Bonnets on parade at Easter

There’s something about a woman in a hat that’s quintessentially Southern.

Be it a wide-brimmed picture hat with its own ZIP code or a classic cloche with just the right amount of attitude, a Southern woman can make a hat sing.

And we’ll let you in on a secret from the late Orene Muse, a social grand dame of the highest order. Known for her signature chapeaux, Muse firmly believed “the bigger the hat, the smaller the hips looked.”

With winter’s dirge finally behind us, we thought we’d showcase some women who know how to wear their hats with style. And, since it’s Easter, let’s all put on our toppers and find a parade.

Baton Rouge Symphony League member Paris Yegge spied her black-and-cream straw hat while visiting New Orleans and knew it was just what she needed for the league’s Mad Hatter’s Luncheon & Style Show.

“I like big things, I’m from Texas,” she says with a laugh. “This hat was just very unique. It was made in Italy, and I guess it just matches my personality.

“This one’s going to make a great Easter bonnet,” Yegee adds.

Michelle Pricer scooped up several dresses as Mad Hatter’s possibilities, but it was the hat that helped her decide which one made the cut.

“When I walked in Dillard’s and saw this yellow hat, I knew the yellow dress was the one I was going to wear,” she says. “I had to wear that yellow hat.”

Donna Lyon, of Lafayette, has worn hats since she was a young girl.

“They’ve gotten bigger over time,” she says with a laugh.

At the Acadiana Symphony Women’s League’s Mad Hatter’s Luncheon, her teal velvet Whittall & Shon was no exception. The hat was purchased in Houston and is one of 20 she owns. She rarely parts with them.

“Being a Southern woman, I like the way I feel in a hat — very ladylike,” she says. “And my mother always said, ‘You need a new hat for Easter.’”

If anyone can wear an orange hat, it’s Debbie Mills. The pharmacist and former first responder is also wife to state Sen. Fred Mills, of New Iberia.

“I needed a hat to go with my dress,” she says of the Whittall & Shon that completed her look for the Acadiana luncheon.

“It was great ensemble,” says Mills. “I loved wearing it.”

Sally Burdette perched a jaunty red hat with big blooms atop her head for the Acadiana event. It’s just one of many hats she’s worn literally and as a hard-working presence throughout the Lafayette community as a past president of the Acadiana Symphony Board of Directors and the Symphony Women’s League, as well as serving with the Friends of Humanities, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Friends of Music and the March of Dimes.

For Brenda Toston, wearing a hat lifts her spirits. “I feel an inward beauty that causes me to stand tall and proud,” says Toston, one of dozens of women who decked out for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority’s debut Hat and Glove Dinner Party at the Opelousas Civic Center.

Janice Smith adds there is “nothing classier than a woman wearing a hat. It’s a way of expressing myself by the style of hat I wear, and it makes me feel unique.”

And the sorority’s Johnnie Marks notes women who wear hats “seem to take on a different demeanor of confidence.”