With All The Frills, by Rich Paschall
Will you be buying a new hat for Easter? A beau chapeau, perhaps? For many, it is a tradition. For others, the practice has died out. Maybe you never even heard of it.
When I was young my mother and usually her aunt (my grandmother’s sister) would have to get new hats for Easter. It might be the only time during the year that they would add a hat to their wardrobe. It could not be just any hat, of course. It had to be colorful. It had to be decorated. It had to signal Spring. Artificial flowers would typically be included. In other words, they had “all the frills upon it.”
It has been said that the practice of wearing an Easter Bonnet started here after the Civil War. It may have already been a European tradition at that point. A wreath of fresh flowers or a hat decorated with them would be a sign of springtime and rebirth.
In this country, we have the popular Easter Parade song to talk about your Easter Bonnet. The very prolific Mr. Irving Berlin used the song on Broadway in 1933. It first appeared in the movies in 1938 with Don Ameche doing the honors. My first memory of it is from the 1942 holiday classic, Holiday Inn. No, I was not alive in 1942. This movie brought us a song for each holiday and popularized several tunes, including the most famous song of all, White Christmas.
In the film, Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds were leaving church on Easter Sunday morning. You will notice that many of the women are wearing fancy hats. Bing Crosby takes the slow ride home in the horse and buggy and sings the now-famous song.
In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
You may recall the song mentioning Fifth Avenue. From the late nineteenth century through the middle of the 20th Century, there was a somewhat informal “parade” in New York down the sidewalks of Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday morning. People strolled along the avenue in an attempt to be seen in their best springtime wardrobe. If those walking down the sidewalk were lucky, a fashion photographer would take their picture. That could mean that they would find themselves in the “rotogravure.”
What is a “rotogravure” you may ask? Technically, rotogravure is a method of printing where an image is engraved onto a cylinder for printing. It is certainly a process that pre-dates this century. It could also mean pages of a newspaper or magazine that used such a process. If your picture was caught on film it may have been printed by this imaging process and you might find that “you’re in the rotogravure.”
This informal process of seeing and being seen has died out. While the “Parade” may have drawn a million people to Fifth Avenue by the time the famous movie Easter Parade starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland hit the silver screen, it was reduced to about 30,000 in 2008. New York declared the event canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
If there is an Easter Parade where you are, be sure to wear your best Spring clothes, and of course, your favorite Easter bonnet. There might not be a rotogravure, but at least snap a digital selfie or two.
See also: “I’ll Be All In Clover,” SERENDIPITY, April 3, 2021.