Crowning Glories: Status, Style, and Self-Expression

Crowning Glories: Status, Style, and Self-Expression

January 18, 2010 through March 13, 2011

Crowning Glories is a tribute to the beauty, style, and self-expression of black women, and a historical survey of their hat-wearing traditions from the late 1700s to the present. The tradition of African American women adorning themselves with extraordinary headwear goes back generations. Wrapping one’s head with cloth, for example, finds its roots among West African women. This practice, which survived the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, continues to be part of black women’s cultural heritage in the United States and throughout the Americas.

Crowning Glories
features vintage drawings, photographs, and a variety of exciting hats loaned from the collections of local hat queens, including the renowned Martha Jean “The Queen” Steinberg. Also presented are hats created by locally and nationally recognized hat designers, such as Mr. Song, designer of the internationally renowned “Aretha Franklin” hat. From enslaved African American women, whose head coverings often doubled as protection from the elements during the week and subtle fashion statements on Sundays, to the extraordinary hats worn by Queen Mothers in the Red Hat Society, to the elaborate headwear that has evolved into symbols of high social status, viewers will gain insight into the culture surrounding the hat wearing traditions among black women.

Sponsored in part by The Detroit News.