Hats declare their own stories, style

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Pam Kroh of Latrobe bought 10 hats from a shop in Charleston, S.C., and her daughter Abby and five friends picked what they wanted to wear for the 10th Symphony Hat Luncheon held Saturday at the Greensburg Garden & Civic Center.

Marilyn Elias of Madison found her vintage hat at a flea market sponsored by Norwin Public Library. Jo Hall of Greensburg doesn't have any special story to tell about her big yellow hat: She simply bought for $15 it at Burlington Coat Factory.

There were hats -- and stories -- galore at Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra's annual luncheon, more than 170 worn by women who paid from $65 to $250 per plate to attend the gala. The male volunteers who traditionally serve the champagne and wine wore hats, too.

"Some of the hats are just unbelievable," said Linda Assard of Hempfield, who chairs special events for the orchestra. "Some are flamboyant and the vintage ones are especially beautiful."

The Hat Luncheon is one of the symphony's three annual fundraisers. Spring Rhapsody is held in April and Vivace is a lunch and shopping event held in the fall.

Some Hat Luncheons promote special themes. One year was dedicated to Carmen Miranda, the Brazilian singer and Hollywood film star (1909-1955) whose signature turbans were decorated with fruit.

"A group of ladies came in wearing long skirts and had all kinds of fruit on their heads," Ms. Assard said. "It was quite a spectacle. Another time we had a 'My Fair Lady' theme, and a lot of them wore black and white with big black hats."

Ms. Hall is 97 and has "never missed" a luncheon, she said. Saturday she wore a bright green outfit accented with a chunky yellow necklace and earrings to match her hat. Her friend Rose Flodin of Hempfield wore a blue hat with a veil that complimented her pale blue outfit.

"I always wear hats to church and everywhere, and now I see more women in church wearing them," Ms. Flodin said. "It just makes you look like a lady."

Lana Booher and her daughter-in-law Tiffany Booher, both of Greensburg, wore hats they bought in Texas.

"We are new to the area and brought our hats with us," Lana Booher said. "When women get together in Texas, we always wear hats. My father has a cattle ranch, so, yes, we wore cowboy hats, too."

For the luncheon, she chose a yellow hat with a white plume to match her printed dress. Tiffany Booher sported a black and white hat with fabric flowers.

Mrs. Kroh has been a supporter of the luncheon for years but was unable to attend until now. She was on vacation in South Carolina when she found a specialty hat shop where she purchased the hats for herself, family and friends. Her broad-brimmed hat was black and white, and her daughter wore an even bigger one in burgundy.

Mrs. Kroh's sister, Brenda Sespich of Saxonburg, wore another of the South Carolina hats, and so did Pat Drogowski and her daughter Laura of Pittsburgh. Two friends from Latrobe, Susan Bursch and Susan Leonard, chose two others.

"Women should wear hats more often," Mrs. Kroh said.

Pat Walt of Madison looked sharp in a crisp beige suit topped with a huge beige hat that was heavy with fabric flowers. Two years ago, she wore a hat that she had kept for 45 years.

"It was a Christian Dior hat with silk roses in shades of pink and green," she said.

Penny Kistner of South Greensburg took the millinery theme literally and had tools of the hat-making trade perched on her head: thimbles, a tape measure, a pair of little scissors, flowers and a handful of net veiling. Last year she wore a decorated cowboy hat.

Five friends from Greensburg claim that they didn't plan to all show up wearing black and white, but they did.

"We did not coordinate," Annah Sukay said. "We just met here, and none of us knew what the other was wearing."

She and Deanna Mikesic, Susan Ray, Jen Stiffey and Jocelyn Palacki were all decked out in various combinations of black and white hats, dresses and accessories.

Some of the men volunteering at the luncheon went beyond simplicity. George Shaner of Greensburg, who is on the event committee and symphony board, wore a straw hat decorated with flowers and miniature teddy bears.

"Some of the hats," he said, "are just over the top."

Maryann G. Eidemiller, freelance@ suburbanliving@post-gazette.com .


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