The other night I watched a TV bio-pic about Coco Chanel. Shirley McLaine – don’t you just love Shirley McLaine ? – gave us the older, chain-smoking, imperious Coco Chanel, always seen wearing one of her signature style suits and chain-smoking ferociously under a devastatingly simple but oh-so-stylish hat, whether indoors or out. And it’s the hats I want to write about.
Nowadays we don’t seem to wear hats. Well, not stylish ones, anyway, and not in the circumstances of my own modest life. I daresay if I decorated the upper echelons of society I might be seen at Ascot wearing a stylish little concoction of veiling and feathers, or maybe even at our local J&B Met stakes, but I don’t live that sort of life. Floppy sunhats – yes, I own these. Battered straw hat for the garden – yup, tick the box. Peaked sports cap (a cheesey souvenir of Melbourne with a kangaroo on the front – okay, okay, not cool I know, but dammit, it proves I travelled to far away Oz, so leave me alone) – cap to keep the sun out of my eyes when I’m out walking. In short, my hats are utilitarian.
I do not own a glamorous or fanciful hat. And the Chanel bio-pic showed scenes of her early life, in which all women, regardless of their social class, wore the most divine hats. Big brimmed hats, with cascades of ribbons, feathers, silk flowers, beading – you name it. The hats were frothy extravaganzas of feminine frivolity, style, glamour.
Sigh. Who am I kidding? The sad fact is, that due to my very short stature, when I put on a wide brimmed hat decorated with fol-de-rols and what-have-you, I look like a small energetic mushroom charging through a dense thicket of tall folk. Oh to be tall and willowy! Then I could wear enormous hats with trailing chiffon scarves and leave behind me a cloud of envious glances and whispers …. I can dream, can’t I?