An Easter Hat Parade

At church, African-American women are strong believers in wearing the proper topper that’s brimming in style
Easter Hat
Photo by Brad Ziegler

The approach of Easter brings thoughts of bonnets and parades. But for well-dressed black women, hats are in vogue all year.

Dating back to the times of slavery, black women have adorned their heads with glorious headgear in praise and glory to God, and frankly, to show off among their family, friends and fellow congregants.

Detroit attorney Rosalind Reed wears a dynamic designer hat practically every day, and truth be told, she could probably do so without many repeats.

Her affection dates back to age 6, and her first memory of wearing a hat. “I felt like a princess being crowned,” she says of the straw boater she got for Easter from Hudson’s downtown. “It was a wonderful feeling that I chose to experience repeatedly for the rest of my life. I felt so grown up. I was over the moon. Since then, hats have become my fingerprint.” The right hat, she says, gives a certain power and confidence.

Her special hats often come from designer Philip Treacy. And she admits to frequent trips to New York’s Bergdorf Goodman to find the best selections of high-end, high-fashion toppers. Locally, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Macy’s carry a fair assortment. And true hat lovers know the addresses of the few remaining neighborhood millinery shops (Hamtramck, most notably) and the names of metro Detroit’s handful of accomplished hat designers.

Hats tend to drift in and out of vogue, even for many church ladies, and they’ve been on the wane of late. But Cheryl Hall Lindsay, Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director, says a significant comeback could bloom this spring.

“We’re seeing more outfit dressing with matching shoes and handbags,” Hall says. “More dresses and more suits. And with that, we’ll see a strong return of millinery collections in stores.”

In the last decade or so, church hats seem to be reserved for the heads of women who are 30 years or beyond. But recently, younger women and teens have been opting for caps, cloches, and berets, which may be a steppingstone to more sophisticated chapeaux.

“I find that [women] traditionally don’t wear hats to church as much as we used to,” says Cindy Flowers, general manager of Perfecting Church in Detroit. “There are still some ladies that will dare not go out without being dressed in their Sunday best, and that, of course, includes a nice hat. Personally, I love to see a lady in a hat.