Sunday, April 5, 2015

"In your Easter bonnet,

with all the frills upon it, 
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade."
              ~Irving Berlin
Easter Parade is a 1948 musical film starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire with Irving Berlin's music.   It was the most successful picture for the actors and well as the highest grossing musical that year with a profit of $5,803,000. (Compare that to the newest film out- Fast and Furious 7-which did $15.8 million opening weekend!)
Anyway, what started me on the hat search was this stack of hat boxes that I picked up at the flea market.
So many times the hat boxes are from department stores that are history...like Wanamaker's, the first department store in Philadelphia from 1877 until 1995...and Peck & Peck, a women's shop on Fifth Avenue in New York City from 1888 until 1970.
I tried to find the creator of the hat box, and I only found Charles Denton Able applied for a patent on a box in 1866 to carry a hat or bonnet with access to open by a separate cover.
Millinery has existed in Britain since 1700.  In English courts the term milliner was used, and this was derived from the term for travelling haberdashers from Milan in Italy.  These travelling sales people sold all the items necessary to dress and were called millaners.
In France hats were made by hatmakers called chapeliers.  Today the term modiste is used in France.  Today technically a hatmaker makes hats for men while a milliner makes hats for women. So, how did the Easter bonnet become popular?

New Easter outfits have been around since the 16th and 17th centuries in Great Britain.  In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio talks about "a new Doublet before Easter, " and in the famous Samuel Pepys Diary, we read, "Having my old black suit new furbished, I was pretty neat in clothes to-day, and my boy, has his old suit new trimmed, very handsome, 30 March(Easter Day) 1662.

An 18th century almanac writer, "Poor Robin" offered:
                           "At Easter let your clothes be new
                            Or else be sure you will it rue."

New York City still keeps the tradition of the song..."on the Avenue, 5th Avenue" as they close the Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets from 10 AM until 4 PM so that the informal parade can go on.

Awake, thou wintry earth
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, "An Easter Hymn"


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