ABC Morning News Show in South Carolina
GMA Broadcast from Charleston
ABC's "Good Morning America" news anchor Charlie Gibson talks to members of The Hat Ladies of Charleston as he prepares to enter St. Michael's Episcopal Church. GMA broadcast live from downtown Charleston on Wednesday morning. Gibson, co-host Diane Sawyer and crew were in town for ABC News' 50 states tour across America. The Hat Ladies are a group of women who get together to have fun and wear hats.
Get into Jail FREE! The cells of the Old Charleston City Jail, now home to the School of Building Arts (SoBA), host The Hat Ladies Artists and Artisans Show. Shop, then tour this historic structure, 11am-4pm, November 16 and 17.
Charleston Symphony Orchestra Conductor David Stahl joins The Hat Ladies of Charleston founder Archie Burkel at the group's monthly lunch meeting Sept. 7. Stahl was the featured speaker for the luncheon. "The Hat Ladies on the Go 2003" calendar includes a photo of The Hat Ladies, dressed in black and white, posing on stage as members of the Orchestra.
It's a free and easy society and nowhere is that more evident than in the way people dress. The only men who wear suits to work any more are lawyers. Coeds have replaced the long, wide skirts and bobby socks of the fifties for jeans and shorts.
Everyone has seen the signs, "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service." After World War II, a new generation of men shed helmets and caps for crew cuts and the wearing of hats became old fashioned. Today's modern woman would rather have a new hair-do than a hat.
So where else could one expect a revival of the wearing of hats by women than in The South? And where in The South would one expect such a practice to start but in Charleston? Although their initial goal was not to make a fashion statement but to have fun with meaning, The Charleston Hat Ladies, begun last year, has now grown to 475 women. You can see them all over the Low Country as they show up at historical shrines, charity events and even at the ball park. And about every kind of traditional hat, from bonnets to classic wide brim headpieces, can be seen on women of all ages and races and backgrounds.
The Hat Ladies is the brainchild of Archie Burkel, who started it simply because she enjoys wearing hats and needed the occasions to do so. Those of like-mind soon joined her and they began volunteering as docents for such organizations as the Preservation Society and the Charleston Historical Society.
The Hat Ladies here are not to be confused with The Red Hat Society, a movement that began a few years ago and has spread throughout the country. The Red Hat Society, according to their mission statement, began as a result of "a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor, and elan." "We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and, since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together."
Burkel says her group differs from the Red Hats in that it is open to all ages, not confined to a single color and is more elegant and meaningful. "We have fun with meaning," She said. It is not just about having fun. The Hat Ladies of Charleston do things.
Recently they appeared at a fund-raiser for juvenile diabetes. They have served at a Charleston Symphony Designer Showcase House and had a table at a Gibbes Museum fund-raiser. "We don't call them fund-raisers, we call them fun-raisers," Burkel said. Currently, Burkel is organizing chapters, which she calls cHApTerS.
When asked if she is trying to start a trend, she said, "If women can look good, then they feel good." That's really what matters. She said women need occasions to wear hats and the confidence to wear them. "We've been able to do that. We have also bridged the generation gap as grandmothers and mothers bring their grandchildren and children to the events. We've let women who like to wear hats come out of the closet."
The Hat Ladies also inspire the people where they show up. They recently appeared at a Charleston RiverDogs baseball game to take a group picture for their calendar. The RiverDogs management used the occasion to promote "hat day" at the ball park. The theme of the calendar is "on the go." These are not little old ladies in tennis shoes, but dynamic women in very classy hats.
Clothes Encounter: The Hat Ladies of Charleston are planning a Kentucky Derby celebration at Skipper's Sports Bar on James Island Saturday from 3 to 6p.m.
Grace Chito Mark from Lagos, Nigeria, brings her hats to Gallery Chuma at 343 John Street this weekend. Her creations are worn by many of the Charleston Hat Ladies—don't miss a chance to buy one for yourself. Reception tonight 5:30- 7:00pm, Friday and Saturday: 10-6. (www.graceshats.com)
In the course of my job as a photographer, I've met many women who have left lasting impressions upon me. These are seven portraits of such women who are all passionate, drive, and of course memorable.
Archie Burkel Embracing Womanhood (Femininity)
Archie Burkel is the founder of the Hat Ladies of Charleston, an organization dedicated to giving women the confidence to wear their hats ("hattitude") and the occasion to do so "("hatpenings"). For Archie, it is a positive and meaningful club that not only unites women but also provides a bridge between different races and generations. The only requirement is wearing a hat. As a former guidance counselor and volunteer coordinator for President Jimmy Carter, Archie believes the Hat Ladies to be the natural culmination of her life experiences and humanitarian values. The Hat Ladies can be found at numerous charitable events "("fun raisers" in hat speak where they always lend an air of grace and elegance.
Caption under picture of four Hat Ladies: The Hat Ladies of Charleston were a highlight of the night with their char and fashionable presence.
Hat Lady Coverage: There are few words adequate to express my gratitude to your staff for their extensive and accurate and considerate coverage of the Hat Ladies of Charleston.
Judy Watts has been an interested party for almost a year now. The article she supervised by intern Morgan Sherman last July was responsible for a significant increase in our membership. She remained attentive to our activities and thoughtfully mentioned our first monthly brunch on Nov. 2, in "Clothes Encounters."
Then came our featured article, "Mad About Hats" on March 29. She included excerpts from our newsletters this entire year. The casual reader would not realize the "research" that went into her work.
