A Cloche Hat

I love cloche hats.

They take my mind to hot summer afternoons on dusty prairie roads past golden waves of wheat fields. I imagine myself wearing a cotton summer dress and leather sandals; the dress sticking to my sweaty back and my feet dusty with the prairie dirt. I can imagine myself picking peas and later, shelling them while I am sitting on an old kitchen chair that someone has brought outside to escape the stifling heat inside the house.

I have a black felt cloche hat that I bought on impulse one day when the fantasy overcame my common sense. It sits on the shelf in my coat closet and every time I see it I am transported to the prairie. I wanted to wear it when we flew to Canada to see the kids at Christmas. I imagined myself in the airport: knitting, glasses pushed down on my nose,  a Vera Bradley bag next to me, wearing the cloche hat. The quintessential grandma.

But the cloche hat stayed home. At fifty-one I have gained a measure of chutzpa, but not quite enough for me to don the treasured cloche hat. For one thing, it’s black and I imagine it should be worn with a black coat; I don’t own a black coat at the moment and it would have looked foolish with my white Gap puffy vest.

I am on the look-out for a cloche hat that will fit with what I wear on a day-to-day basis and the other day I was in Macy’s and I found a candidate. It was off-white and knit; I thought it might work with my white Gap puffy vest so I reached for it. I touched it, I picked it up, I pictured that dusty prairie road, and then I put it back on the shelf. You’re being foolish and impulsive, I told myself. You don’t need this cloche hat.

 A small oriental lady was also looking at the hats and she picked up the cloche hat after I put it down. She gestured to the hat she had on her head; it was dark blue but similar in style to the off-white cloche hat she held in her hand. She smiled at me, twenty-five percent off, she said in broken English.

We stood together for a moment, she with the off-white cloche hat in her hand, me looking casually at other, less-attractive hats on display. Then, she put the cloche hat back on the shelf.

I will go and finish my shopping and if I come back and it is still here I will buy it. I made a deal with myself and stepped away from the display.

The little oriental woman reached for the cloche hat as I stepped away from the display. Shoot, I exclaimed to myself as I considered that she might be ready to purchase the hat. 

I browsed the display of hosery while taking surruptitious glances at the woman who now had the off-white cloche hat in one hand and appeared to be getting ready to try it on. I watched as she ducked behind a pole where there was a mirror and, somewhat shyly, removed the dark blue hat she was wearing.

Her head was entirely bald.

She put the off-white cloche hat on her head and turned her face left, then right and she seemed pleased by the way the hat looked on her head.

I could only speculate about the reason for her baldness but as I watched her with the off-white cloche hat on her head her countenance seemed to brighten at the prospect of a new hat to replace her dark blue one. I smiled to myself, said a silent prayer for her, and went about my business.

Later, as my path to leave the store took me past the hat display I couldn’t help but look; the off-white cloche hat was gone. As it was meant to be.


I’m a writer, reader, and creative. I thought by now I’d have things figured out, but I keep coming up with more questions. I think that’s okay. I’m here most mornings pondering ordinary things and the thin places where faith intersects.
  1. This is such a lovely post, Linda!

    I have an affinity for newsboy hats, and am actively growing my collection.

    1. What fun, Janna!

  2. I’ve always WANTED to be a hat person–I love them, all kinds and styles.I think they make a statement. I knit & crochet hats for gifts. But I never wear them. They drive me crazy. I don’t like anything on my head, not even a scarf. So, no hats for me. I love that this particular hat cheered up the lady you talked to. Just made a chemo cap for my daughter’s good friend who is losing her hair at the much too young age of 35. There’s nothing I can do for her at such a distance but I thought a fun cap might cheer her up. I crocheted it in bright pink yarn and put a multi-color fur border on it. When she got it, she video-chatted with Becca wearing it because she loved it. As I made it, I prayed for her health and recovery. That I can do at any distance!

    1. Susan, what a generous thing to do. I love the idea of praying for the young woman as you made the hat. I do that when I am making a quilt for someone too.

  3. There’s a great hat shop in downtown Austin. Reminds me of the kind our mothers used to go to. I’m sure we can find just what you need, next time you are here!

    1. Let’s check it out next time I’m there!

  4. What a wonderful and unexpected story. I love hats, the ones with netting falling across your face – and I tell myself stories about them like your prairie stories, only mine are more mysterious and wild, than romantic and prairie-ish.

    1. I would love to hear some of your hat stories, Deb!

  5. I love love this post – it began with an image so compelling that I immediately wanted to write a story about that woman up there, in the cotton dress, sandals, and clouche hat!

    Then, as I read, I was touched so completely….
    thankyou for writing this!

    1. I’ll be watching for something from you about a woman wearing a cotton dress, sandals, and a clouche hat!

  6. Wonderful post, my friend! It evoked very warm feelings though it came across as a casual meeting. Then again, that’s you! 🙂

    1. Bless your heart, Carmen. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.