Saturday, April 18, 2015

Haturday: Tia Frankie's Cream, Pleated, Befeathered Hat, and Other Inherited Accoutrement

Growing up, we frequently visited my dad's Aunt Frankie, or, as we called her, Tia. When my older brother first started speaking as a toddler, his attempt at pronouncing "Frankie" sounded a bit too much like an impolite word starting with the letter F, so she instead became "Tia" to him and later to me as well. Tia was a brash, funny, sarcastic, and highly opinionated lady whose catchphrase was "whatever." Tia never had children of her own, although she always wanted them. She had a soft side, always made cookies for the neighborhood kids (and us whenever we came over), and was just really fun to be around. Towards the end of her life, she started to suffer from dementia, which was hard for everyone to see. She passed away in mid-2009 when I was a freshman at college in the middle of finals, and I regret that I didn't get to see her more in her last year.

A few years before she died, she gave me a large number of hats, I think because I was in a play or something. Since then, I have endeavored to wear them when I can. Some of them are in less than stellar shape, but most of the wear and tear is fixable. There's a lot of veiling that needs to be replaced. I have all but one of the hats here with me, and the only one I don't have looks like a bird's nest of blue and green strips of fabric that remind me of a Pokemon called Tangela.

Fashion of the 60s

Generally speaking, Tia had excellent taste, though. Check out this photo of her, probably from the 60s, with a dress lined with some mod geometric fabric:

Tia lookin' fly

For today's installment of Haturday, I'd like to show you one of the most elegant hats from Tia's collection. It's a small cream velvet hat that's about the size of a pillbox, but the front extends out and down like a cap.  The base is buckram and has a bit of buckling on the sides. The damage to the structure isn't visible, though, because the outside fabric is pleated and completely hides any structural aging; a giant lovely grey/cream feather poof to one side serves to distract from any imperfections as well.

The inside label says "Original Roberta Bernays."

There seem to be a number of Roberta Bernays hats available on the internet, and there's one in the Met's hat collection here. If anyone has any info on Roberta Bernays, I'd love to hear more! I'm planning on posting at the Vintage Fashion Guild, since there was a post about identifying another Roberta Bernays. According to the Met, she was an American, and I've seen hats from the 30s to the 60s on the internet with Roberta Bernays. I've fallen down a rabbit hole of newpaper ads from the 50s and 60s with wonderful copy. My favorite are from the Lion Store ads in the Toledo Blade. Exhibit A:

New And Startling! Peacock Blue!
your most-noticed
fall hats!
Shock color of the season, Peacock! The most vivid blue that ever caught an eye. Let a hat of Peacock Blue highlight your darktone costumes...and lend a special gayety to you. [note: the ellipsis is original, I didn't add it. I'm not sure why it's there.] We have all manner of new styles—in felts and velours by our most exclusive designers—any you may choose from many prices.
Our plume-trimmed profile hat set with glitter, rich velour, a Roberta Bernays 12.98
Rhinestone and feather-crowned pillbox with black velvet cuffs; passementerie-lit veil...a Roberta Bernays [why the ellipsis again?] 10.00

or this one:
admired at Easter
you in our exclusive
Roberta Bernays hats
chic of silhouette
breath-taking of trim

"chic of silhouette, breath-taking of trim" sounds like an overly literal Latin translation I would have made in AP Latin in high school.

Here's my Tia Frankie Roberta Bernays in action. It may not be Easter more, but I'm pretty chic of silhouette if I do say so myself:

I've styled it with a silk scarf and snakeskin earrings I inherited from my Great Grandma Gilbert. She died when I was quite young, and no one else appeared to want some of her kitschier costume jewelry pieces, so I got them. These snakeskin (or other unidentified reptile skin) earrings are my favorite. You can't tell they're reptilian unless you look at them up close.

The silk scarf is an Adrienne Vittadini scarf with giant roses on a striped background with lilac border. One edge looks like my Grandmother repaired the hem, and another edge looks like I should repair it since it's come undone. I suspect both the earrings and scarf are from the 80s or 90s, so not terribly vintage, but they're not necessarily styles you see as much now.

I'm so happy to have a small collection of vintage accessories and clothes from family members. It's wonderful to have a reminder of them as you go about your daily life. I hope I can keep them in wearable shape to pass them on to another generation many years from now.

I have lots of other hats to share soon. I'm also making a hat now at a class, and you can follow my progress on it on Instagram. I also finished a skirt recently, so I'll be posting those pics soon as well.


  1. Where did you get that picture of Tia?

    1. This is one of the photos I picked from the hundreds you got from her house in 2009. I think I mentioned/ asked you at the time...sorry if I didn't ;-) . I've had about a dozen or so photos in a journal of mine, kept in those scrapbooking corners where you can take the photos out. I've started putting many of them in frames set up around the house, but some aren't up yet. One day I'll get around to scanning all of them. I'm pretty sure I picked the photos based off how fabulously she or her sisters were dressed in them. The one in the post is a polaroid, so there isn't a date from a photolab on it like some of them