In Your Easter Bonnet

It is rare today to see women wearing fancy hats to church, but when I was growing up, it was quite a common site and included my mother and me.  It brings to mind Irving Berlin’s song, “Easter Parade.”

As Easter Sunday approaches, I am reminded of the fashion side of that special day as it occurred in our household.

My brother and me on Easter morning

My brother and me on Easter morning

For most women, Easter Sunday was an occasion to buy a new outfit, including a frilly hat, referred to as an Easter bonnet, new shoes, and a new pair of white gloves. My mother followed that tradition to a point. Where she varied was that she would not let us wear our new outfit on Easter Sunday for the first time. She made us wear it on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before. We could wear it again on Easter, but that could not be the first time. Her reasoning was simple. She wanted us to focus on the meaning of Easter and not on our new clothes.

With my little white gloves

With my little white gloves

I have to admit that in my childish understanding, I wish my mother didn’t have that rule. I wanted to wear my new clothes on Easter Sunday for the first time like everyone else so I would feel special. Wearing them the week before took a little of the shine out of them. I still remember trying to button those tiny pearl buttons on my new white gloves. I also remember how my mother would use Vaseline petroleum jelly to shine my patent leather Mary Janes if I scuffed them up. My mother had such good taste in clothes, and she extended that to clothes she bought for me.

By the time my daughter was growing up, Easter bonnets were already on their way out, and no one wore little white gloves anymore. I see young people today wearing very casual clothes on Easter morning, some even in jeans. I’m just happy to see them in church, no matter what they’re wearing. I guess they learned the lesson my mother was trying to teach me.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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35 Responses to In Your Easter Bonnet

  1. tchistorygal says:

    I remember one dress in particular because my mom’s best friend’s little girl had one just like it, and they dressed us and took our picture. I know I had new dresses, but I don’t remember any of the other ones. It was never a huge deal in our home. My mom rarely , no let’s say never, dressed up. So even though she liked to dress me up more than herself, it was never a huge undertaking. 🙂

    • Coming East says:

      My daughter might say that about me, THG. I didn’t dress up very much, but I sure did like dressing my little girl up. Now I would like to dress up more, but I don’t have the clothes and it would be a waste to buy fancy duds with no place to wear them. Last time I went (this morning), I didn’t see anybody dressed up in Target.

  2. Love your photos! We also had the whole package, including gloves. I did it for my children as long as I could or should I say …. allowed. There is a Baptist, or church of color that I attended once and I must say those attenders know how to do it with their clothing. There were older woman downstairs making a feast for those who wanted to attend following the service. It was a whole day affair….every Sunday.

    • Coming East says:

      Love that story, LWTTD. People just don’t seem to dress up for church like they used to. Older people still do, but not the younger ones. Nothing wrong with that. Things have changed, that’s all.

  3. pattisj says:

    I’m just happy to find something that fits, period! I don’t remember having a hat, maybe once…but I always had a new outfit (usually sewn by Mom) gloves, and shiny black patent leather shoes. I enjoy seeing your photos.

    • Coming East says:

      Thanks, Patti. My mother loved clothes, and I think she liked dressing me up, too. Now that I’m not working, I don’t have any dressy clothes, and I miss it. But I don’t have any place to wear them.

  4. Love this! We used to wear our Easter jackets and bonnets on Palm Sunday also. Loved my gloves. I did get my girls the total package once (the other years it was a new dress and hat), but one year they had the gloves and the purse and the outfit. I was so thrilled for them! Unfortunately, chicken pox hit and they never wore them together on Easter as one of them was home with me, itching… DAF

  5. winsomebella says:

    I still remember making an Easter bonnet out of construction paper, at school. (That would not happen today!) It was purple and had artificial flowers that I had glued to iit. I remember feeling quite fashionable—but somewhere there is a picture that shows otherwise. I wonder what the boys in the class were doing while we girls made our bonnets?

  6. Robin says:

    My son and daughter-in-law dress up their daughters for Easter. My DIL always finds such beautiful dresses and hats for them. Maybe I should see if I can buy them some gloves. 🙂

  7. Al says:

    We loved those pictures! Wow, you really started out with dark hair. Is it red? It’s hard to tell in black and white.

  8. Lenore Diane says:

    My Mom raised us in similar ways, with regards to Easter. Though, instead of buying new clothes, my Mom would sew our clothes. And, often we’d be wearing our sibling’s outfit from the previous year, handed down as the outfits fit.
    You are a better person than me. I see the casual nature of Easter these days, and it makes me sad. Your point rings loud in my ears, better to see them in church dressed casually than not see them in church. Amen.

    • Coming East says:

      Oh, I used to be just like that in my younger days, LD. But everything seems to be so much more casual these days, including what people wear to church. I love seeing young people who still come with their parents. Some of them actually are the ones who bring their parents. I don’t care what they wear.

  9. I used to wear hats on Easter when I was a kid. White tights and dresses, too. I always dress up for church, but I confess that’s partly because I’m almost always cantoring. It’s an interesting and virtuous point your mother made with not letting you wear the new things on Easter Sunday for the first time… were you the type who would have been too distracted by the threads to get the larger message?

  10. notquiteold says:

    Great memories. My cousin just sent me an old photo that her mother took of my parents and me one Easter Sunday. Although I can’t be more than seven, I am sporting a hat, white gloves, a purse, AND a corsage!

  11. Huffygirl says:

    I remember the hats, white glove and new clothes for Easter too. But today – I never get new clothes just for Easter. I find clothes shopping challenging enough, without adding the pressure of finding an outfit in time for a specific occasion. I think part of the reason we bought new clothes back then was that people did not have as many clothes as a lot of us do now. Love those pics of you and your brother.

    • Coming East says:

      I hate clothes shopping, too, HG. Everything is so expensive. And I never thought about it until you mentioned it, but you’re so right—we didn’t have as many clothes then as we do now. I think we have too much.

  12. Dianna says:

    Yes, I remember the little white gloves, hats and patent leather shoes. Times have really changed, haven’t they??

  13. I have a very good friend who wears hats, the wife of one of our retired ministers. Oh, she wears them so well. I wonder where she finds them as I’m hard pressed to think of any millinery departments at our stores….maybe Macy’s still has such a department. They have beach hats that I wouldn’t consider those millinery, but I’m not sure about Sunday dress hats.

  14. I’m not sure I had an Easter bonnet when i was a little girl because there are few photographs, but I remember wearing white gloves. And, remember the song “Easter Parade”. You might want to read my posting about this time of the year:

  15. I love seeing the pastel dresses in stores for Easter. I had white gloves- not for Easter– but I think my sister and I wore them to a couple family weddings.

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