asher63 (asher63) wrote,
asher63
asher63

The Hat Museum

Visiting Portland with my best buddy B. At her request, we went for a tour of the Hat Museum. It was every bit as exciting as it sounds. I did manage to stay awake through the whole thing. Actually I have to admit that it was moderately interesting at times. The curator was dressed in fancy Edwardian costume. (I'd mentally guessed, correctly, that it was early-20th-century; she mentioned how often people comment on her "fancy Victorian hats" and she has to explain that it's Edwardian, not Victorian. Queen V was in mourning for the last 30 years of her life, which kind of put a damper on fashion trends. With the accession of Edward and the dawn of a new century, the mood changed.) Interesting stuff about hatting materials - leather and felt (wool or fur) for men, later silk, and straw for women - they could do some amazing things with straw, which I had no clue about. Women's hatmakers are called "mulliners" after Milan. The first felt was discovered by accident when ancient people stuck wool in their sandals for a makeshift sock; the creation of felt is attributed to Saint Clement. Otters had the best pelts for hatmaking, and the very lucrative beasts were hunted almost to extinction in North America in the 19th century - it was the "other Gold Rush". Also, fur felt (but not wool felt) was originally made with mercury, hence the appearance of the "mad hatter" figure. I knew about the mercury but not that it was specifically tied to fur felt. Most of the women's hats started life as men's hats, but there was one that went the other way - none other than the venerable fedora. Also among men's hats, the boater (a particular fascination of mine, just because I find it so ridiculous looking) started with the rowing teams at Oxford.

The hat museum was exactly as I'd pictured it: a collection of hats crammed into an antique house curated by an eccentric but sharp-witted old lady. There were about a half-dozen other people on our tour, all women. At one point I noticed that, with my beret, I was the only guest wearing a hat.

Anyway, there's an example of how you can get dragged along to something you really don't want to go to, because you want to be a good sport, and be bored to tears and yet still have a moderately good time and even learn a thing or two. Oh, and I even bought a hat!
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