GAINESVILLE — For some women, finding that perfect hat for Easter isn’t a shopping trip, it’s a mission.
They hunt from store to store around the Atlanta area and even to other states for the perfect — and not duplicated — piece of head adornment.
And the serious hat ladies didn’t wait until this week to have their Easter hat ready for today’s celebration.
"I have enough in my basement where I could wear one of my old ones I haven’t worn in a while," said Sonya Lackey, wife of the Rev. Rodney Lackey at Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville. "I go out of town to special shops and find different stores. I don’t want to sit in church with a hat like anyone else’s, that’s just me."
Deborah Mack, a Hall County commissioner, wears a hat every day and said she will choose one out of her collection.
"I probably have 300 or 400, maybe 500," she said. "I have certain hats I wear every day and I have certain hats I wear to church. A church hat is a little more fancy, a little more brimmy, wider ... I like the wide brimmed for church.
"I have (hats with) feathers ... I have some so big I can’t wear them in the car. I have to get to where I’m going to put them on."
But these hats that Lackey and Mack collect are more than just a hat to dress up for church — they are investments.
"I try to set a $150 limit and every once in a while I’ll splurge and go over," Mack said.
Lackey’s most expensive hat she owns was purchased by her husband."I think it was $350," she said. "I wear it in the winter, he got it for Christmas. It is red with the rhinestones and it’s real pretty ... but I got one for free (from the purchase)."
Lackey said she has always worn hats for Easter since she was a little girl.
"For Easter, my mother and her mother, they have always worn hats but for Easter I would always get a hat as a little girl," said Lackey, who owns about 50 hats. "As a pastor’s wife they like us to wear hats, especially on certain occasions."
Bobbie Meadows, a member at St. John Baptist Church, said she has hats in all different colors but doesn’t buy a special Easter hat.
"To me, God is risen every day in my life so Easter is just a time that has been set aside but every day is a day of celebration," said Meadows, who has been wearing hats for three to four years regularly. "My daughter got me back wearing them again ... I try to wear them to offset whatever I am wearing."
Mack began wearing hats regularly about 10 years ago, but for a very different reason.
"I started having problems with my back and I was going back and forth to the doctor and my hair started thinning so I cut it off," said Mack, a member of First Baptist Church. "So my sister called me one day and said ‘I’ve been thinking about your back, you know you’re bald headed’ and she said, and, ‘You are probably getting a cold because the wind and air is going down your back you don’t have anything to keep the cold off your back, so put a hat on your head and see if your back quits hurting.
"I started wearing a hat and my back quit hurting. Your hat holds your body heat in, so I guess that helped."
But for many women, hats are simply about fashion.
Judy Chang, owner of Allure at The Gallery at South Dekalb, said smaller hats in pastel colors are in style for spring.
"We do a lot of smaller hats," she said. "Very old 19th Century looking, lot of sequins and oyster and crystals. ... Lots of pastel colors — yellow right now but we always do pink and ivories in the spring."
At Allure, where some women confessed to buying their hats (many won’t divulge their sources), many of the hats come with details and jeweled adornments, Chang said.
"We only sell the very expensive ... some are big hats and the customers I have here are looking for something very different and very ornamental, like about $500 to $600."
According to Duane Dewbury, president of HatsAmerica.com, Helen Kaminski and Plaza Suite Spring Hats are the most popular brands selling through his company for Easter and the Kentucky Derby.
Small-town hat shops are a thing of the past, so Lackey and Mack go to great lengths — and car rides — for their finds. Lackey travels to different points in Atlanta while Mack comes by her hats in different ways.
"I like to attend Baptist conventions because they have vendors there that sell pretty hats, the really fancy hats that I like to wear to church," Mack said. "House of Hats out of Alabama, they have gotten to know me so I tell them, ‘I don’t want church hats this time, I want everyday hats,’ so they will pick me out a nice selection to pick from."