HEADWEAR Women will clutch at straws on windy days this summer
Hats with attitude can transform your personal look.
Just as nothing tops a hot fudge sundae like a sweet red cherry, nothing adds the crowning touch to a woman's outfit like a stylish hat.
Headwear is a hot accessory for spring and summer, with styles ranging from logo visors, print newsboys and bucket hats in Skittles colors to sophisticated cloches and wide-brimmed straw hats embellished with flowers, ribbons and beadwork.
The straw hat is showing strongest, according to the New York City-based Headwear Information Bureau. Straw is lightweight, breathes well, looks good in any color and takes naturally to adornments and embellishments.
Ellen Levick, an artist, jewelry designer and owner of Allure in Bloomfield, Pa., was so inspired by the ladylike trends in fashion that she customized straw hats with flowers to complement the clothes in her women's boutique.
Janis Burley Wilson of Churchill, Pa., a milliner since 1995, decided to adorn some of her straw cloches, fedoras and wide-brimmed hats with vintage floral velvet ribbon and dramatic bouquets of feathers for spring and summer.
"I am also mixing a lot of textures, like straw and velvet or leather and organza," she said. "I collect vintage hats, and milliners were much more creative in the '20s, '30s and '40s. It was very acceptable to trim a straw hat with heavy velvet ribbon. I have tried to adopt that way of creating -- no rules."
Vintage classics updated
Pale tints and feminine trims predominate, with the cloche and other vintage classics being reinterpreted with an updated twist.
"Milliners are in love with the retro mood pervading all aspects of fashion," said Casey Bush, executive director of the Headwear Information Bureau. "The soft muted colors and delicate trims are right in tune with the feminine clothes of spring."
Wilson said her designs were inspired "by those eras when women were very precise in the way they dressed. These aren't hats that you wear if you don't care about the way you look. I am working with a lot of cloche styles, which work perfectly with the 1920s-style dresses that we are seeing a lot of on the runway."
If some of her wide-brimmed hats remind you of something you saw in an old photograph taken at the racetracks or on holiday, that is intentional.
"The brims are wide, but not overpowering, and frame the face in a very attractive way," said Wilson.
Shop owner Linda Bucci recently began carrying Wilson's hats because they are feminine, colorful and versatile and have "attitude." She said Wilson also has created gorgeous custom hats to complement customers' outfits.
"I wanted something a woman could wear during the day and also something she might want to wear for a more special occasion," said Bucci. "Women are comfortable wearing hats to church again, to bar mitzvahs, to weddings."
More brides, particularly older and repeat brides, are choosing hats over veils and tiaras. And more women are experimenting with hats from casual looks such as jeans and capris to power suits and elegant gowns.
More than just a fashion statement, hats can be useful for hiding bad-hair days and protecting eyes and skin from the sun's damaging rays.
The current popularity of hats may not signal a return to the days when women wore them almost every day. But it is a sign that more women are finding them to be fun, interesting and attention-grabbing accessories.
"The hat completely changes the outfit," said Wilson. "If the wearer feels confident and beautiful, there is nothing more attractive than a woman in a spectacular chapeau! She walks differently, talks differently and she knows she is being watched and admired."