Often when when we lose glimmer of hope, we turn to make up or attire to fashion new selves–or even new heights. In the short stories “How Far Can You Go on a New Hat” and “Love Should Be Laughter,”two women turn to hats as symbols of reclaiming their independence. The hats enhance their stature and presentation of character; with the added accessory, these women stand taller and walk bolder.
In “How Far Can You Go on a New Hat,” a woman feels deflated after her husband takes another trip to Hot Springs, leaving her a slave to the domestic. He insults her, telling her to “use [her] head.” How could she find the time–and what would she wear, he questions. Hurt and determined, she leaves the house for a department store. A bright velvet blue hat is the first thing she spies. With the loud accessory affixed to her head, the woman begins a journey that takes her to New Orleans, Louisiana. The added stature cloaks her with a new sense of dignity.
In like fashion, Emily sinks into her chair after her boyfriend opts to go to Europe alone; instead of proposing, he goes on a solo trip to Europe to find himself. In reaction, Emily ventures to the salon for a haircut. Relieved of a heavy head, Emily notices that “her posture had altered.” With less hair, “she found herself carrying her head high, straightening her spine, walking buoyantly” (113). She moves on to the department store. And the first thing she spots? A new hat. Emily, too, is attracted to this symbol of height and confidence.
It appears hats were a way of reaching greater heights, and of making up a posture that was more upright. These women used hats to go far, channeling a boldness and sense of adventure they didn’t usually have access to.