Fashion and shopping, Melbourne style

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Entries in bridal (11)

Saturday
Dec202008

Behind the veil

Veils evoke mystery, they hint at the shape of a face, give an alluring glimpse of a shadowed eye. Once upon a time. These veiled hats do nothing of the sort.

Historically, veils were worn first as a symbol of status – they were forbidden to common women and prostitutes – and then for religious reasons of propriety: to cover the hair or hide the face from men’s sinful gazes. Women also wore veils during mourning, or when they were up to mischief – a midnight rendezvous with a lover, or some other secret errand. It can’t have taken long for courtesans to appropriate a semi-transparent veil, for the undeniable sensual mystique lent to the wearer.

These hats are pure frivolities, designed to make feminine hearts go pitter-pat, and men’s a-flutter at a coquettish sideways glance.

It is in this spirit I don an 80s cocktail hat in purple satin (above) and a modern version in black straw and violet roses (below). I found both on the same trip to the Salvos a few weekends ago.

Hats, for me, are strongly associated with Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, where the purchase of a hat was a momentous occasion, accompanied by clapping and expressions of feminine delight.

In light of this, it is so sad to me that many women greet the sight of a hat with fear and horror, as though it is a creature ascended from hell that has perched on the wearer’s head. There are exceptions of course: on the beach, at the races, or a wedding, but for everyday fashion-wear, a hat is a rare bird indeed.

This green flight of fancy (below) is vintage 50s, a double bow of silk organza attached to a wire headband. I found this on eBay from an English seller who suggested it would be suitable for a bridesmaid. I fell in love with it at first sight, and was thrilled to win it for a very reasonable AU$15.

From bridesmaids to brides… probably the most common sighting of a veil in the West today is on a bride. Wikipedia gives us some interesting and/or amusing facts: Brides used to wear their hair flowing down their back at their wedding to symbolise their virginity, now the white diaphanous veil is often said to represent this. … I don’t think that applies these days.

And: Roman brides, for instance, wore an intensely flame-coloured and fulsome veil, called the flammeum, apparently intended to protect the bride from evil spirits on her wedding day. I’d like to see a bride today wearing an orange veil with her oyster satin dress!

Also: The lifting of the veil was often a part of ancient wedding ritual, symbolising the groom taking possession of the wife, either as lover or as property, or the revelation of the bride by her parents to the groom for his approval.

Hmmm, the chances I’ll be wearing a veil as a bride grow slimmer…

This headpiece of sculptured fabric (above) is also vintage 50s. I admired this frivolity for quite a while in Chapel Street Bazaar before I finally gave in and bought it. It would be difficult to find a modern piece that was equally original. I like that it is not at all prissy, like most of the fascinators girls wear these days.

The veil was actually sold as a tulle bonnet thrown in with a job lot of scarves from eBay. I couldn’t quite get my head round that one: it looked more like a hairnet for a factory worker. It was seeing them tossed together in a basket that inspired me to reinvent the bonnet. They make quite a pretty and serendipitous pairing, don’t you think?

A match made in heaven in fact!

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