Historic ladies hats on display at Farmington Museum

6/1/2021

Fifty or so hats from the 1910s through the 1970s are on display at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park. The beauty of feathered hats shocks the eye and soul. “All Dressed Up” is on display until October. By Donna K. Hewett. Sponsored by Distil Beer Wine Spirits and Boons Family Thai Barbecue

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The pandemic ended traveling exhibits at the Farmington Museum. But now it's new programming draws upon the museum's large permanent collection, which includes hats. Lots and lots of ladies' hats. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by Distil Wine Spirits and Boon's Family Thai BBQ. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. One of Farmington Museum's first post-pandemic exhibits, "All Dressed Up," showcases vintage hats from its permanent collection. Warehoused for years and displayed for the first time, the items were a gift from several local women, including longtime friends, Ruth Allison and Betty Ahrens Berry, who are both in their mid 90s.

The important thing is about hats, a woman was not dressed, she really wasn't chic, she wasn't in her element without a hat and gloves.

And gloves.

And gloves, that's right.

And they had to match.

And that was a must.

And that itself was carried on really from, as we were talking, the first of the, oh, edit that. Hats go back and head coverings go back as long as, I guess, as history.

Probably.

There've been many changes and there are many reasons, as we've talked about, for wearing hats. But I think a lot of it is adornment. It really did an awful lot for maybe a plain face. Decorated it and there was nothing that framed... It's just like a picture frame. It's right to show you what a hat is. A picture frame.

When Cherie Powell's job as an educator at the E3 Children's Museum was put on hold last year, she crossed over to the Farmington Museum to help curate "All Dressed Up." The exhibit of 50 or so hats are beautifully arranged and cataloged in glass cases.

So it took a few months to get together. We had to build the hat stands and our heads to put the hats on. It was a process. It was fun. We learned a lot.

Subdued lighting and jazz age music help create the ambience of an era long past when bird feathers, beaks, and in some cases, even full bodies of dead birds made an extravagant fashion statement.

This hat here was one of Lola Furman's... It's from the Lola Furman collection. If you notice, there's birds on it. I mean, like almost whole birds. That's an interesting... The thing interesting about birds and feathers and things on hats, the Audubon Society kind of started because of these fashion accessories. Women were putting on clothes and hats, 'cause there were so many birds being killed and slaughtered for hats.

The plume trade escalated from the 1870s to the early 1900s until the most popular species were hunted to the verge of extinction. With the help of the newly-formed Audubon Society, thousands of women flocked together to save the birds. The Migratory Bird Act Treaty in 1918 put a swift end to hunting birds like swans, eagles, hummingbirds, and finally, to the garish fad itself.

This hat over here... I want to say it's probably my second favorite in the exhibit. It's a graduation hat from the class of 1917 for Farmington High School. So these are the hats that the graduates wore. We actually have a photo of the graduates wearing this particular hat.

The love and nostalgia for hats remain intrinsic to those who wore them back in the day, even here in Farmington.

We've been collecting all of these good things. This was my wedding hat and I love it. I have the suit that matched it. And it was...

That's beautiful.

And I finally found it.

Oh, and I didn't bring it. It was in the... But it was very simple and it was summertime and it was just kind of a little... Lou's mother dressed me in hats. She wanted me to look nice and married to her son. So many of the hats that I had came from Lou's mother that she would buy for me.

And this is one

that I have worn many times. And it just went over like such.

That's adorable.

Ain't it cute?

Yeah.

I wore that in a stylist show and then I've worn it many times. And this has a special name. Not a bandeau, but it was something like... I wish I could think of it. Then of course, Jackie Kennedy brought in the pillbox.

Oh yes, yes. And with that, we had... Because that was the era we still wearing hats. And there was some gorgeous ones then. And I don't know. I still think a hat is a finishing touch.

It is. It is.

And I'm sorry that we don't feel the need to wear the hat and the glamor that went with it.

Yeah, and the young people, they don't want your fine jewelry, your fine china, your fine this and that. They're very casual. We offer them some of our wonderful things and they turn them down. The hats are behind us, I'm afraid.

"All Dressed Up" will be on display through October at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park on East Main Street. For directions and more information about the local exhibit or to donate, go to fmtn.org and search for museum. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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