Finding just the right hat to wear to my daughter’s wedding was not as easy as I expected!
I wanted to wear a hat to my daughter’s wedding, because I like hats – dramatic hats with wide brims. They make me smile. I entered the milliner’s shop with a spring in my step. Finding an outfit for the wedding had been tortuous, but I was pretty confident that I would find a hat I liked easily. Pah! That just goes to show that I know nothing.
The lady in the shop (I don’t think I’m brave enough to describe her as a shop assistant) was slight and elegantly dressed. As I entered, she looked down her long, pointy nose at me, and bared her teeth, although possibly she thought she was smiling. I glanced down at the nearest hat. My jaw dropped and swayed gently in the breeze. The price label read £450. “I could go away for a weekend for that!” I gasped.
“You might like to try a fascinator.” Her accent was cut glass; her tone patronising.
I have never really understood fascinators. Presumably, they are meant to make the wearer appear fascinating. It’s a point of view, I suppose. They are probably very useful if you need to attract attention away from something – gargantuan bingo wings perhaps, or the fact that you’ve spilled gravy down your front. Mostly, in my opinion, they make the wearer look as if a giant insect has fallen from the sky and attached itself to her head. I tried on several fascinators. It seemed only polite. We, the lady in the shop and I, then stood silently and stared in horrid fascination at my reflection. At least we’d worked out why they were called fascinators, and then I suggested that perhaps we shouldn’t worry too much about the prices (that was going to go down well at home) and I ought to look at actual hats.
I looked around at the hats. They seemed to go up a long way, and many of them went up and then off to one side as if they were in a hurry to leave. I am partial to hats that go out sideways rather than skywards. I asked the lady if she had any such hats. She looked shocked, as if I had suggested that breaking wind was the must-have sound effect of the season, and then she informed me that those sort of hats hadn’t been in fashion for some years. “But I like them,” I protested petulantly.
“And I don’t sell them,” she responded.
She handed me a very tall hat. As well as being lime green (why would any sane person wear lime green?) it had abundant feathers and lace. Once more we regarded my reflection in the mirror. Then, without a word, she handed me another hat, and another and another, each one more unflattering than the last. “If I’m going to wear a hat,” I announced, taking the latest offering and placing it gingerly on my head, “I need to look better after I’ve put it on, than I did before”. The hat, which looked as if it had been designed as an homage to the Eiffel Tower, extended skywards and brushed the ceiling. “And,” I added, through gritted teeth, “I don’t look better. I look like an escaped lunatic.” The assistant pursed her lips, and wrestled the hat from my head, “Some people just don’t suit hats,” she declared, and turned away from me. It was clear that I had been dismissed. Then, with alarm, I noticed that her shoulders were shaking. It looked as if she was… surely not… no, I couldn’t have… was it possible that I had made her cry? “Are you alright?” I asked. She made a choking sound. Oh my God, the woman was obviously genuinely distressed. “I’m so sorry,” I began, and then she turned. Tears were streaming down her long, pointy nose. She was snuffling and gasping and snorting like a small, elegant piglet. And then it occurred to me – she wasn’t crying – she was laughing.
I could see that she was trying very hard to speak, but it was clearly beyond her. And then I began to laugh too. I couldn’t help myself. It felt wonderful after all the angst. A small, dumpling of a woman wobbled into the shop, took one look at us, and backed out. It just made us laugh more. Slowly, after what seemed like a long time, our guffaws began to subside.
And then she pointed at a high shelf. Sitting in splendid isolation, under a covering of dust sat a navy blue hat. It had a wide brim. “That’s the one you want,” she spluttered. I reached up, gripped the hat and placed it on my head in one swift, exhilarating movement. It was gloriously, unfashionably perfect! “Why didn’t you show this one to me before?” I enquired.
She held my gaze, “Because you were so incredibly rude.”
For a moment I wanted to slap her, and then I thought about my behaviour. I nodded, “You’re right.”
She reached up, grabbed the hat, and headed for the till, “It’s yours for £40.”
The lady in the shop looked down her long, pointy nose at me, and grinned, “No other bugger’s going to be daft enough to buy it!”
I wore the hat with the unfashionably wide brim to my daughter’s wedding. It was a wonderful wedding, and it is a wonderful hat. I am smiling now as I think about it.
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