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Arts & Culture

Dec 16 2015

DCPL Squashes the Bah Humbug!

by Hope L

Are you feeling a little like Scrooge this year? Not enough time, energy, or maybe money to be festive? Are the holidays sneaking up on you, with the mild weather giving you the impression that the holiday season is still months away?

Well, the holiday season is indeed upon us, and whether you celebrate anything this time of year or not, you can take advantage of the wonderful goings on at the DeKalb County Public Library!

Here are some happenings this coming Saturday that are enough to put some holiday spirit into anybody, even you Grinches out there:

HeritageFestival2015_slideSat., Dec. 19:  There are too many delicious choices to make on this day!  Redan-Trotti Library, 770.482.3821, will offer Tasty Traditions:  Cookie & Dessert Exchange, from 11:30-12:30 p.m.  Share your family’s traditional cookie or dessert that has been passed down through the years, along with the recipe, and sample everyone else’s.  A prize will be given for the tastiest one and registration is required with a limit of 20 participants.

Sat., Dec. 19:  Decatur Library will host the Embrace Our World:  Greek Food Tasting event, sponsored by the Decatur Craft Beer Festival, from 10:30-11:30 a.m., with selections of a variety of traditional Greek pastries.  Available to the first 30 people.

That’s just a sample–see our calendar of events for more happenings at DCPL.

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Nov 20 2015

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

by Camille B

turkeySo, the Thanksgiving festivities are on the way and you’re mingling about trying to be a good host, making sure that everyone is feeling welcome and comfortable–parents, siblings, in-laws, a few friends and neighbors you invited. Suddenly you look across the room and spot an unwelcome visitor, the same one who showed up at your perfectly planned holiday last year and wreaked havoc. That’s right, Mr. Stress himself, all decked out in his finest, lurking in the shadows and waiting for his cue to rain on your parade. Your heart sinks. Who on earth invited him?

Well, it just so happens he could have come in with any number of your friends or relatives–perhaps that aunt who, even though you tell her every year a bottle of wine is perfectly fine, always insists on bringing that special dish that nobody likes but everybody has to eat anyway, or maybe it’s your brother-in-law who goes around pushing everyone’s buttons–and oh, he’s here for the entire weekend. Then there’s your son. You clearly remember telling him to ask first, but he still arrives at the last minute with two of his buddies in tow–and they’re all the size of giants. You don’t want to be a scrooge, but there goes half the turkey!

Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the Thanksgiving Holiday–a day when we come together with friends and loved ones to relax and give thanks, not just for what we have but for each other as well–can prove to be more stressful than we care to admit, testing the endurance of even the most patient folk.

And this is true not only for the host, but sometimes for guests as well–that new son or daughter-in-law, boyfriend or girlfriend, or invited co-worker. Guests can find themselves caught in the middle of Thanksgiving sagas and dramas that easily spiral out of control from simple things (like fights over the remote, a turkey leg or a wishbone) to really heated debates and brawls that stem from arguments over politics, sports teams or just the re-ignition of old family feuds.

Oh yes, Mr. Stress will show up at your Thanksgiving dinner. You can count on it. And though you may not be able to eradicate his presence altogether, you can minimize the role that he’ll play at your gathering by being prepared and always a few steps ahead.

Host

There’s no way you can do everything yourself, so don’t even try. Brushing away people when they try to offer their assistance, while at the same time complaining at the end of the day that you had to do it all by yourself–you can’t have it both ways. Many hands make the work light, even small hands. And yes, you can enlist your guests as well.

Things don’t have to be perfect. So your cousin Rae-Rae didn’t mash the potatoes quite the way you like them, there’s no need to blow a gasket and call for everybody to get out of your kitchen. She was only trying to help. Believe me, no matter which way you offer up the potatoes–unless they’re burnt to a crisp–they will disappear right along with the rest of the meal. Take heart if it doesn’t look like it came out of Martha Stewart’s kitchen. Your family and guests will still love it and you–and appreciate your effort and hard work.

First-time hosts: Keep it simple. Now is not the time to try and impress your new mother-in-law with your non-existent culinary skills. Unless you’re a naturally great cook with event planning experience under your belt, you’ll probably make a few blunders along the way. No love loss. A lot of people still dread Thanksgiving preparations even after umpteen years of doing it. If this is just your first go at it, grab a good friend or two to help out. Your day will come when you will be able to put forth a Thanksgiving feast just like Mama used to make.

