HRH ELIZABETH II

HRH ELIZABETH II

The British still have some respect for millinery. (Go out and ask a few young people what “millinery” is.) We know on the authority of Eliza Doolittle that a woman’s headgear was once valued as highly as human life. At least it seemed that way to Eliza as she reflected on the disappearance of a new straw hat that she had expected to inherit after the death of her aunt. What became of the hat? “Somebody pinched it,” was Eliza’s theory, “and what I say is: them as pinched it done ‘er in.”
Eliza made that observation at the Royal Ascot, so this is sort of an anniversary since the 2009 version of Ascot was run this week. It was an occasion, as always, for hats. The British monarch showed off a couple of new toppers during the week, although we’re kind of used to seeing her in hats, so she probably didn’t turn any heads the way Eliza did. Well, maybe the hat wasn’t the only reason for that if Eliza actually looked anything like Audrey Hepburn.
AUDREY HEPBURN

AUDREY HEPBURN

Actually, the hats Queen Elizabeth wore to Ascot this year were fairly sedate compared to the gear some women trot out. I can recall my mother wearing hats like the one Her Majesty has in the photo above – although I’m sure the milliner in Paterson didn’t use quite the same materials or charge quite the same fee. One rarely sees a hat like that any more, except on American Movie Classics, and I often wonder what became of the folks who used to make them. I don’t know when they started disappearing from the scene, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their demise was helped along when the Catholic Church abrogated the requirement that women in the Latin Rite have their heads covered when they were in church. That was the rule from 1917 to 1983.
One place to see this year’s Ascot hats is: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TRAVEL/06/19/royal.ascot/