Now is the right time to break out the brims

Ladies, now might be a good time to consider breaking out those hats.

Within the next few weeks there will be several opportunities to show off your new hats, or wipe the dust off the ones that have been tucked away.

There are two premier hat holidays coming up -- Easter and Mother's Day. Then, next week, the hat-wearing world will be watching when Prince Willliam and Kate Middleton tie the royal knot at Westminster Abbey. Depending on how you count your holidays, Derby Day is next month in Kentucky.

What's a woman or -- in some cases -- a man to do?

Vernell Washington's phone has been ringing off the hook.

"This is the season for hats," said Washington, a hat fanatic and chief executive officer of Roswell's Grand Diva Enterprises, which puts on private hat showings. "Hats can put the topper on your outfit."

During the past few years, she said, hats fell out of favor among many women for several reasons. She said women would spend $50 to $100 to go to a hair salon Friday and didn't want to put a hat on to mess up their hair for church Sunday. Additionally, some women thought hats were something "their grandmothers or mothers would wear. They thought they were passe'," she said. But they have cameo appearances in several films and with newer, contemporary styles "they're coming back."

Several women at Summer's Landing Tilly Mill, an assisted living facility in Dunwoody, recently spent several hours decorating wide-brimmed hats with brightly colored   flowers, butterflies, feathers and rows of ribbon and toile.

Hazel Sims, who was born in 1921, used to wear hats when she was younger. "I was in a position to dress all the time," said Sims, who used to teach and work in real estate. "I had a good life."

Fellow resident, Dot Goodman, proudly showed her hat. Goodman, a former substitute teacher, bragged that she made the prettiest hat in the group. "It's beautiful," she said.

Activities director Thomas Tolbert said he came up with the idea for the hats after residents recently watched the movie, "Hello, Dolly".

"They were all talking about the hats," he said. "So I put it in the back of my mind to do hats." He said residents plan to watch the Royal Wedding and have a Mother's Day tea. He said it took many of the women to a time when they used to go to a milliner to get hats. Once those events are over, he said, the residents can take their hats to their rooms for decorations.

Hats will also be on full display on April 30, when the Atlanta Suburban Alumnae Chapter (ASAC) of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. will present its annual Mad Hatters Scholarship Luncheon and Fashion Show from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. at the Atlanta Airport Hilton Hotel, 1031 Virginia Avenue.

Jan Wutkowski, owner of aMuse: Artisanal Finery in Wilmington, N.C., has been to the metro area several times to teach Atlantans how to make their own hats.

"I've seen nothing but an increase in people who want to learn how to make a hat properly," she said. "We use true, Old World skills, not glue guns. I don't allow the g-word in my class."

Wearing hats were once part of the social norm. Women wore them to church, funerals and teas. People are wearing hats because they want to, not because they have to anymore. Part of the increase, Wutkowski said, is because some high-profile celebrities are sporting hats like Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.

"It's been described as the exclamation point to an outfit," she said. "Wearing hats can give you hattitude. It can completely change your attitude. ... When people wear a hat it makes them smile."