Many classic movies feature phenomenal examples of the milliner's craft, but despite being visual showstoppers, they are not often relevant to the plot. I love it when the hats are central to the action, and even have a deeper meaning.
The Bishop's Wife is my number one pick for classic movie moments that centre around a hat. Early in the movie we first see the incomparable Loretta Young as Mrs Julia Brougham gaze longingly through the store window at the coveted hat. It sits behind a frame, covered in folds of ribbon, a frivolous but beautiful confection.
Julia's other hats in the movie are simple by contrast, although of course she still looks stunning in them. It helps to have her face.
They are both plain felt hats with no trims beyond simple bands. The first is, in my opinion, the nicer of the two, with a cute short brim at the front and turn up at the back.
The other is even plainer, but she still makes it work!
Nevertheless, there is a big contrast between these reserved styles and the glorious bonnet in the millinery shop.
When Julia sees the hat being removed from the window, Dudley (Cary Grant) pushes her inside and convinces the woman trying it on that it doesn't suit her - against the best efforts of the salesperson.
"Not everyone could wear such a daring hat. But of course it was made for madame."
Julia consequently is able to immediately buy the hat for herself, and wear it in a scene that makes us all want to ice skate, no matter how uncoordinated we are in reality.
This hat is a symbol of one of the movie's messages, and the lessons that Julia and the Bishop are reminded of - living life to the fullest and feeling young again. Being a bit more free and enjoying the experiences of life. As the cab driver Sylvester puts it, "You know your destination, but you're in no hurry to get there."
In fact, the hat isn't the only accessory with meaning in this movie. There is the scarf that Matilda gave to the Bishop, that he never wears, so she encourages Dudley to wear it."I'm sure he'll appreciate it once he sees it one me." That line sums up the whole movie!
I also love how both Matilda and Mildred start wearing flowers in their hair once Dudley has arrived on the scene. I only just noticed that in this last viewing.
There are also hats in the background that are worth checking out. The women in the street scene at the start, the lunch crowd at Michel's, and even the formidable Mrs Hamilton have some appealing looks to be inspired by. Not to mention knitted caps on the skaters and beanies and hoods on the children in the snow battle.
Do you have any favourite hats from classic movies? Can you think of any others where the hats play a role in the action?
I hope you are all enjoying the holiday season, whatever that means for you. And remember...
The only people who grow old were born old to begin with. You were born young. You'll remain that way.