Four Generations of Wedding Headgear

I thought it was a beautiful wedding. The dress was lovely, the reading from Romans unfamiliar to me, the trees along the nave of the Abbey brilliant, the Bishop of London’s sermon first class, if you’re fond of sermons. The hymns were faves of mine, and I was thrilled to discover that the great liturgy of the Church of England hasn’t jettisoned my old buddy the Holy Ghost for that feel-good Holy Spirit.

And, oh the hats! For me, it was bittersweet, all that marvelous millinery, because, as I’ve mentioned, my head size approximates that of a teenaged hippo. I can’t buy a hat off the rack, and I won’t soon forget the mix of horror and hilarity when I proved it to my daughter last December. That simple knit cap worked itself north in four seconds then tumbled to the floor. Now, I’m sure many of the ladies in the Abbey had their toppers custom made, but we ladies in the ‘Ville are spending our cash at the gas station.

I thought the Duchess of Cambridge’s veil,( to say nothing of the Cartier tiara) was perfection. I know Kate doesn’t own an advanced degree, but she can sure pick out wedding headgear. A+ to you, Ma’am.

I haven’t pulled out the family albums recently, but I did yesterday. I present four generations of family brides, blushing and unveiled. But check out the trends, from 1918 to the present. (My apologies in advance: something funky’s going on with picture posting and spacing.)

The not-so beaming Annunziata Rovai — no one’s saying cheese in this pic! But I think the long sheer veil and the flower wreath tiara are classics.

Here is Patricia Sweeney Rovai, my beloved mother-in-law in 1940 or so. Her father-in-law, the glowering groom in the first picture, was by profession a ladies’ tailor, and once ran the bridal department at Bergdorf Goodman. He watched “They Died With their Boots On” five times because Pat wanted Olivia de Haviland’s  dress  and veil. He did a masterly job.

Toronto, 1950. My mother’s dress was almost medieval in its elegant simplicity, and I loved it.All those buttons! (I’d peek into the trunk where it was stored — I wasn’t at the wedding!)  But the veil’s kinda meh — sorry, Mummy. They were getting shorter.

St. Matthias Church, Westmount, Quebec. Here we are signing the registry, just like Kate and Wills  — we hired the Boy’s Choir too, just as they did. We’re talking a four inch veil here, added by the millinery ladies at Holt Renfrew, where I worked. The turban — allow me to brag — was one-of-a kind Yves St. Laurent couture, a gift from my boss, the couture buyer at Holts. Yep, the millinery ladies stretched it gently for two weeks, until it fit.

Los Angeles, 2005. No veil! No hat! Nothing but some beautiful baroque ringlets and random rosebuds. (She’s pictured here with the 1950 couple.)

So there you go friends: from long drifting and gossamer to virgin locks in four generations. Should we ever renew our vows, I’m wearing a fascinator.



Filed under Cool Japanese Stuff, Free, History

6 responses to “Four Generations of Wedding Headgear

  1. kim shook

    Maggie, I loved this post and it’s inspired my to search the albums for wedding pictures – I think I’d like to do a collage of them. You and Lou are some kinda gorgeous! And your mother! I can’t believe that the phrase “every inch a lady” could possibly pre-date that photo.

  2. What I’d give for all those generations-in-veils to have for display!! And what a beautiful family heritage.

    Yep, we’re fascinator people, you and I. Yours, I think would be a stiff-tulle spriglets number, with a saucy dotted brow-veil and a two jaunty feathers that Emma Peel would hunt you down and drop-kick you for.

    Me, I’m holding out till Princess Bea FedExes me that quill-work toilet seat.

  3. Oh girlfriends! Rachel, your last sentence made me snort Chardonnay. Kim, well, weren’t we all gorgeous when we were twenty? (Lou was 29 and got the “Aren’t you Alan Alda?” thing ALL the time)

    Mummy had the every-inch-a-lady thing down, but she was funny and iconoclastic too.

    Rachel, I’m taking notes.

  4. Maggie Dearest,


  5. janet mcarthur sterling

    Hi Margaret,
    I’m one of your Dad’s younger cousins(68) living in Ottawa, daughter of the “other Ian”. I’m enjoying your blogs, finding your writing fun and full of talent and humour.
    Since I am an amateur genealogist, I love the family pics and will transfer them to my files. I’m glad you were here to take such good care of Ian this winter.
    Take care,

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