Try to be the most gracious host you can be. It’s sometimes hard I know. Maybe your aunt’s gesture was well intended, even though you had to chow down her questionable casserole made from that very secret recipe. It probably made her feel good just to be a part of things and offer up her contribution–and she may not be the only one you have to make peace with. Thanksgiving conflicts flare up like wild fires in an instant. Though you cannot be everywhere at once, you can do your best to ignore negative comments, steer conversations to otherwise neutral topics when you sense what’s coming (some people are habitual offenders), and basically douse water on any embers you see that can potentially erupt into an altercation.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Guests

Don’t come empty-handed. Even though your host insists that you bring just yourself and your appetite, it’s still a nice gesture to bring a non-food item or beverage–wine, flowers, or something that is needed as part of the event, like napkins, forks or even a gift for your host.

Let the host know ahead of time if you have any dietary issues. It can be really stressful to go through all the trouble of fixing a great feast only to realize at the last minute that someone cannot partake because they’re vegan or have specific allergies to items on the menu. Knowing ahead of time can enable your host to consider your diet in the meal planning.

Ask before you invade your host’s kitchen, and space as a whole, as this can be a good way to lose a limb or not get invited back next year. Unless you’re a really good friend of the family and you’re quite certain they’ll be okay with it, don’t go rummaging around in the refrigerator or cupboards, stand around in the kitchen obstructing foot traffic, or begin doing chores you weren’t asked to do.

Overall, I honestly believe that the almost euphoric anticipation we feel towards the Thanksgiving holiday and what it represents is too great–and the time and effort we put into making it the best day possible for our loved ones too precious–to let trivial matters come in and ruin it in mere seconds or minutes, causing us to sometimes forget why we came together in the first place. So this year when you spot Mr. Stress worming his way through your holiday celebrations, don’t grow wary, let him bring it! You’re prepared.

ArtOfTheVisitEase into your Thanksgiving season with the following selection from DCPL:

The Art of the Visit: Being the Perfect Host, Becoming the Perfect Guest by Kathy Bertone

Keep Your Cool! What You Should Know About Stress by Sandy Donovan

How to Survive Your In-Laws: Advice from Hundreds of Married Couples Who Did – Andrea Syrtash, special editor

How to Cook a Turkey: And All the Other Trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking

Holiday Collection (DVD)

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Oct 26 2015

Traditions, Myths and Superstition

by Camille B

Photo of Green CloverI was working as a cashier at a grocery store some years ago when I had the strangest reaction from a customer while ringing up her items. When her final total appeared on the screen, she inhaled sharply like someone had pinched her. When I turned to look at the screen, sure enough her purchases had come up to, you guessed it, $6.66. She promptly turned to the candy rack behind her and added a pack of gum to change the offending numbers. Then, with everything right in her universe again, she walked out of the store looking satisfied, or was it relieved?

The gentleman in line behind her was shaking his head as he placed his items on the counter. I didn’t ask him why, but I figured it was either because he couldn’t make sense out of what he’d just witnessed or he simply didn’t believe in it–luck, karma, jinxes, call it what you will.

According to an article on WebMD titled The Psychology of Superstition, more than half of Americans admitted in a poll to being at least a little superstitious. Says Dr. Stuart Vyse, PhD and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition“Superstitions provide people with the sense that they’ve done one more thing to try to ensure the outcome they are looking for.”

The list is endless for the things that people do, worldwide, to either ensure good luck or ward off the bad–black eyed peas to ring in the new year, throwing rice on the bride and groom, no opening of umbrellas in the house, 7 years of bad luck for broken mirrors–the list goes on and on. Here is A List of Good Luck and Bad Luck Superstitions that includes many we’ve probably heard of at one time or another.

Maybe you don’t think you’re superstitious, you’re much too level headed and practical for that. The WebMD article notes:

Intelligence seems to have little to do with whether or not we subscribe to superstition. …On the Harvard campus–where one would assume there are a lot of intelligent people–students frequently rub the foot of the statue of John Harvard for good luck.”

“Wanting more control or certainty is the driving force behind most superstition. We tend to look for some kind of a rule, or an explanation for why things happen.”

And, as Dr. Vyse explains: “Sometimes the creation of a false certainty is better than no certainty at all, and that is what most research suggests.”

I honestly believe that we are more superstitious than we may think. I believe in the positive placebo effect–if you think something will help you, it may do just that. There is “power in belief.”

