Poor Robin, an 18th-century English almanac maker, is credited with writing this doggerel. The notion that ill-luck would follow one who had not something new at Easter expanded in the 19th century.
In the English tradition, the notion of getting new clothes on Easter to signify inner growth and renewal dates back to Shakespeare. In “Romeo and Juliet,” Romeo’s sage and ill-fated confidante, Mercutio, chastises Benvolio. “Did’st thou not fall out with a Tailor for wearing his new Doublet before Easter?”
In the States, it wasn’t until post-Civil War society, towards the latter 1870s, when modern traditions surfaced. Women and children marching in Easter Parades replaced dark-colored mourning smocks with brighter clothing. By the early twentieth century, Americans became more and more invested in the Easter outfit—the hat, in particular.
Following forty days of Lent, we typically wear drab outfits reflective of a collective “abstention.” Easter Sunday lifts the fog not only in spirit but also in our wardrobe. Fittingly, mom took us to Freeman’s clothing store each year to purchase a new Easter suit and tie.
Today the Easter bonnet is a type of hat that women and girls wear to Easter services. Because Easter coincides with seasonal blooming, women sometimes garner fresh flowers to wear in their hair and bonnets. Lilies, daffodils, azaleas, hyacinths, and red tulips are considered traditional Easter flowers.
The popularity of the Easter Bonnet peaked in 1948 when Judy Garland serenaded Fred Astaire with Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade” in a film of the same name. In this number, Garland, who dons a white Derby Hat with pink and violet rosettes, makes no place seem as grand on Easter Sunday as Fifth Avenue in New York City. However, the Easter Bonnet has become a relic, albeit a delicate and artisanal one, of cosmopolitan splendor.
What about you? Will you be donning an Easter bonnet today?