One class hat
Mrs. Rebecca Romeis
Strolling through Capitol Park, one suddenly notices a woman in a leopard hat—she’s not just walking, but gliding with confidence, poise and class. Who is this woman? It’s Mrs. Rebecca Romeis, “the hat lady,” who preaches why hats can make a bad hair day into a good one, and how hats resemble a time when good posture and girlie teas were a part of everyday life. Even though hats have come and gone in fashion, they have always been a part of history. Slaves would wear “liberty caps” to signify they had been freed, then, in the 14th and 15th centuries hats started to indicate class rank for men. Materials such as silk, velvet, taffeta, and leather were favored by the well-to-do. By the 18th century, men’s hats began to make a symbolic statement, with the tall stiff formal hat worn by the aristocrats, and the soft felt hats worn by the masses. Hats for women really boomed in the 1930s and continued until the 1940s, but by the 1950s, dress and attire became more relaxed as more women worked during the war. Romeis, who was born in the early 1930s, has seen hat fashions come and go, but for her, hats will never be out of style.
When was the first time you noticed hats?
Well, as a little girl, I would admire my mother as she got ready for church and social events. I knew that when she put on her gloves and her hat, she was going to an important event. As a little girl, I wanted to be just like her—and that meant wearing a hat.
Do you remember the first time you wore a hat?
Yes, I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was 4 years old and it was Easter Sunday, and I can remember caring more about wearing my hat to church than receiving an Easter basket. All I could think about was how I would get to be a lady and proudly walk around in church in my new hat—I felt very grown-up.
Did you wear them on a date?
Absolutely not. Hats were only to be worn during the morning or the afternoon. It was not appropriate to wear them, socially, in the late hours of the afternoon and into the evening.
Did movie stars influence the hat craze in the 1930s and 1940s?
Yes. Many young girls and women wanted to be like Bette Davis, to glide on stage in a hat as she did. To be like Bette Davis and Loretta Young meant to be something out of the ordinary, to be someone with class and elegance. Movie stars played a huge role in the booming craze of hats, because those stars influenced the rest of the world as to what it meant to have style and glamour.
When did you notice hats going out of style?
After WWII I noticed a big difference in everything—women seemed to be more relaxed in their style of dress. Music, dance and clothing all went together, and it seemed, during the ‘60s and the decades to follow, fashion, along with moral values, became looser. It makes me sad to see young girls with poor posture and lack of poise, due to the past four decades of parents not putting enough emphasis on the importance of acting like a lady. To eat sitting straight up, to sit with girls’ legs crossed, and to offer a hand to an old lady who needs the door opened for her. I am not saying that wearing a hat makes for a perfectly mannered young lady, but what I am saying is that when hats were considered a proper item to wear to a social event, women and young girls wore them, complete with manners and sophistication.
How do you think fashion will treat hats in the future?
That’s easy. Let’s see, who is the trendsetter nowadays? Perhaps Madonna will run the catwalk in a fake leopard fur hat. All of a sudden, every young girl and fashionable woman will head down to the mall and buy one. However, the trend will probably last six months. It seems that things go in and out of style so fast, that it really pays to save all of your good and expensive items, including hats. But truthfully, it doesn’t matter what the future holds, because wearing a hat used to mean so much more, and now, sadly, there doesn’t seem to be the appreciation that goes along with wearing one.
What do you mean when you say more goes along with wearing a hat?
It just used to mean it was special, and that a young lady or a woman was going to put on a hat and attend a social event—you just felt special wearing one, and now, I just don’t think the younger generations understand that.
If you have a bad hair day, can a hat be the answer?
Yes. You never know when you wake up, and your hair looks like it wants to try out for an Albert Einstein part in a play—well, needless to say, you can hide that electrifying mess in a soft stylish hat. Poof, the bad hair is gone, and no one knows what lies beneath it, but you.
How many hats to you have?
That’s for me to know, and for no one else to find out. Let’s just say I have enough to keep up with the best of the hat ladies.
Will hats always be in good taste?
To me, hats represent a past time. A time when wearing a hat for the first time was a significant event, and today, it’s a sad thing to see that appreciation for becoming a lady seems to no longer exist. So, when you ask me, "If hats will be in good taste," I can only answer "yes," providing those who wear them, wear them with class and dignity. Only then, will they be worn in good taste.