So, you may not consider yourself superstitious. You’re not likely to walk around the neighborhood avoiding every crack in the sidewalk for fear of breaking your mother’s back, or avoid step ladders and black cats at all cost, but you may knock on wood for luck, dash a pinch of salt over your shoulder before you eat, or check your horoscope on a daily basis–things that have become more habitual and ritualistic to you than superstitious.   Black Cat

For some, it might be that you’re more of a traditionalist than you are superstitious. Habits, rituals, and customs you hold dear–they have been handed down to you through culture, family or religion and have become a part of who you are. You wore something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue at your wedding. You always bake cookies and let the kids leave them out for Santa. Or, the guys always come over to your house for the Super Bowl.

And what about those traditions we keep but we know not why?

The story is told about a young girl who was one night helping her mother prepare the Christmas dinner. She suddenly turned to her mother and asked the reason why they always cut the end of the ham off before putting it in the pot to boil. Her mother thought about this for a minute and said:

“Honey, you know I don’t know, go and ask your grandmother, it’s the way she always cooked it and that’s how I do it now.”

So the girl went to ask the same question of her grandmother: “Grandma, why do we cut the end of the ham off before we boil it?” The grandmother frowned a while, and finally said:

“You know dear, I don’t know the exact reason, I got if from Nana, that’s how she used to cook it. I guess you’ll have to go ask her.”

Finally, the girl went to her great grandmother hoping that she was finally going to get her answer. “Nana, why do we cut the end of the ham off every year before we put it in the pot to boil?”

Nana smiled her toothless smile and said:

“Oh girl, one Christmas many years ago we were getting ready to boil that ham and realized it was way too big to fit in the pot, so we had to cut the end off to get it to fit.”

And that’s tradition for you. Some things we hold dear to us and cherish for very specific and sentimental reasons; others we met in place and follow because it’s what we know, what’s been passed down to us through the years and as such have become sacred.

Sometimes it’s a myth or legend, passed down through the years and retold so many hundreds of times, the lines between truth and reality have become blurred and entwined. Even though the logical part of our brain tells us this simply can’t be true, a teeny part of us still wants to believe in Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster, Atlantis, and the Bermuda Triangle. (Yes, maybe they are true!)

Finally, you may not identify with any of the above–you’re not one who is overly superstitious nor are you a traditionalist (and let’s not get you started by mentioning the word Yeti), but do you at least hold on to some favorite token or item that you figure brings you luck or good fortune? Grey’s Anatomy Doctor McDreamy wore his favorite ferryboat scrub cap while performing his surgeries. What do you use for your mojo? I know there must be something–a lucky penny perhaps or that special pencil you always use when you take your exams? Could it be that red rag you keep at the back of your sock drawer or maybe the rabbit’s foot hanging from the rearview mirror of your car? Whatever it is, I bet you that you’re not alone.

These were some of the items I discovered at DCPL while doing research for this post on the topics of myths, legends, superstitions and traditions.

Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer

Don’t Sing Before Breakfast, Don’t Sleep in the Moonlight by Lila Perl

Wisdom Tales from Around the World by Heather Forest

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Sep 4 2015

This weekend, don’t forget…

by Dea Anne M

The annual AJC Decatur Book Festival will take place this coming weekend and it is an event that you surely won’t want to miss. This year’s key speaker is Erica Jong who will appear in conversation with flyingRoxanne Gay at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts starting at 8:00 p.m. on Friday September 4th, although a quick check reveals to me that the event badis now sold out. Erica Jong is, of course, the author of the notorious novel Fear of Flying, which celebrated its 40th anniversary two years ago. She is as well a noted poet and also has published books of essays including Fear of Fifty: A Midlife Memoir. Her new book (on order now at DCPL) is Fear of Dying. Roxane Gay is the author of the provocative book of essays Bad Feminist.

The festival has offerings for every range of ages and interests. Tracks include Business and Marketing, Personal Journeys, and Healthy and Local. Every year includes programming for childrenboss as well as teens. The Decatur branch of the Dekalb County Public Library will provide the stage for a series of programs presented by WABE. Featured are Paul Downs, author of Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business, with a special look at local arts publishing powerhouse (now sadly gone) Nexus Press hosted by ArtsATL, and a special presentation honoring the winners of the 2015 Lillian Smith Awards.

Clearly, the festival offers something for everyone. See a complete schedule here.

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Jul 27 2015

Fish with Benefits

by Rebekah B

go fish education center buildingAs the summer draws to a close, families may still be seeking out some educational opportunities to prepare kids for returning to school.

