I am not much of a one for handicrafts – I am more at home with words than materials – but every so often my life has called for an unusual hat, and I have thoroughly enjoyed creating something for the occasion.
The first of these was in 1969 when I was playing the part of an elderly lady (which I now am) for the local amateur dramatics group. I was Miss Bourne, a teetotal spinster with a parrot, in a play set in the 1920s called The Ghost Train. I bought a plain black toque from a charity shop and added lots of net, a pheasant feather, and all the artificial trimmings I could buy at Woolworth's. They had no fruit so it had to be radishes! I think you will agree that the effect is pretty sensational! The narcissus was not fixed, and the cheeky young man character used to lift it out when I wasn’t paying attention and stick it in his buttonhole - a nice piece of business which he and I invented.
This was dressed for a Victorian music hall, a form of entertainment which seems to feature largely in my life. I bought the boater in Luton, Bedfordshire, where they are made, and again added net, and a very pretty feather hat trimming already made up, which I had inherited. I had a purple skirt which exactly matched the purple feather, and a genuine old lace blouse.
A holiday in a Butlin's hotel in Brighton found me needing another music hall hat for Fancy Dress Night I had some appropriate clothes, fortunately, but no hat. So in the hotel shop I bought a cheap straw and lots of crepe paper, and with a packet of pins fixed it up with rosettes and ribbons. I remember I won second prize and got a cuddle from the Redcoat!
Now this was far more serious. After my heart surgery in 1993
I signed up for a 3-mile sponsored walk, organised jointly by the British Heart Foundation and the local footpaths association, which had just reopened the riverside right-of-way we walked along. This time I bought a glazed straw from a charity shop, and drew and cut out the emblems and the cards myself. Only two other people on the walk took up the hat challenge, so we all got a prize. Oh, and I also wore a sweatshirt with the legend : Middle-aged Mutant Ninja Mum!
And so to my last creation, for my son's wedding, which was a Mad Hatters' wedding with everyone wearing fancy creations, some of them highly inventive and comical. This was a real class hat in black velvet in the first place, worn once to the opening of an exhibition by Princess Anne. It already had the black flower on it. I found a lovely piece of real old lace, some ribbon, a blue artificial flower and a pink chiffon scarf, which all together matched my dress. I felt a million dollars wearing it and feel it deserves a second picture from a different angle.