Easter Bonnets, Parades and the Fashionable Arrival of Spring

Spring has indeed arrived and the latest flowers which have sprung can be found on the Newnham campus in the Fashion Resource Centre window. A selection of over 40 hats is currently on display in the fourth floor hallway in D building, in celebration of Easter Bonnets.

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The history of Easter finery in particular has been attributed to the celebration of re-birth and new life with a new addition to one’s wardrobe. Circlets of flowers were also worn in young women’s hair to herald the arrival of spring. What better way to recognize the change from winter to spring than with flowers blossoming?

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Spring hats or Easter Bonnets provide the perfect base for a floral celebration. And, when women add a new chapeau to their wardrobe they definitely want to show it off to admiring audiences.


Image from T2Conline

The Easter Parade up and down Fifth Avenue in New York City began as early as 1870 and by the mid-twentieth century had hundreds of thousands of people promenading on a Sunday afternoon.

While the wearing of hats began to lessen the crowds did too but the ritual continued. In 1948 “Easter Parade” starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland ends with the (now) happy couple strolling along the Avenue.


Image from Wikipedia

Easter Parades were found not only in New York City. Below are images from Toronto’s Sunnyside from the 1920s when beautiful cloche hats were all the rage.


Image from City of Toronto Archives


Image from City of Toronto Archives

The wearing of ones’ best hat, shoes and gloves was not restricted by age. We have a few rare children’s hats in the collection such as this blue felt one that was worn by young girls and purchased at historic Canadian department store retailers such as Simpson’s and Eaton’s.

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The pink straw hat from our collection is similar to the one I am wearing in this photo. One of my first fashion memories is this multi-coloured gingham dress with tulip petal skirt supported by a (scratchy!) crinoline and was my favorite dress of all time. I do recall that the dress came with its own hat, made of the same gingham and was a series of flower petals that duplicated the shape of the skirt. However, the pink straw hat was my new Easter hat and felt more sophisticated than the other! (Please note that my hat and handbag match.)


Fewer opportunities seem to exist today to wear or to own a wardrobe of hats as women once did. If you would like to re-live the glory of hats make a trip up to our fourth floor sometime before mid-April and see the varied choices for Easter Bonnets.


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