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Ladies don their favorite head wear for informal parade
A hat sits on display at a recent meeting of the Gainesville-Hall County Black Historical Society.

Sporting a tall, modern and racy red hat with small white and black feathers, Barbara Brooks strutted across the stage with flair. Alphia Wills modeled multiple church hats, a white hat covered in white tulle along with a low profile pink hat with matching pink netting.

And Linda Hutchens wore a white hat with pink ribbon trim at the recent meeting of the Gainesville-Hall County Black History Society.

"It is not really about what's the latest but what is different," said Brooks, a member of the society and owner of the bright red hat. "It was summertime, and I bought it because it was beautiful; most of the hats that I have bought I just buy them because I like them."

The women were part of a presentation by the group to honor black women and their flair for church head wear fashion.

Wills, a member of the society, got the idea for the event, held on Aug. 29, from a book called "Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats," which was written by her first cousin's grandson.

"I didn't know about the book until I was looking online and doing family history and research," she said. ".... And then after a while I also attended the play that was in Atlanta."

"Crowns" was a book turned into a gospel musical that honored that art of wearing church hats, which has been a part of African-American heritage, according to Wills.

Wills explained that slave women wore head pieces to church because it was the only place blacks were allowed to congregate.

"If there was something you wanted to show off, you had to wear it to church," she said.

The "Crowns" program hopes to have a yearly presentation and get even more local women interested in the history of church hats.

"My experience is that women that are over 50 usually do more hat wearing," Brooks added.

She said she used to wear hats but gave up the fashion statement. "I don't dress up for church; a long time ago I did, but .. (not wearing a hat) takes attention off me and puts it on God."