But where to find one? Certainly not a
big-box store in the suburbs. Enter Priscilla Evans. Determined to keep
her clientele in style, the full-time advertising consultant with
Idearc Media has created a venue for creative chapeaux, opening her
one-room boutique, Hats by Priscilla, 2641 James St., a year ago. You
can’t miss the store, its windows arrayed in drapery of tie-dye-like
fabric surrounded by a sampling of items found inside.
Evans’ shop brims with a striking array
of snappy headgear, from strips of pastel ribbon alternating with
horsehair to hold the shape of an enormous brim, to a cloche of black
woven fabric, festooned with sequins and sparkles. Pleated pink satin
edges the same material to form a jaunty cabbage rose over the ear.
An inventory of about 60 hats, deftly
displayed around the room, creates a kaleidoscope of color, shape and
adornment. Gold beads, pearls, sequins, sparkles and feathers are
fancifully wreathed around small and large shapes. These are definitely
not what mother used to wear! Prices run between $50 and $100.
A glass showcase holds an assortment of
chunky jewelry, mostly gold-plated, although there is a smattering of
items like faux amethyst lavalieres, paired with matching earrings.
Postage stamp-size, glitter-laden evening bags are niched variously
between the hats, as are velvet headbands and colorful assemblages of
feathers attached to hair combs.
Evans grew up in a fashion-conscious
family. “My mother, aunt and grandmother were my inspirations,” says
the petite shop owner, her eyes flashing and mouth widening into a
broad smile. “Today, my fashion-forward, 92-year-old grandmother still
wears her hats and heels, and is very sharp for her age. I guess a lot
rubbed off on me from them all.”
Evans also remembers, wistfully, the
famed Madame Netter, who designed hats for all the fashion-conscious
Salt City ladies of her day. When Netter died, her daughter took over
the business, but times changed, and the shop closed. “Her shop was
located next to the Glove Factory on South Salina Street,” Evans
She also pored over fashion magazines,
marveling at the stylish designer clothes worn by beautiful models,
watched TV and attended fashion shows. “I took a course in fashion
trade technology at Central Tech and learned how to design and show,”
Armed with her combined background of
family, magazines and formal classes, Evans began flipping through hat
catalogs, buying a few for herself and family; she does not make any.
She then added more to her collection, selling them at flea markets in
various locations, but especially the one in Green Hills Plaza on South
Sunday best: Priscilla
Evans, proprietor of Hats by Priscilla, sells finery for the
church-lady set in the heart of Eastwood. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTO
“I got such a good feedback, that I
decided that one day I would open up a shop,” she says. One day last
year, she was driving along James Street with her 16-year-old son and
spotted the storefront for rent. “It was perfect. I sell to the black,
white and even the Chinese communities.” She remembers selling hats to
ladies who were attending the Kentucky Derby, or events at the Saratoga
Race Track. “People seem to like my style.”
But the place to see the fruits of her
efforts is on Sunday morning in churches like Tucker Missionary Baptist
Church or Bethany Baptist Church, where the show of hats is equaled
only by the palpable enthusiasm of the congregations.
Hats by Priscilla is open Wednesdays and
Thursdays, noon to 6 p.m.; Fridays, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 10 a.m.
to 6 p.m.; and by appointment. For information, call 383-9349.