Sunday, 12 February 2017

Childhood hats

I had forgotten what a big part hats played in our New Zealand childhood until my sister suggested I write about them.  Now that I have looked at the old photos, I am wondering whether we wore hats a lot because of the climate or simply because everyone wore them.  My sister also reminded me that our mother used to make them - those dressmaking skills again.

Toddlers wore bonnets which now strike me as something out of Jane Austen, but the New Zealand sun can be ferocious and this is probably the reason for protecting children.

When we were a bit older we graduated to 'proper' straw hats although I remember that they always had elastic that you put under your chin.  This was probably partly because of the New Zealand wind which is particularly strong in Wellington.  Look at this photo of a picnic in 1950.  Obviously it is quite windy because the brims are moving like an umbrella turning inside out.  I guess the elastic stopped them blowing into the sea!

We also always wore hats to church.  This practice continued until about 1960 by which time I was a teenager and hated the whole idea.  As small children we had white panama hats that my mother decorated with artificial flowers: poppies, daisies and cornflowers around the brim is what I remember.  And bear in mind that we never saw any of these flowers except in gardens as they were not part of the New Zealand vegetation.

In winter we had berets.  I remember my mother making these.  She would take a piece of thick fabric (usually corduroy) and make a circular template of newspaper by drawing around a plate.  This was for the top of the beret.  I think she then made a second circle but with a hole cut in the middle of it.  Presumably this was a template from a smaller plate.  She must then have bound the edge with a bias strip.

I do remember knowing about Kangol berets early on though, so maybe some of them were not home-made!

Hats became distinctly unfashionable around 1960 but we always wore hats to school and you were given an 'order mark' by the prefect on gate duty if you did not wear one as you left the grounds.  In summer we had cream panama hats with a blue and green hat band.  At Easter our mothers had to take the hat band off this hat and attach it to the green felt hats we wore with winter uniform.  The reverse happened in October when we started wearing summer uniform again.  We also had green berets as neither the panamas nor the winter felt hats could cope with rain.

Hats were also obligatory on formal occasions so here are two photos of family weddings.

The first one was in 1957 when I was 12 and my sister 10.  Our younger sister was a bridesmaid so does not appear in  this photo but do note that our grandfather even had a top hat!

This one was at a wedding in 1967, the year I left home.  I notice my younger sister is not wearing a hat but she is wearing gingham!

I think the family practice of wearing hats must have  had a strong influence on my later fashion choices as when I got married in 1972 I spurned the idea of a veil and bought an expensive straw hat from Libertys.

And now hats for children have come back in the southern hemisphere, I think because people are so much more aware of the dangers of UV light because of global warming.

No comments:

Post a Comment