As many of you may know, DCPL offers a variety of attraction passes that include the Georgia State Parks Pass, the Zoo Atlanta DVD/Pass, and the Puppetry Arts Pass (not currently available, as the museum is in the process of expansion and renovation). The lesser known of these passes may be the Go Fish Pass. You may have visited Perry, GA, as I have, when taking your kids to an All-State Band audition. If not, the purpose of this post is to inform you about what there is to see and do in and around Perry and to make your visit to the Go Fish Center the focal point of a highly educational, fun, day trip, of interest to adults and to kids.

go fish center fishing simulatorThe pass for the Go Fish Education Center allows up to 4 people to enter free of charge. The Center is located in Perry, Georgia (click on the link to view the location on Google Maps), about a one-hour drive from Atlanta. At the Go Fish Education Center, regional species of freshwater fish as well as a variety of reptiles and aquatic wildlife are exhibited in aquariums, and a variety of wildlife conservation programs for all ages are included in the educational programming. Local Georgia habitats are also featured, and visitors can test their skills on hunting and fishing simulators as well as learn how fish are raised in a state-of-the-art hatchery. On the Go Fish web-site from 7 am to 8 pm daily, you can watch a live webcam broadcast of the fish swimming in the 15-foot-deep aquariums of the Piedmont Reservoir exhibit.

massee lane gardensBefore I first visited Perry, I asked some of my well-traveled book club friends what else we might do in and around Perry so we could make a day trip of the All-State Band auditions. My friend Betty, an avid gardener, advised us to visit the Massee Lane Gardens of the American Camellia Society, in Fort Valley, GA. The gardens are intimate, with a wide variety of camellias, of course, and brick paved shaded walkways dotted with mile markers and millstones, part of the collections of the originator of the gardens, Mr. David Strother. The plantings also include a rose garden and a small Japanese garden with water features as well as access to adjacent pecan groves.

andersonville cemeteryBetty also told us that the National Prisoner of War Museum is nearby, which is adjacent to the Andersonville Civil War historic site. The POW museum is also the acting visitor’s center for the park and is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm, closing only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The Camp Sumpter Military Prison was the largest confederate military prison during the Civil War, and of the nearly 45,000 Union soldiers imprisoned here, about 13,000 died due to highly insalubrious conditions. The museum visit is free of charge and the indoor collections include many fascinating and highly personal artifacts that document the lives of soldiers from a variety of conflicts in American history. Visitors can walk through the park, exploring reconstructions of parts of the Andersonville blockade as well as the Andersonville National Cemetery. According to the museum website, the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site is just 22 miles from Andersonville.

yoders restaurantIn addition to these great places to visit, Betty told me that she and her husband also enjoy dining at a local Amish-style restaurant and bakery near Montezuma, GA, which serves southern comfort style food and a variety of deserts, including shoofly pie.  We didn’t go to the restaurant, but it seemed like a nice cultural attraction.

Take advantage of the Go Fish pass to visit rural central Georgia. You may see, as I did, clumps of cotton bunched along the edges of the roadway. Not being a native Georgian or southerner, I had never seen cotton growing before…and at first, I wondered why there was so much trash along the road’s edge! The pecan groves and peach orchards are lovely to see as well.

 

 

 

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Jul 20 2015

National Merry-Go-Round Day

by Glenda

merry-go-roundOn July 25th we celebrate National Merry-Go-Round Day. This is an unofficial holiday–but it is fun to ride on merry-go-rounds, so let’s celebrate. The merry-go-round (or carousel) has an interesting history. In the 1100s during the Crusades, European soldiers watched the Turkish and Arabian horsemen compete in a game. The game, similar to jousting, was taken very seriously by its participants. The European onlookers began to refer to the game as “little war,” which is translated to “garosello” in Italian and “carosella.” This is how the word carousel is derived.

During Medieval times, carousels were used as a training device for knights in battle. In the 1600s, a Frenchmen designed a device for training purposes for young competitors for participation in the carousel. The device was a carved horse that was suspended by chains from two arms that were attached to a central pole. The competitors trained while the horse moved up and down to simulate actually riding a horse.

In the 1800s, European immigrants brought the artistry of the carousel with them to America. The first patented carousel, which was called the “flying horses,” was given in Brooklyn; however, there is evidence of merry-g0-rounds being present in the U.S. five years earlier in Manhattan.

