suddenly the band began to play “True Love,” Grace’s theme song from her movie “High Society.” I turned to see this gorgeous woman float onto the platform. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Believe me when I say that no picture, moving or still, can ever do her justice. I barely took notice of the short man at her side, Prince Rainier.

The Mayor gave a welcoming speech, Princess Grace said a few words, the band struck up her theme once again and before I could even get the words “Votre Sérénissime Altesse” out of my mouth, off she went in a rustle of perfumed silk. In the interest of time, they had cut my part. I was devastated. I came so close…

Fast forward about 10 years to my summer of Gidget and Moondoggie.

My Moondoggie looked nothing like James Darren. He was a lifeguard on the beach at Atlantic City and he looked just like Brian Wilson of the Beachboys.

I had such a mad crush on him. This was his black fedora. He would wear it to shade his eyes while scanning the horizon. God he was hot!!

I got over the crush by fall, but I never got over my love for black fedoras.

Some loves are well worth hanging on to.

The blushing bride on her wedding day. Of course, there was no question as to who would make my wedding ensemble. It may have been my design but it was entirely my Mother’s creation. As soon as the lace arrived from Alençon courtesy of my Aunt in Normandy, my Mother set to work. Through the heat of a stifling summer, day after day in a small sewing room at the top of the stairs my Mother handsewed each bead and seed pearl into place on my beautiful Juliet cap. And somehow she even managed to find the time to whip up her own dress for the occasion.

And, of course, every woman wants to be Queen for a day.

This was the day I found the Fève in my piece of the galette des rois. In France, Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, is celebrated every January 6th with the entire family.

The traditional cake at the end of the meal contains a small charm or Fève and the person finding it in his or her piece of cake is the King or Queen for the day.

Note that this comes at the end of a meal of many courses accompanied by many wines, hence the slightly jaunty (some might say crooked) angle of Her Majesty’s Crown.

And while we’re on the subject of royalty, I think I may have been having a bit of a Queen Mum moment with this hat.

This is the sort of style she always wore -- brim swept back with a flourish of feathers, fur, ribbons or lace on the right side.

The only thing missing is that wonderful royal wave of the hand and a handsome young footman in a black fedora to bring me my G&T.

Yes, I think I could definitely get used to that.

Well, folks, looks like we’ve come to the end of our tale and our trail.

And after a long hard day of rustlin’, ropin’, ridin’ and reminiscin’ there’s nothin’ like headin’ to the ol’ bunkhouse for some hearty victuals and a few swigs of Ol’ Red Eye, as in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Aaaah. There, that’s better.

Gosh, I hope I had a really good reason for wearing this hat??!!


  1. Love this article! You are stunning Marie-Therese! My favorite is the black fedora...

  2. M-T, you should post pictures of yourself more are truly lovely!

    Seeing your little dressed-up girl pic reminded me of Easter Sundays when I was little. It was the only time we really wore hats and little gloves. I loved it! I also had to have a perfectly starched "can-can" slip, so my dress would stick out as far as possible!

    Cindy @Notes in the Key of Life

  3. Amy, you are so sweet. I'm with you on the black fedora. There's nothing like it. I was sooooo young, perhaps 17/18, when that picture was taken. You can see how faded it is.

  4. I loved your comment about the gloves (I still have several pair of beautiful white gloves in their original plastic sheaths) and your starched "can-can" slip. How delightful! I remember those. They reminded me of a big crinoline tu-tu.

  5. This is just terrific! I too am a lover of hats, but never feel I can find just the right occasion to wear one. Perhaps I should work on that...

    Meanwhile, I really enjoyed this. The pictures just speak for themselves. Fortunately, your voice is behind them. :)

  6. Thank you so much, MDB, for your kind comments. I do believe a woman need only find the right hat and the occasion will follow.

    Next time you are invited to a wedding, wear a great hat or some flowers in your hair. You will be the center of attention. No one will even notice that woman over there in the white dress. Trust me!

  7. I am a Grace Kelly fan and collector. Your reminiscence of your near-meeting with the Princess was so charming. May I have your permission to reblog what you wrote about her on my TUMBLR blog? Thanks☺

  8. Dear OneEighthWhiteBodewadmi, I would be delighted for you to reblog my piece on your TUMBLR blog. I love when my "bons mots" are shared among friends.

    Don't forget to send me a link.

  9. I so enjoyed this post. Thank you for mentioning it on my blog today. I am sorry you never got to talk to Princess Grace, but you have at least seen her up close and she made quite the impression on the little girl you were. Loved seeing pictures of you over the years, your parents, and the hats of course! With or without a "couvre-chef" you are one pretty girl, M.T.! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  10. Very dear M-T,
    Thanks a lot for sharing these moving and personal memories. Princess Grace was divine and I like the way you describe her leaving in a "rustle of perfumed silk". Very poetic :-) It also reminded me of my Mom who would leave a perfume trail when she would kiss me at bedtime. Memories, memories... Whatever your hat is, you look fabulous and your "Juliette" cap is just stunning ! Was your beloved Romeo dressed accordingly like a Renaissance Prince???
    As I said on my blog answering to your kind comment, you and I should start a hat blog ! I love love hats too. Are you on Pinterest? Lots of gorgeous hat pics on Pinterest.
    Thanks for this lovely post.
    A très bientôt,

  11. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    Just happened to stumble upon this one. Very well written and most impressive that you were chosen to welcome Princess Grace of Monaco. Also chapeau for the work you dear Mom did on the Alençon Juliet cap; what a piece of art and also your wedding gown itself. We also say 'tante' in Dutch as we have so many French words into our language from the French period. Especially my Province of Limburg is so very Burgundian and like French culture.
    Funny is that just a couple of days ago I did a post about my hat... Telepathy or is it the French Connection? You might want to check it:
    Hugs to you,

  12. Just happen to click on this one and noticed that I gave you the link for networked blogs which I have discontinued. So here is the correct one:

  13. It's hard to find knowledgeable people on this subject, however, you seem like you
    know what you're talking about! Thanks


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