Belle of the ball

The only ball I’ve ever been belle of is a basketball. So, it is with some consternation that I have accepted the English Wedding Challenge. Were it not the wedding of a godchild, were it not the wedding of one of my dearest friends’ daughter, were it not an excuse to get back to my spiritual home, I might well have declined.

But the challenge was on. Which brought me abruptly to: What To Wear?

Have you noticed, American women don’t do hats? But the Brits, well they delight in them, concoct occasions to require them, have ‘Hat Hire’ purveyors where one can go to rent the perfect head couture. Think of it: a store full of just hats. It was in England when I was a guest of British friends at Royal Ascot that I learned about ‘fascinators.’ Downtown in boutique-laden Concord, MA this morning, two of three chic women’s shops did not know what a fascinator is.

Perhaps I should define this fashion statement: it’s a mini hat, adapted to a headband and usually just a large feather-laden flourish worn at a jaunty angle on the side of the head. Small as they are, they can be extraordinary, a mixture of whimsy and elegance.

Which brings me back to the shop owners here in town who’d never heard of them. Proof, if any need be made, of America’s lack of hat consciousness. But I needed one. Believe it or not, only an ugly American would show up at a British wedding without a hat. A bare-headed, tall, white-haired woman would shout out: Hopeless Hayseed! So, it was the third shop owner who not only knew what a fascinator is but had them for sale who saved my bacon.

Sort of.

The problem with getting all dolled up when you have as much doll in your soul as a horned toad is the incongruity of it all. To put it another way, this is so not me. It doesn’t help when you husband declares he won’t be seen in public with you, much less at an English country wedding, if you wear a hat. Any hat. But particularly this little head bobble thingamajig. Nor does it smooth the rough edges of the shopping experience when you yourself think the one you just purchased, although the best of the lot, looks ridiculous.

Perhaps I should describe it: it is black (goes with the shoes and the bag, dontcha know) with little black feathers zinging out all over its flower-shaped flourish. Add five enormous rhinestones as the flower’s pistils and attach all this to a little black skullcap reminiscent of Minny Mouse and — well, you get the picture. Or maybe you’d rather not get the picture.

Whether it is genuinely ridiculous or just my fashion anxiety is a matter of opinion, I guess. The shopkeeper (with an agenda) and my friend who accompanied me on this mission, both assured me it was just ‘wonderful.’ Still, for me to wear it, husband’s opinion or no, is going to require an act of public courage.

Which is worse? To be the classless American and feel inconspicuously conspicuous? Or attempt a leap of fashion commiserate with Superman and his tall building?

The rhinestones, I know, have to go. I couldn’t swing that close to out-and-out tacky, even though the overall effect is, counterintuitively, rather cheerful and certainly whimsical. So, I found a child’s headband, a string really with little red daisies strung along it and have decided to dismember the headband, steal the flowers, get the rhinestones gone and replace them with a daisy bouquet. Red daisies match the dress.

Beginning to look like an outfit, no? Red dress, red daisies. Black shoes, bag, fascinator and pashmina. Ho, ho! Look out Kate Middleton!

— Belle Songer


3 thoughts on “Belle of the ball

  1. girrrrl, you wear the heck outta that hat. style is all about the wearer, not what’s being worn. sacrificing an accessory to better another is not only forgivable, it gets you extra style points. send pics immediately.


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