Later in the 19th century, merry-go-rounds were powered by steam and built on wooden platforms. By the end of the 19th century, carousels were converted to electric power–and during this time, fair grounds were popular. However, during WWII, the carousel fell out of popularity due to the lack of labor and supplies to make them. Merry-go-rounds or carousels did make a comeback, but they were never as popular as they were prior. But merry-go-rounds will live forever, or at least as long as there are children.

For more information, see the International Independent Showmen’s Museum website, or use your DCPL card to check out Art of the Carousel by Charlotte Dinger.

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Jun 19 2015

Art or Life?

by Rebekah B

Hello readers,

I love watching movies–the kind of movies which explore the dilemmas and dramas of human passions and desires. Cinema is an art form that, when well done, can fully engage our hearts and minds. When we get down to what brings meaning to our everyday lives, I think most of us would like to feel that by being in the world we have somehow served our families, friends, and co-workers by sharing some essential aspects of our own being. For the artist, the need to create meaning through art is more often than not a compulsion–a need more important than building family or career. We may ask ourselves the question: Which is more important–to live one’s life in a compassionate manner, adding value to the relationships we nurture at home and at work, or to isolate oneself to a certain degree from society in order to produce work that will allow future generations to continue to relate to the workings of our heart and mind, long after our personal death?

HumblingBirdmanA few recent (2014), somewhat literary films in our DCPL collection, I feel, illustrate this theme well. Birdman, written and directed by  Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, and The Humbling, directed by Barry Levinson, starring Al Pacino and based on the next to the last novel written by Philip Roth, both feature aging screen and stage actors struggling to remain relevant, to prove to themselves and to the world that they still possess the magical power that grabs the viewer by the emotions and reels them in. Both protagonists are terrified by a progressively tenuous relationship with reality, with friends and family. Yet their desires remain powerful, and they fight the demons of death and chaos as vigorously as they engage the remains of their personal genius in their art.

WhiplashWhiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle and starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, is, I feel, the most powerful of the three films. Teller plays a young and ambitious drummer enrolled in a New York City conservatory. In a telling moment, he squashes a budding relationship with a young woman to whom he is obviously attracted, feeling that his overriding desire to become a famous drummer will cause him to inevitably dissatisfy her–and that she, as an ordinary young woman, will never understand or be fulfilled by him. In his youthful arrogance, he somehow knows that his need to excel as a musician dominates any other desires. As we watch the scene, the painful question, “art or life?” is illustrated. In Whiplash, the relationship between Andrew, the young drummer, and his mentor, the verbally abusive and manipulative Fletcher, is intense and fascinating. Fletcher uses any means he deems necessary to bring to fruition the talent he sees in his young charges, and Andrew’s vulnerability and passion stir in the viewer an ambiguous desire to see him succeed.

In all of these films, the viewer experiences the angst-ridden desire of the artist to remain relevant as he ages, as well as our own fears about the loss of vitality. We share the struggle of the artist to straddle the fine line between his own vivid imagination and the demands of conventional reality. We observe the dedication and work required to develop and maintain the necessary craft which is the armature of any successful and compelling art form. Watching these films, we can experience with emotion the conflicts and difficulties caused in the artist’s personal life by his or her focus on an art form to the near exclusion of all other responsibilities and relationships. You could say that the artist is egocentric, a narcissist. And it is true to a certain degree. Art is an unforgiving mistress or master, requiring uncompromising devotion. As a mere human being, the artist is nearly always at the mercy of art itself.

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Jun 3 2015

National Yo-Yo Day

by Glenda

Yo-YoJune 6 is National Yo-Yo Day. It is thought that the yo-yo originated in China.  A painting from a Greek vase shows a boy playing with a yo-yo as far back as 500BC. In Ancient Greece, yo-yos were made of wood, metal, and terracotta, and they were often decorated with pictures of the gods.

In 1928, Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant to the United States, opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, California, after coining the term yo-yo. Flores later sold the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company to Donald F. Duncan.  However National Yo-Yo Day is not in celebration of Pedro Flores, it is to celebrate Donald F. Duncan. The day is celebrating the commercial success that Duncan made of the Yo-Yo. (You can do a quick search in GALILEO to find more about the history of the yo-yo.)

If you love to yo-yo, get your yo-yo out and enjoy the day. If you are new to the yo-yo, or want to learn some new tricks, stop by your local library. DCPL has some materials for you on yo-yo tricks.

