Sunday, February 23, 2014

Fancy Hat Tea Party

I’ve always wanted to go to what my daughter calls “a fancy hat tea party” and last month I got my chance.  The ladies at the party were adorned with stylish head apparel and tea, of course, was the beverage we drank.  


The tea party was held in the afternoon.  With a little research, I found out the historic and cultural connection between afternoon tea and fancy hats.  The tradition of afternoon tea, in the Western World, dates back to the 1840s in England where, as legend has it, Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, would become hungry in the afternoon before dinner and would request a tray of tea, bread and butter, and cake be served to her.[1].  She began inviting friends to join her, sparking the very English ritual of afternoon tea.  The wearing of hats to afternoon tea parties became fashionable in the late 1880s when women adorned themselves with long gowns, gloves and hats for their afternoon tea.   

 The Afternoon Tea Party 
by Mary Cassatt, 1891, {{PD-US}}

In 1891, the American Impressionist painter, Mary Cassatt, captured the style of the ladies of her era during afternoon tea parties.  Today, hats are no longer the norm for afternoon tea but are reserved for special tea parties.

My party invitation to afternoon tea indicated there would be recognition for best hat.  I decided to go all out and make a fashion statement. The only problem was, I didn’t have any hats, other than baseball caps and boring cold weather winter hats.   Just where do you shop for tea party hats?  I was envisioning dramatic hats like those you see at the Kentucky Derby or Easter Sunday. 

I was lucky enough to know of a hat boutique called Tops of Old Town, in Northern Virginia.  Having been in the hat business for a couple decades, they expertly walked me through a selection of original and one-of-a-kind hats perfect for the occasion.  I selected a tall hat with a satin sash and feathers that rested sideways on my face slightly covering one eye brow.  This hat looked best with a raised chin and long neck.  I was ready to make my debut!


Although I did not win, the winner of the “most fabulous hat” award was indeed fabulous.  She wore a striking high feather white fastener (hat attached to hair like an ornament) that matched her feathered shoes.

Well, the truth is, the tea and food at the party were easily eclipsed by the theatrics of fashion.  For the strict tea connoisseur, hat tea parties may be too much of a distraction from the actual tea beverage.  I admit that I do like my tea time to be all about the tea.…but I hope I get invited to another fancy hat tea party soon, because I like to play dress up.  Take a look at the silhouette of me in my hat looking fabulous!  

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[1]  UK, the History and Heritage Accommodation Guide, http://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/afternoon-tea/)

2 comments:

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Regards,
Sara and Andrea

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