Not Your Grandma's Church Hats

Last summer, I saw a performance of the play Crowns, which is the story of Yolanda, a young African-American woman from New York, who finds her identity and learns about her heritage during a summer trip to South Carolina. The central symbols in the play were elaborate, brightly colored women's  hats; the same hats that we know and love as "church hats". Like Yolanda, I've never been much of a formal hat person, and when I think of church hats, I tend to think of glittering, brightly colored contraptions like this, this, and this: [youtube]

These are the types of hats that make church-hat-wearing not so popular among women my age and younger. However, I think that the nostalgic elegance and poise that our grandmothers emitted in their church hats is something that's worth preserving. Below are some recommendations for a new generation of fashion forward crown wearers.

1. Fascinators

Fascinators have been around for a while, but I really started noticing them after the Royal wedding of Prince William and Princess Kate this past April. It's basically a mini hat, bouquet of flowers, or tuft of feathers attached to a headband, so wearing one could give you the look and feel of a formal hat without overtaking your hairstyle. Just steer clear of Princess Beatrice styled ones.  If you're pretty crafty, try your hand at making your own fascinator. While we're on the UK, has anyone else noticed that the Queen really knows how to rock a church hat? She could go toe to toe with  ANY pastor's wife in the states!

2. Triby hats

A trilby styled hat is like a fedora, except it usually has a shorter brim and has the potential to look a lot more feminine when embellished with veils, rhinestones, or lace. In general, church hats for younger women should probably be in simpler, classic styles. This one looks kind of 1940s undercover agent ( actually it is called a Spy hat on the website) and the rhinestone detail makes it fresh.

3. Ankara head wraps

If a hat is a little too constricting for you, a head wrap would be a unique way to participate in the church hat tradition with flair and style. Choose a piece of Ankara fabric in your favorite colors and experiment with different ways to tie it for variety. YouTube has a good selection of how to videos that will help you learn how to sculpt the perfect fabric updo.

For more ideas, check out these online stores.


Are you a hat person? What do you think of church hats? Tell me in the comments!