Awesome Yo-Yo Tricks by Shar Levine and Robert Bowden

Yo-Yo’s: Tricks to Amaze Your Friends by Ingrid Roper

Yo-Yo Tricks by Cynthia Klingel and Robert Noyed

 

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May 25 2015

Seriously Silly!

by Joseph M

Knuffle Bunny by Mo WillemsFans of best-selling children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems may be interested in a new exhibition at the High Museum of Art. Seriously Silly! The art & whimsy of Mo Willems is a retrospective featuring over 100 works by the artist. It opened May 23 and will run through January 10, 2016. To find out more, see the event page on the High Museum website.

Whether you’re already a fan or if you just want to know what all the fuss is about, DCPL has a substantial collection of works by Mo Willems. Click here to take a look!

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Apr 17 2015

The Crowning Touch

by Dea Anne M

There was a time in this country when adults, both men and women, were 44.105.26_view3 0003considered not completely dressed for certain situations unless he or she was wearing a hat. Certainly, shopping and working in the city was one of these situations (and, for women, gloves were also an absolute necessity). Even college students were expected to wear hats at schools in urban areas. Church definitely required the wearing of hats and there were even special “cocktail” hats for women to wear to evening parties. The regular wearing of hats became outmoded during the 1960’s and never really took hold again. For good or ill, unless a hat is part of a work uniform or the occasional accessory worn for fun, hats are simply not a significant part of our sartorial lives. Although I would never advocate for the dressreturn of stringent dress codes, I feel that maybe we lost an opportunity for bringing beauty into our lives when we abandoned hats. And I’m not alone in this opinion. As Dr. Linda Przybyszewski points out in her book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish (a current favorite of mine!), a received piece of wisdom from the pre-sixties dress experts was that a hat worked to bring the eye of the observer up to a woman’s face–the true communicator of her unique personality and spirit. “A well-chosen hat can flatter any face,” says Dr. Przybyszewski, and this is true. If you look at vintage photographs, it’s astonishing how well hats of all styles can frame a woman’s (or a man’s) face.

So what has changed? My theory is that because hats–apart from ball caps–aren’t worn anymore on a regular basis, it’s difficult for many of us to wear one without feeling as though we are wearing a costume. Wearing a hat well, and in a confident manner, requires a certain “swagger.” For example, Cookie Lyon–the character that Taraji Henson plays on Fox TV’s Empire–has swagger to spare, and the hats that she wears come off as essential parts of her beautiful (and expensive!) ensembles rather than as cartoonish or awkward.

Of course, the place where hats can still rule the day is church–and nowhere crownsmore so than those churches that are traditionally and predominantly African-American. Hats are an indispensable part of the Sunday ensembles of many of the women who attend the churches. As Craig Marberry, one of the co-creators (along with Michael Cunningham) of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, writes in his introduction: “These captivating hats are not mere fashion accessories. Neither, despite their biblical roots, are they solely religious headgear. Church hats are a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.” This book is well worth checking out for its wonderful black and white portraits of women in their hats. Each woman gives a short account of her own life in hats, and these stories are as engaging as the pictures. My favorites are elegant Ollie McDowell wearing her black portrait hat and beautiful Sandra Wright Wallington in her feather-trimmed and tiger-printed platter chapeau.

Are you interested in hats and their history? If so, check out The Hat: Trends and Traditions by Madeline Ginsburg. The book goes up only to the late 1980’s but it is an otherwise thorough history of the hat and its permutations–from the vintagehelmets and hair nets of Bronze Age Europe, to the extravagant, ornately trimmed bonnets and top hats of the early nineteenth century, to the elegant men’s trilby hat of the 1950’s. And for some really delicious looking women’s hats, look no further than Vintage Fashion Complete: Women’s Style in the Twentieth Century by Nicky Albrechtsen. This gorgeous, heavy volume, lavishly illustrated with color photographs, takes you through the decades of vintage from the 1920’s and beyond. The chapter on hats provides particularly stunning examples of the best of the milliner’s art. I particularly like the 60’s helmet made of bright green feathers that looks exactly like a Christmas tree and the 1930’s floral fantasies of Elsa Schiaparelli. Hat aficionado or no, this book is an absolute must for any lover of vintage fashion.

One of the most celebrated, and prolific, of American milliners was Sally Victor. Her pretty (sometimes wacky) hats were popular from the mid-1930’s through the late 1960’s. Here’s a link to the extensive collection of Sally Victor hats owned by the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For an example of her work, see the top of this post.

Do wear hats or wish you could? What is your hat style preference?

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