Photography Blog from ON.ca.

Antique Impressions: Easter Bonnets

Henrietta Buckler 1900’s

In your Easter bonnet
with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade

Gladys Unger ca 1910-15

Antique Impressions of Easter Bonnets bring together so many strands and memories parading before my minds eye. Ladies in in corsets , elegant dresses, and beautiful hats, remind of a woman that I really hardly knew, yet have a close connection to, Mary Trylinski, my maternal grandmother, my Baba. She arrived in Canada, less than a year old, with her parents. Her maiden name was Hyrorchuk ( I hope I am spelling that one correctly – see how time twists the memory.) Her birth certificate had identified her as a citizen of the Austria.

My mother spoke of how as a little girl she would help tighten up Baba’s corset. Her favourite dance was The Merry Widow’s Waltz .  The Ladies in these photographs were from New York, and had a higher “social status” than my Baba in St. Boniface Manitoba, but they were part of the same North American culture – Late Edwardian period that defined Ladies & Gentlemen, their clothing, music, and expectations.

Mother said that her father, Stanley Trylinski, was a dapper man who wore a “cheese-cutter”; that’s what she  called those straw hats that Buster Keaton is iconically  associated with. When you look up the name of the hat/cap it does not match the this type. My  mother would use both cheese cutter and pork pie to describe/identify the style of  hat.

Buster Keaton in a cheese cutter

In your easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.
I’ll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I’ll be the proudest fellow in the Easter parade.
On the avenue, fifth avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I’m taking to the Easter parade.

Elizabeth Kolb ca1910-15

The song Easter Parade was written by Irving Berlin and was published in 1933.  The song was introduced by Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in the Broadway musical revue As Thousands Cheer (1933), in which musical numbers were strung together on the thematic thread of newspaper headlines.  The lyrics describe the singer’s involvement in an American cultural event called the Easter parade. From the 1880s through the 1950s, New York’s Easter parade was one of the main cultural expressions of Easter in the United States. It was one of the fundamental ways that Easter was identified and celebrated.[5] The seeds of the parade were sown in New York’s highly ornamented churches—Gothic buildings such as Trinity Episcopal Church, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. In the mid-19th century, these and other churches began decorating their sanctuarieswith Easter flowers. The new practice was resisted by traditionalists, but was generally well-received. As the practice expanded, the floral displays grew ever more elaborate, and soon became defining examples of style, taste, abundance, and novelty. Those who attended the churches incorporated these values into their dress.

Elegant Hats

In 1873, a newspaper report about Easter at Christ Church said “More than half the congregation were ladies, who displayed all the gorgeous and marvellous articles of dress,… and the appearance of the body of the church thus vied in effect and magnificence with the pleasant and tasteful array of flowers which decorated the chancel.”

Hats on the Blvd ca 1910-15

By the 1880s, the Easter parade had become a vast spectacle of fashion and religious observance, famous in New York and around the country. It was an after-church cultural event for the well-to-do—decked out in new and fashionable clothing, they would stroll from their own church to others to see the impressive flowers (and to be seen by their fellow strollers). People from the poorer and middle classes would observe the parade to learn the latest trends in fashion.

Hats & Harem Pants on the Blvd 1910-15

By 1890, the annual procession held an important place on New York’s calendar of festivities and had taken on its enduring designation as “the Easter parade.”

Nelle B. Stull ca 1910-15

As the parade and the holiday together became more important, dry goods merchants and milliners publicized them in the promotion of their wares. Advertisements of the day linked an endless array of merchandise to Easter and the Easter parade. In 1875, Easter had been invisible on the commercial scene. By 1900, it was as important in retailing as the Christmas season .

In 1948,  the song, Easter Parade was performed by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire in the musical film of the same title. The plot of the movie was constructed around the song and the movie had a compressed shooting time to ensure that it opened in theatres for Easter. The movie is set in 1912 and revolves around a Broadway stars search for a new partner.

One last photograph to close off this post, Mary & Stanley Trylinski on their wedding day. Can you see them waltzing ?  I can.

