Any commentary about older women and fashion in America must address the Red Hat Society, a loosely knit organization of women over fifty. Moreover, the founder of the group, Sue Ellen Cooper, hails from my neck of the woods in Southern California. It is primarily a social club, and members save their colorful outfits for their gatherings (called events, not meetings). Covid brought the cancellation of recent national meetings, but the photo above of a Red Hat “prom” in West Virginia shows that things are getting started again.
The organization began in 1998. Sue Ellen Cooper gave a friend a red hat for her fifty-fifth birthday, inspired by now well-known lines of a poem by Jenny Joseph: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/ With a red hat that doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.” Members of the organization follow these instructions in their dress (although sometimes the hats do suit them). There are now thousands of Red Hat groups in the US and other countries. Their mission statement calls the organization “a global society of women that supports and encourages women in their pursuit of fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment, and fitness.”
Earlier photos of the society events show a sea of red and purple. I’m glad to see from the photo above that the dress code for events appears to have loosened up! Not only are members wearing outfits of different colors, several don’t even wear hats. And isn’t it nice to see a racially integrated women’s club?