homepage logo

Where did you get that hat?

By Staff | May 8, 2012

Agnes Bower and Doris Flogg from the Muncy Valley Skilled Nursing Unit model spring hats from the collection of Barb Schmouder.

MUNCY – Mother’s Day isn’t the only occasion to wear a hat. Once considered a status symbol in a woman’s wardrobe, hats have now become less of the norm compared to the 16th century’s emergence of haberdashers. This was the term used before millinery, the art of hat making became the official term. A hat is the most notable piece of fashion that anyone can wear.

It wasn’t until the 17th century when women’s headgear was no longer influenced by men’s hat fashions. A maker of women’s hats became known as a milliner because many of the embellishments used such as satin ribbons and unusual straws were imported from Milan in northern Italy. ‘Millaners’ were those who would bring back the popular items used for making hats.

Many of the residents, both men and women, at the Muncy Skilled Nursing Unit were able to enjoy a hat show presented by Barb Schmouder who claims to have over 500 hats in her collection. “This time I brought spring hats for the residents to wear,” she said while pulling out several distinguished hat boxes. Many of the ladies could identify with the Brozman’s hat box and some of the more delicate hats that were shown. Schmouder pulled out several custom head pieces made from many styles and periods of history. In the 18th Century the ladies would wear these beautiful black small riding hats with emu feathers while riding side saddle on a horse she told the audience.

Agnes Bower, who is going to be 101 on May 19 said she remembers going to Brozman’s in downtown Williamsport where the elevator would take her to the hats on the second floor.

Schmouder also showed some designer hats, particularly one from Lily Dache, a well known French fashion designer who started at the age of 15. She was the most famous milliner in the United States during her time in the 40’s according to Schmouder. “By hand she would make one-of-a-kind creations from satin and chiffon using original ribbons and beaded netting.” Schmouder held up her most expensive hat from her collection. “This was quite costly,” she revealed. Her oldest hat dates back to the 1800’s, and it is a true riding hat.

Presenter Barb Schmouder shows off one of her most prized hats, a genuine riding hat with real feathers made from chickens.

There were raffia straw hats, some made from onion skins, pressed and cut into strips. There were garden hats such as those worn by Scarlet O’Hara, and there were touring hats made with chicken and turkey feathers, adorned with draping organdy and tulle. Many hats were embellished with flowers, using lots of them from rosebuds to lilies of the valley. Summer weddings were popular for these types of hats worn in the 50’s. Schmouder held up a hat with crinoline and blue velvet ribbons, and explained that many of the hats had frames on the inside to keep its shape.

She displayed a woven hat adorned with large black and pink flowers that activity aide, Bonnie Snyder from Muncy wore for the residents. By the time she was finished with her show, every member present was wearing a hat, including the men and the volunteers.

Today hats can be considered a form of art. “I want to show you my show stopper hat,” Schmouder said while pulling out an exquisite dainty headdress made from real chicken feathers. “I replaced the broken feathers with some I got at the Hughesville fair,” she said. “I like to wear this hat just so I can provoke my husband.”

Since 1995 Barb Schmouder who resides in the Jersey Shore area has collected hats. She enjoys taking her hats all over the area to assisted living centers and putting on a hat show for the residents. Schmouder was formerly a nurse’s aid working in the evenings when she would bring in her hats for patients to admire and wear. “This would always cheer them up, and we would have fun with them,” she added.

Since their appearance, hats have come and gone as status symbols and fashion statements as well as functioning for sports and protective headgear. There was a revival in the 80’s and 90’s, and today there will always be a never ending range of choices for both men and women.