Linda Ashton is the president of The Milliners Guild, an organization of hat makers and small millinery business owners. The guild will be holding their St. Catherine’s Day Parade, a homage to the patron saint of milliners, on November 15th.
What is the Saint Catherine’s Day Parade? How long has it been a tradition?
The St. Catherine’s event has been going on about five years now. It’s celebrated in France and in some other areas of Europe. Because the Guild is always looking for events where we walk about and we’re all hatted up, we call them “Mill Abouts."
St. Catherine seemed like a perfect fit for a group of milliners. We start out at the millinery synogague, which happens to be a synagogue on 38th street and 6th Ave. We meet there and then we usually walk somewhere and then have a celebration. We always do a photo opp and this year we will be walking to Grand Central.
So is the millinery synagogue an actual functioning synagogue?
It’s right in the heart of the garment center. It’s been there for quite a long time. In the last couple of years, the rabbi comes out and he gives us a little blessing. There are not many Millinery religious houses anywhere. This is the only one that we know of. It’s a lovely short, little building and it says Millinery Synagogue.
Why do you think so many people are shy about wearing hats? Do you think they’ve gone out of fashion?
Hats have never gone out of fashion. I think that, as you know in history, everyone wore a hat. You can see people in bread lines during the Great Depression wearing hats. A man didn’t go out without a hat, nor did a woman.
I think that probably hats went out for women, in the 60s and 70s, when women started wearing big bouffant hair, because it would mess up your hair.I believe everyone should have a minimum of two hats-- one for the sun in the summer and one for the cold in the winter.
The kind of hats that we make, because we’re all about handmade, would last for years and years.It becomes like a wonderful friend. But an everyday hat or a hat for a beach, they can be not as outrageous and just be wonderful and charming. We encourage people to wear a hat!
Do you have any advice for someone who is scared of wearing a hat?
A lot of people have a desire, to wear a hat, but they’re usually lacking that little bit of courage to do it. What I always say is to buy a nice hat that you like, nothing too frivolous, but make it, let’s say, a winter hat. The first day it rains, grab your hat, put it on, and take an umbrella. The beauty of wearing a hat in the rain is you that don’t need an umbrella.
But if you’re out and it’s raining and you’re under an umbrella, no one’s really paying that much attention to you. It makes it a little bit easier to sort of step into it. You don’t have to have a huge flower or feather on it. It can be a very simple, lovely hat with a brim for your face. When you see hats in a store, try them on!
Usually what will happen is you’ll put one on and it might look silly, it’s not suitable for you and then eventually there’s sort of an aha moment where you’ll put the hat on and you and your friend will look at each other and say “Wow, that looks really nice!