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She Loved Hats
Painting - Digital Oils
Copyright 2011 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved
Aside from her temporary mania for tatting lace, Auntie Rose had one other quirky penchant - I suppose it could almost be considered an obsession - collecting, and wearing, hats. Formal, large-brimmed hats spectacularly adorned with feathers, flowers and beads, toques, berets, straw hats, cloches, Merry Widows, turbans - the moment a new millinery design was introduced, Auntie was off on one of her shopping sprees, spending lavishly on the latest styles whether they suited her tiny frame or not.
Papa was constantly amazed and amused whenever Auntie returned from one of her trips to New York, having bought so many new chapeaux that her driver would stagger behind her into the house, burdened like a Mexican burro, dancing about while balancing a mountain of elaborately beribboned hat-boxes, trying to get everything safely inside without dropping and potentially crushing any of her latest acquisitions.
'Rosie,' Papa would bellow in mock dismay, 'I am going to be obliged to erect a new outbuilding for all these hats. Wherever will you put them?'
Auntie would make a demure moue and tinkle merrily, 'Oh brother dear, never fear. I shall paw through my collection and give some away to the church collection boxes for the poor in deepest darkest Africa.'
At this Papa would manage a mighty snort and give forth on the ridiculousness of an African tribeswoman out gathering fruits and grains in a veiled tea hat, while the rest of us, Auntie included, burst into unrestrained laughter at the pantomimes Papa conjured. He would fold himself into a bent posture, pretending to have a bag slung around his body, and mimic a woman trying to grasp a particularly ripe fruit with one hand while attempting to keep a large and unsuitable hat on her head. Or he would pretend to be stirring a cook-pot over the hearth, periodically stopping to retrieve an imaginary hat that had fallen into the food. With each extraction he would mince across the room toward a window and vigorously shake the hand holding the invisible hat, as if attempting to remove whatever sticky concoction had adhered as a result of its most recent dunking. The days on which Auntie returned from a hat-buying bacchanalia were some of the most fun for Teddy and me - indeed, for all of us.
Auntie never did give away any of her hats, however; it would have been sacrilege to orphan any of her beloved headgear, even when styles shifted and made obsolete one-third of her collection. Instead, Auntie used the no longer fashionable pieces as decorations throughout her rooms, changing her displays according to the season. Although many in our town doubtless thought Auntie Rose an eccentric, we knew that she really was a treasure, blessed with an unfettered imagination and boundless humor.
~ From 'The diary of Ellen Fall (1889-1965)', copyright 2011 RC deWInter
This is a lovely tableaux of vintage fashion on display in one of the bedrooms in the Barnes Museum, a completely preserved house full of original furniture and artifacts in Southington, Connecticut.
January 27th, 2011
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