If you’re reading this, unless you are already a Red Hatter, you’re probably wondering who all these hot older women seen about town dressed in purple clothes and red hats are. That’s easy! They’re Red Hatters! The Red Hat Society began in 1998 when a woman found a red hat in a thrift shop, and on impulse, bought it. Knowing of the poem by Jennie Joseph called “Warning” that begins “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple, with a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me”, she began purchasing red hats and giving them to her girlfriends on the occasion of their 50th birthdays. One day, they all decided to dress up in their best purple outfits along with their red hats and go out to lunch. From that humble beginning, the Red Hat Society was formed.
Currently, there are chapters in all 50 states and most countries—over 40 thousand chapters in all. Women everywhere have developed what is known as “Hattitude” and joined in the fun. What does it take to be a Red Hatter? Not very much at all, really. Just a birth certificate that shows you have passed “The Birthday” (in other words, you are 50 or over), a red hat, something purple to wear and a desire to get out, meet people and join in the fun. We have raised our kids, and in some cases, raised our husbands, too, and now it’s our turn to go out and have a good time.
For younger women, the Society created Pink Hatters, the younger sister to the Red Hatter. They wear pink hats and lavender clothes. Upon their 50th birthday, a Pink Hatter participates in a ceremony called a “Reduation” and trades her pink hat in for a red one.
So, you ask, what does all this have to do with online auctions? The answer is simple. The Red Hatter’s official sport is SHOPPING. While some of our more conservative sisters may limit themselves to one or two hats and a few purple sweaters or tank tops, others love to SHOP and collect items. It’s not unusual for a Red Hatter to have a separate closet for her red and purple regalia. Some even proudly exchange photos of their Red Hat closets.
Any red hat listed online is likely to be checked out by numerous Red Hatted online auction buyers. Anything purple will too! The typical Red Hatter is interested in anything from purple shoes to rhinestone jewelry to red gloves and of course, a feather boa or two. Each chapter has a Queen and each Queen simply MUST own a crown shaped pin or two … or three … or … well, you get the idea. Tea parties are a Red Hat tradition, and many Red Hatters collect vintage cups, saucers, and teapots, too. A Red Hat tea party with a jumble of mismatched china is a true thing to behold.
For each different style of hat there is out there, there is a Red Hatter just longing to own it. Like the original thrift shop vintage hat, some ladies adore vintage hats. Some prefer simpler, newer models. Some simply cannot own enough hats and have become full-time red hat collectors.
There are different types of hats for different seasons. Summer hats are usually made of straw, sinamay or horsehair. Sinamay and horsehair were once natural materials, but are now synthetically made. Those materials are light and cool to wear in the summer. Of the three, straw is the most fragile, and when buying a vintage straw hat, inquire first about damage. Straw tends to dry out and become brittle, often resulting in severe damage. It is also subject to certain types of insect damage. Such damage is extremely difficult to repair.
In the winter, the vast majority of hats are felt, but some are also other materials like velvet and chenille. If you are buying a vintage felt hat, remember that felt is actually wool and vintage hats are very often moth eaten. Felt also has a nap, or a close-cropped, one directional, soft, fuzzy texture, to it. Often, portions of the nap are missing, resulting in bald spots. These conditions are difficult, but not impossible to repair. A damaged hat can always be restyled into something else. Depending on where the damage is and how severe, it can be covered with flowers, buttons, ribbons or even a pretty vintage pin can cover a worn spot in an otherwise beautiful vintage hat. Or you can get creative and add anything you want to embellish it and make it personal. The beauty of being a Red Hatter is anything goes!
Also, remember that felt is a porous fabric and holds moisture. So, hats stored for a long time can be tainted with mold and mildew that can be harmful to your health. Once you purchase felt hats, it is wise to store them in cardboard hatboxes during the off-season. Save up those little silicone packets in the bottom of boxes, too, they will help keep your hats dry. Or you might invest in some of those cedar balls to toss in with your precious hats. Mothballs can be very difficult to air out come fall when you take your woolen hats out, however there are many home remedies for moth protection that work just as well. In any case, avoid plastic hatboxes, plastic storage boxes and plastic bags that will only hold moisture in them. Do not use tissue paper to stuff them unless you are sure it is archival acid-free tissue. The acid in normal tissue paper will literally suck the color out of fabric wherever it touches it. By next year, you will be likely to find faded spots. And always store them in a dry place away from bright light that will also fade the color.
Be aware that there are many low quality felt hats out there. They are costume type hats. You can generally tell a low quality felt hat from the fact that the edges aren’t bound or that you can usually see through the weave. They also usually do not have a sweat band inside. A low quality hat might be fine for a certain occasion like Halloween or Mardi Gras, but don’t expect to get much wear out of it. Any place felt creases, it becomes weak and is likely to tear. The thinner the felt, the more likely it is to crease and tear.
Hats, especially felt ones, can generally be dry-cleaned. However, before buying a hat that requires cleaning, check with your dry cleaner and see if they handle hats. Also, hats that are out of shape from being improperly stores can usually be “reblocked”. Reblocking is a process that uses steam to moisten the felt, shape it over a form, and allow it to dry into a new shape. If the hat is valuable, find a local professional to reblock for you. If it isn’t, you might consider trying it yourself with steam from a teakettle or steam iron and a bowl or something of similar shape to mold it to. Remember, wet or even damp felt stretches like mad, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up with a hat that is way too big for you.
So, do you have a red hat to sell? Or some purple clothes? Glitzy rhinestone jewelry? White gloves? Red Hatters wear it all! And remember our younger pink-hatted sisters. Pink hats are always in demand, too. Don’t forget purple hats, either. A Red Hatter traditionally wears a purple hat during the month of her birthday so she stands out from the crowd and people know it’s her birthday. The pink hatter traditionally wears lavender during her birthday month. Purple hats tend to be scarce and in demand. It took me almost 6 months to find the perfect one!
When selling your items, please remember a few things.
If you are selling vintage items, please make sure you give an accurate description. While vintage hats are great to own and wear, no one wants to purchase a hat that is badly damaged. If your hat has damage, please indicate it. If there are moth holes, say so and try to provide photos. If the hat is veiled and the veiling is torn, indicate it. Again, this damage isn’t earth shattering—new veiling is available—but it is fairly expensive and a consideration when buying a hat with damage to the veil. Take a lot of photos - including one of the label inside. Many people collect hats from certain hatmakers.
Also, remember people will be wearing these items. If they come from a house with pets or smoking, the kind thing to do is say so in the event the new owner is allergic. If it smells of mold or mildew, say so, too. If it has been stored in mothballs, that, too, can be the cause of allergic reactions.
Remember, all heads are not the same size, so please measure the inside diameter of the hat as carefully as you can. It is easy to add a foam insert to a hat that’s too big, but almost impossible to make one bigger.
When placing your ad, choose your key words carefully. I shouldn’t say this, but I have gotten some amazing buys in online auctions on items that were poorly keyworded and simply NOT seen by enough people. Key words like RED HAT and PURPLE SHOES will draw a lot of interest. Some even use the words “Society Ladies” to catch our eye.
And please remember, if the hat isn’t vintage, don’t say it is. Instead, say it is vintage-style. Give a good, accurate description of the item, then sit back and wait. Most likely, the item will find its way into a Red Hatter’s collection.
Buy It Now