Wednesday, April 18, 2012

IGWRT's - Kenia's Challenge: Celebrating Femininity, "The Grand Ol' Hat"

 My Great Aunt, Jennie Beckington, 1905

My Grandmother, Marguerite Hutchins Beckington, born 1892 

The Grand Ol' Hat

Edwardian Days
When swirling skirts gracefully 
Swept the floor, ankles carefully hidden.
Puffed up like a proud pigeon and resembled
   An instrument measuring time.
Oh, how to show
Individuality? Dare
We suggest such a
Thing?  A prim and
Proper young
Must wear her hat squarely
Upon her head; no silly feather, please!
But, if one had a desire for a bit of frivolity, well a trip
To the Hat Maker might just do the trick.  A feather added and tilted
To one        side, a splendid ornate hat to promenade.  A       multitude 
Of other       frivolous items could grace the crown:  A poppy,      a plume,
How         about a large cabbage rose?  A bit overwhelming?          Well,
 That was         the very idea!  To have fun, live a little, after all,             it was
 Just                           a hat.  The only thing exposed                          was 
Hair!                        Sometimes splurged, and added a                     bird?
Well,                                 Not a whole bird,                                   nor 
Even                                             a                                           whole
Wing.                                       For                                      many
Years,                             Twenty                           in fact, 
The               Audabon Society            fought
To outlaw such animal cruelty!  
Even hat pins were subject to the law!
Why, they could only extend so far - dangerous
Weapons they.  Known for poking, scraping and stabbing!
Regulations on how far they could protrude without hat-pin
Protectors. Some were banned from public transportation, in fact.
So, no whole birds, but how about bunches of cherries, blackberries
Or ribbon rosettes?  Hats made to whirl, flow and dip; some swathed in
Tulle.  Some glorious hats mysteriously rested upon the hair, thanks to 
The secret of “wadded” hair saved from thy very own brush to make the 
Grand pompadour!   Possibly a bit of mystery might be desired; was that
Even allowed?   It could be arranged with a bit of cobweb trim hanging
Over the face.  Social gatherings were not complete without one’s hat,
In fact it was part of proper etiquette.   Quite disgraceful to be seen
Without!  Even the little widow could not step out... all in black, of
Course.  No feather for that would be too gay but the veil was ok.
Oh yes,  the good  Ol’ Edwardian Days!  Most likely styles to never 
Be seen again. Glimpsed by some of us still alive as we watched
Our grandmothers step out.   Those wonderfully grand ladies who knew 
How to dress in style, held on to their "vogue" until the very end. White 
Gloves, snap purse dangling at the elbow, and perhaps, the hats a
Bit smaller, but there non-the-less.  Ornate glasses framed many of 
Their smiling faces, pearls circling their necks.  Still buttoned up with 
Proper skirt line maintained; although a few inches shorter.  How “modern”
They must have felt.  So here’s a nod to the grand ladies of old, who wore
Those hats with such style and grace.  How were they able to carry off
Such hats as these? Looking at the photos, their eyes might offer a clue.   
The                    Women's
Suffra                     gette's
Atti                        tude?
 In Courage                 And Honor.          

by Margaret Bednar, Art Happens 365, originally written January 2011.

* * * * *
Today this archived poem is linked with Imaginary Garden with Real Toad's - Kenia's Challenge: "Celebrate Femininity".  This was originally written for a Magpie Tales challenge and then again shared at dVerse. So I am SORRY if you have read it before... it just seemed to be an easy fit. 

I remember going through the hat boxes in my grandmother's attic.  They were piled atop one another and these "ancient" hats were packed amongst newspaper.  By the time I was born, I don't think she wore them anymore - and I had a hard time imagining her in them.  How I wish I had those hats today.


Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh I so adore this. Love old photos - those clear-eyed women. I love the old photos of my grandma in the long gowns and hobbled skirts of her day. And yes, the hats! When I was a young teen, we still wore hats and short white gloves to Church on Sunday. That was the end of elegance for me. I have lived my entire life since in blue jeans. But there was a glamour then, a mystique that was quite wonderful.

I also love the way your words have created the shape of a woman on the page.

Helen said...

We are lucky photos of family members born so long ago .. I have a few of them as well. Your poem is awesome AND I can't imagine how long it took you to create the Lady Shape!

Laurie Kolp said...

I love hats, but wouldn't have wanted to live back then. This is amazing, Margaret. How'd you do it?

Hannah said...

ASTOUNDED by your concrete poem both image and content, stunning!! So worth the effort, thank you Margaret!!

Daydreamertoo said...

What a lot of work you must have put into this to get the prose into that fabulous shape! Absolutely fantastic. But then to go on and write something that was such fun and fact filled too. I LOVE old photographs, they are so full of history. Your from a very good looking family :)

Kerry O'Connor said...

This is an amazingly artistic piece of prose! And how beautiful were your Grandmother's blue eyes? I'm sure she turned heads.

Susie Clevenger said...

A wonderful statement in word and form..You have some beautiful ancestors. I see the strength in their eyes and demeanor. They lived when there were so many rules, but I think there thoughts broke many of them. :)

Mystic_Mom said...

Love the photos! Love the form (how did you do that?) and Love your words...!

Mary said...

I adore the two photographs. I wonder sometimes if women wore so many hats in earlier times because perhaps they didn't wash their hair as often, and a hat can hide a multitude of sins.

And the way you framed your poem, I have to learn how to do that some day. So very artistic all the way!

Kay L. Davies said...

Fantastic construction, so full of wit, humor and information. My grandmother (1902-1985) never told me about wadded-up hair saved from a hairbrush.
Thanks for this amazing piece of writing.

Mama Zen said...

This is so neat! How on earth did you do that?

Ella said...

Wow, wow, wow..
I love this the ideas, the words the image! I love the photos, so amazing and how strikingly beautiful they both are!
I have to read it again! Most impressive ;D

Anonymous said...

oh this is wonderful, ornate and... hat-like - love the shape and the fact that the poem is so much more than just a pretty face (or hat) - well done!

Zoe said...

What a poem!!! What a tribute to the individuality of those wonderful ladies in the midst of such formality and restrictiveness! I really loved this - and in particular the extremely clever use of the shape poem. Well done indeed!!!

Grace said...

I love the shape of the poetry form. Very lovely tribute to those bygone days and standards of fashion.

Thanks for sharing the pictures too ~

Ginnie said...

FABULOUS! In every way!