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Making an old tradition new
Ladies make hat fashion statements at tea party
Hats at Art Center pic 2
From left, Illona Cardona speaks to Kathy Faille and Mary Bob Fox as they try on hats at the Bowen Center for the Arts March 28. - photo by Photo/Michele Hester

Dozens of ladies donned their hats and gloves to sit down for an afternoon tea March 28 at the Bowen Center for the Arts.


Sipping from fine china teacups and tasting delightful sandwiches and desserts, the group was treated to a southern tea party where the only things missing were sunshine and tables beneath the old oak tree.


With hats ideal for the Kentucky Derby or Atlanta Steeplechase, some had a flair for the fashionable, to the elegant, extravagant, artistic and even unbelievable.


Arts council board members Judy Baer and Mary Bob Fox paid tribute to the upcoming Easter holiday, not with bonnets, but with bunny ears and Easter eggs on their hats.


On a different theme —recycling — Evelyn Koch turned a bright red women’s undergarment into an award-winning work of hair art, while others took the more traditional approach with family heirloom hats and straw bonnets tied with silk ribbons. 


Regardless of what type of hat they were wearing, there’s no doubt these ladies were noticed as they drove into Dawsonville. “You can’t hide wearing a hat,” said Illona Cardona, who was the guest speaker for the event and is known across the state as “Atlanta’s Hat Lady.”


The event also included a seminar on ‘Hatiquette’ by the Bowen Center’s Ladies Theatre Group, who explained that hats can change a woman and a woman’s state of mind.


Pulling a beret out from a costume chest, Jackie Somerville said, “You can’t go to France without a beret.”


Recalling a time in recent history when women wouldn’t be seen at church, or shopping, or walking down the street without a hat, Cardona, wearing a red and black, large, African-inspired headpiece, encouraged the women to step away from the new norm and make hats a new tradition and fashion statement.


“There’s nowhere you can’t wear a hat,” she said.


“Then watch the men start opening doors again, and see the fine service you’ll receive at restaurants that your non-hat-wearing friends aren’t going to get,” she said. 


As the tea party came to a close, Cardona, who has judged the Atlanta  Steeplechase Hat Contest for the past several years, perused the center for the most glamorous, traditional and most humorous hats.


Both Baer and Koch took home prizes.


E-mail Michele Hester at