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Lessons from Bea Danville: Do's and don'ts of buying a hat

Copyright 1956 by Wilfred Funk, Inc. 

[When I was a teenager, my fabulous mother gifted me with this genius vintage book: Dress Well on $1 a Day by Bea Danville. I can't believe I left it behind when I moved, but my mother graciously sent it along to me so that I could remind myself of this wisdom. And now, I share this wisdom with all of you.

This is part 2 of a chapter I started writing about here: hats = life. LIIIIFE! If you will recall, in that chapter, Bea discussed how a good hat can improve any outfit. In this chapter, she helps explain how to purchase a good hat.

Take it away, B-Dizzle!

It is all the more irrirating, therefore, to find how expensive may be the many pitfalls that lie ahead of you when you go to buy a hat. How many times have you gone into a store, tried on hat after hat while your hair got wilder and wilder and eventually emerged with something that provoked mirth, instead of admiration, from your family?

[Answer: COUNTLESS TIMES! Oh, the mirth of my family at my wild hair and unappropriate hat!]

(Princess Beatrice knows what that's like, too.)

There are several reasons for this. In the first place, the style may be basically in bad taste, and this is all too easy in a hat. It may be trimmed with flowers that are too garish and which seemto grow out of, rather than be part of, the crown or the brim. It may be a colour which highlights all the worst aspects of your complexion; and last, but by no means least, it may be entirely the wrong shape for you.

No wonder, with all these factors to take into consideration, that you occasionally trip up and find yourself wondering what to do with an impossibly bad investment.

[Then she talks about hat manufacturing for about 50 pages... and then...]

The moral of this is that the trimming on a hat must look good. Therefore, if you are buying a cheap hat, and there is no reason why you shouldn't, be quite sure that the trimming is simple and in good taste. Keep away from roses and other complicated decorations which cannot be anything but expensive if they are to be well-made.

Note: this is an example of rose hat decoration done properly.
It was in Vogue magazine in 1954, y'all, so you know it cost more than $1 A Day.

Bea Danville Says Don't:

- Buy a hat on the spur of the moment. If you are tempted to do this, it is probably because you are either feeling depressed or because you are over-excited. In either case, your judgment will be affected and you are likely to emerge with an unsuitable creation of doubtful taste. [This seems like good advice for any kind of shopping, really. Shop from grocery lists, you guys!]

- If you don't see something you like in the first six hats you try on, leave well alone. You will be too
tired mentally to make the right choice after considering this number.

- Don't have your hair re-styled immediately after choosing the perfect model for you. It is quite likely suddenly to look all wrong, and the new hair style will be to blame.

Frugal Icon Duchess Catherine is the ultimate example of good hat wearing.
She was voted Hat Person of the Year by The Headware Association, so you know it's true.

Bea Danville Says Do:

- Decide what colour will go with everything in your wardrobe, or, at any rate, nearly everything. And don't be swayed from your decision when you get into the hands of the salesgirl.

- If you can, wear the clothes for which the new hat is primarily intended. If you can't, consult carefully with the salesgirl, and try to visualize the outfit underneath the hat as you try the latter on.

- Hats are temperamental things. They can cause you to give the wrong impression just as easily as they can help you set the right one. If it is for every-day wear, look for something gay but not garish, which will stand up to a certain amount of buffeting from the elements.

On the other hand, if it is to make you the princess of the Easter parade and to carry you on through festive occasions during the summer, don't think in terms of quiet retirement. Sometimes hats can, and should be, fun. We don't suggest splurging on this tight budget, but this is one of the occasions when you can break loose if you feel like it.

Judy Garland demonstrates proper hat-wearing for the Princess of the Easter Parade
(in the movie, Easter Parade, which is terrible, for the record)
(and that's me saying that, and I luuurve old musicals. Go for 7 Brides for 7 Brothers if you're feeling like an old film, or Wizard of Oz if you want a Judy Garland fix.)

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