NOTE: Rotogravure (Roto or Gravure for short) is a type of intaglio printing process; once a staple of newspaper photo features, the rotogravure process is still used for commercial printing of magazines, postcards, and corrugated (cardboard) product packaging.  Click the link to learn more  details.

The Ladies in their finery came by way of The Library of Congress’ photostream. There are no known copyright restrictions on the original images. I have modified and enhanced them for this post.  While they all come from the same general period, only the street shots are specific Easter Parade photos. How I came upon the idea for using this resource is a tale for another post.  May all your Easter Bonnets be beautiful.

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20 responses

  1. George Weaver

    Oh, My! What a delightful and history-filled post. I hadn’t thought of “The Easter Parade” song in years. As soon as I started reading, I realized I was singing the tune in my head. How we never forget. This is just superb. It really is.

    April 8, 2012 at 1:51 am

  2. George Weaver

    BTW, there are a couple of sets of dubious eyes in here. I knew it!

    The hats are a real treat. And that poor old woman in the corset! Makes my belly hurt….

    April 8, 2012 at 1:52 am

    • elmediat

      Thanks. I knew you would connect to the music. “Dubious Eyes” sounds like the title of an old blues/jazz song. 🙂
      There were a few comments on the LC Photostream about the lady’s waist and whether the photo had been altered.

      April 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

      • George Weaver

        You did find a good one. The sight of her old face and that tiny waist is a shocker if you don’t know the history of whale bone corsets. I have an idea that the corset was responsible for more deaths than childbirth or the Great Influenza! 😉

        April 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm

  3. Fantastic hats here! Loved them all! Fantastic history of the Easter Parade as well. Thank you for posting!

    April 8, 2012 at 7:51 am

    • elmediat

      Thanks very much. Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

      April 8, 2012 at 9:42 am

  4. What a wonderful post! Beautiful! I had not thought of Easter Pararde in years but I still know all the words. I love hats and feel transformed when I wear one. My mother always wore them to church – I miss that. Thanks for sharing your family history.

    April 8, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    • elmediat

      So glad you enjoyed & it brought back memories. The culture & style of hat-wearing seems to be of another time, however, I have noticed a few of the young fellows among our students have taken it up instead of ubiquitous baseball caps. Because of our winters baseball caps are more seasonal, there are tuques . 🙂

      April 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  5. WOW! What a great post… Fascinated me. Thank you, I also find so romantic too. You are so nice dear Joseph, Happy Easter, with my love, nia

    April 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    • elmediat

      Thanks Nia. 🙂

      April 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

  6. I hope your family had a wonderful Easter!
    LOVE the ‘old’ photographs, too, of course!
    Man – would I love to get my hands on a lens from that era!
    I think I might be able to manage building the ‘box’… optics on the other hand…
    🙂

    April 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    • elmediat

      Thanks very much. What made the quality of those lenses so impressive ?

      April 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm

  7. You have put together a marvelous overview of the times and “The Easter Parade.” They were a wonderful time in history, but you’d never catch too many people in such bonnets today, let alone a corsert you have to be laced into. Thank goodness for simpler dress codes now!

    April 10, 2012 at 11:14 am

    • elmediat

      Thanks so much. My mother’s description of helping her mother do up the corset has always stayed with me.

      April 13, 2012 at 11:31 pm

  8. Thanks for the nostalgia. I think ladies (just the ladies, mind you) should have to wear hats again. The look was so elegant.

    April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    • elmediat

      Thanks John. When we get to a certain age, “Nostalgia are Us”. There is a certain quality of style that has gone as society speeds up things. Hats, capes, parasols & walking sticks become cumbersome extras. I do like the men’s hats from the 30-40’s; it appeals to my vision of the hard boiled detective.

      April 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

  9. leecleland

    Wonderful history and photos, greatly enjoyed both.

    March 30, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    • elmediat

      Glad you enjoyed. 🙂

      March 30, 2013 at 10:19 pm

  10. Pingback: Metamorphosis – Melting of the Seasons | Implied Spaces

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