In the late ’90s I discovered the surprisingly large vintage costume-ball scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, where about three separate groups put on 19th-century-themed events with live music for waltzes, polkas, and English country dances. There was a smaller scene in LA (in Pasadena, naturally), but nothing like it here in New York.
So soon after I got my white tie and tails, I knew I needed a top hat and eventually found some lice-ridden old thing at an antique store. I eventually got rid of it as it refused to sit at the proper angle.
Today is Easter, which is accompanied by the annual tradition in New York known as the Easter Parade, which was created during the Edith Wharton era as an excuse for Society with a capital S to admire itself. Proper attire for gentlemen was formal daywear, including a top hat. Esquire regularly reported on it and doled out fashion advice throughout the ’30s, until war came and rained on the parade.
At some point during this bleak midwinter, holed up at home around the computer and piano and dreaming of spring, I came to the sudden and embarrassing realization that I have a ridiculous number of top hat images in my apartment. I say embarrassing because they had slowly multiplied without my conscious awareness, but at least I’d noticed them before any Freudian raised an eyebrow and pointed it out to me.
So on this special day of solemnity and pageantry, allow me to give you a tour of my top hat collection. The blasted things are everywhere, like on the bookshelf, on the Oxford cricket team:
On another shelf, my late friend (dressed for a retro event in, where else, but San Francisco), and a birthday card with the delightful line “distinguished yet youthful”:
Directly below, on the piano, are these two characters:
Meanwhile, this drawing of the Duke of Windsor guards the vanity tray:
On the walls are a framed copy of this photo of Prince Aga Khan at Ascot:
I’ve had this for about 12 years; I think it inaugurated the collection:
A recent acquisition, I couldn’t resist this Polish circus poster when I saw it at the Architectural Digest home show:
Finally, on the refrigerator, yet another greeting card, cat, and hat.
So much for no hats indoors. — CC