By Linda Scherer
Over the last century, women’s clothing fashions have changed as much as the ladies who wear them.
For 10 years, Heather Edgington of Spring Grove has been using her vintage hat collection to reminisce past fashion trends, as well as some of the era’s history each of her hats represents.
“People enjoy the combination of history along with the hats from each period,” Edgington said. “I am allowed to celebrate the achievement of so many women with this program and it is the greatest enjoyment for me.“
She will be bringing her program “A Century of Hats 1860 to 1960” to St. John’s Ev. Luthern Church in Winsted at 9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 17. A luncheon is to follow the program.
The hat show and luncheon is hosted by the St, John’s Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. Everyone attending is encouraged to wear a favorite hat.
Edgington will be asking for volunteer models from the audience to show off her many hats.
Following her program, she will be available to answer questions about preservation of family heirlooms or any other questions about textiles.
She began collecting hats when she was just 14 years old. Her first hat was a peach silk boudoir cap (breakfast cap) which she bought because it was delicate, feminine, charming, and it was the least expensive item she could find in the antique store she visited with her mother.
After graduating from Spring Grove High School in 1986, she attended the University of Wisconsin, Stout to study clothing design.
Edgington doesn’t remember when she realized she was collecting hats, but somewhere along the way, she discovered her love of vintage pieces.
“I enjoy great design whether it is vintage or modern, but the vintage pieces have a story of their own which makes them very appealing,” Edgington said.
Today, she has a collection of hundreds of hats and is unable to pick a favorite hat or style.
“Every decade has fabulous hats. It is hard to choose,” she said.
Her most recent hat purchase was the weekend previous to this interview.
A lady from Winona contacted her and said she was willing to part with some family pieces. Edgington’s purchase was a black velvet Victorian hat from the 1890s with a pinched-back wide-brim.
Although she would not reveal how much she is willing to pay for her hats she said she is willing to pay accordingly if the hat is museum quality and the piece is difficult to find.
Some of her new purchases still send her to her reference books for help on deciding what era the hat is from. However, she finds the more she works with the hats, the more comfortable she has become in dating them.
Some hats will throw people off. Edgington gives an example of the early 1940s after “Gone with the Wind” came out. “There was a revival of Victorian-looking hats with wide brims. To someone not familiar with vintage hats, it would just look like a bonnet,” Edgington said.
“Another example was in 1960, a mod version of the 1920s cloche came back.”
It is very apparent that Edgington values her vintage hats. She uses the hats, but watches to make sure they do not become damaged.
Each hat is carried in a tote lined with cotton muslin, which acts as a barrier to prevent moisture from entering the box.
When she returns home from her shows, she removes the lids to prevent moisture build-up. She learned to care for vintage pieces in a historic costume lab while attending college.
According to Edgington, it doesn’t take her very long to get ready to pack up for a program. She has three helpers, daughters, Grace, 9; Mariah, 7; and son, Dane, 3. Once she reaches her destination, she estimates about 20 minutes of setup time.
Since 2005, she has taken her program on the road, traveling through the Midwest.
Some of her previous style show presentations have been called “absolutely extraordinary” in Chicago, Ill., “memorable” in LaCrescent, Minn., and “absolutely wonderful” in Mequon, Wis.
Her favorite program to present is “A Century of Hats,” which she will be presenting to her audience at St. John’s.
“It is the program that lets me acknowledge women’s accomplishments through the past century,” she said.
In addition, she has three other programs to offer:
• “A Brimful of Memories” 1850 to 1918, which centers on the Victorian and Edwardian years.
• “Oh Those Flappers” 1920 to 1934 program includes the Roaring 20s, the Charleston, and those Glorious Flappers.
• “Where Did you Get that Hat?” 1940 to 1952 includes tiny toppers, doll hats and toy hats.
Edgington makes presentations for all different kinds of group events. Some examples she gives includes community events, senior groups, church groups, historical societies, women’s clubs, and the Red Hat Society.
Anyone interested in booking a vintage hat show can check out her web site at www.vintagehatshows.com.
Specific dates can be booked out one year in advance. The sooner a date and time can be reserved, the more likely the date will be available. To schedule an event, call Heather Edgington at (507) 498-3634.