I am truly humbled by the attention she gave to our group. And yet I am not surprised. The quality of her work and her love of fashion is evident every week….from head to toe.
Furthermore, I have enjoyed my personal contact with her She is both prominent and approachable; there is always a lilt to her voice, a pleasant message in her e-mails, and a smile on her face. The Hat Ladies are as fortunate as The Post and Courier to be associated with her.
I would be remiss if I did not also thank Adam Ferrell and Jessica VanEgeren for their delightful coverage of our Easter Parade in "Good Morning Lowcountry" on March 30, and Emily Carper for ensuring our mention in "Preview." As Hat Ladies would say, I couldn't be "hatpier" with all the results.
When Archie Burkel started a club for chapeau lovers, she had no idea membership would grow so fast in less than a year.
What a difference a year makes. When Archie Burkel decided to start a new little club in Charleston, a club for ladies who love to wear hats, she had no idea whether anyone would come. She formed The Hat Ladies of Charleston. At the first tea held on May 5, 2001, give women in hats were served high tea in the lounge at Charleston Place. "I didn't know a single one of them," Burkel said. Four months later membership stood at 123.
Today the membership hovers at 450 and the organization has taken on a life of its own, gently but energetically guide by Burkel. "I grew up loving and wearing hats. I set out to encourage other ladies who love to wear hats. I'd planned at first to hold quarterly teas and we would wear our hats and have fun. I thought we would just meet and eat," said Burkel.
But the membership is so large and the participation so high, Burkel now holds monthly brunches in addition to keeping the membership aware of the many opportunities to participate in civic, cultural, and educational events throughout the area. "The response has been mind-boggling," said Burkel. Local organizations are inviting them as guests to add a colorful and festive air to their functions.
In fact, The Hat Ladies has turned out to be one of the most active groups in town, spreading enthusiasm to other local efforts. They have served as docents for established events such as the Preservation Society house tours and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra League Designer Showhouse. They've come together for the art walks and have marched as a group for the Race for the Cure.
Local business are creating "Hatpenings" just for The Hat Ladies, like the "hatpy hour at Bennett's that is quickly turning into a monthly affair. The Ladies are a group with a very visible presence. But the real function, their reason for being, is simply a love of wearing hats. "If someone is simply dusting off her hat and having fun wearing it, then she is creating her own 'event' and fulfilling the primary goal of The Hat Ladies of Charleston," said Burkel.
The Hat Ladies' membership is open to people from divers backgrounds and age is not a factor. It as turned out to be a good opportunity to network. "People are discovering they once lived in the same town. Businesses are coming together to help one another. One lady, Nancy Mikell, is doing a project in Ecuador. Se had a request for little mirrors for the girls there. We came up with 89 to donate. People are hooking up with each other."
A relationship with Garrett Academy has been a real joy, Burkel said. "They made a luncheon for us and they are planning to make decorative license plates for us when school starts back this fall." The membership is diverse, harboring many artists, a politician, a judge, and work at home Mothers.
Burkel is the perfect Charleston transplant. She came to the Lowcountry with her husband, John, three years ago after living in Chicago and Atlanta. Although she's always a Hat Lady, se also conducts her "Memoirs Done Write" classes, a effort to teach people how to write the stories of their lives. Burkel said she especially loves hearing stories about members' favorite hats.
"I've always wanted to do something that would make a difference," said Burkel. She has worked as a counselor and at the Carter Center in Atlanta. "I am blown away that a hat can make such a difference to people."
Burkel said she had received correspondence form the husbands of some of the older members thanking her for starting The Hat Ladies. "One said that the sparkle is back I his wife's eye. She is having fun getting dressed up ad having places to wear her hats," said Burkel.
The Hat Ladies are getting a lot of attention when they are out and about the city. After a recent brunch, Hat Ladies Suzanne Barnes and Cathy Rickwell were taken by surprise by all the attention as they walked around town.
"People seed just astounded to see ladies in hats. They were very complimentary. People would actually step of the sidewalk and watch us walk by. They wanted to know who we were and what organization we belonged to. We had a ball. We could barely walk down the street without being stopped," said Barnes. Rickwell said the kind comments caused them to walk a little taller and there was a little more swing in their step.
Next on the horizon is Saturday's Easter Promenade. "This is a Hat Ladies original— the idea of Hat Lady Sherry Remillard—that we hope will become an annual event," said Burkel. The Hat Ladies will gather at Washington Park behind City Hall and begin their promenade at noon. "We have our permits for increased pedestrian traffic," Burkel said laughing. "We will have a couple of convertibles for the Ladies who are unable to walk the seven-tenths mile route.
The route continues from Washington Park east on Broad Street to East Bay Street. They will walk to the Palmer Home Bed and Breakfast at 5 East Battery where The Hat Ladies will be served light refreshments. "I emphasize the light because we really don't know how many people will show up," said Burkel.
For now Burkel is delighted with the success of her fledgling organization. The group ahs brought together and created bonds among the generations and among the races, according to Burkel. "And we having a lot of fun."
Hat Walk: O I could write a sonnet/about your Easter bonnet. How quaint that sounds now….but hats seem to be on the rebound lately. As far as GMLc is concerned, the best pace to be today is downtown at noon, when the Charleston Hat Ladies stage their Easter Parade. These ladies with lids will meet at Washington Park, corner of Broad and Meeting, then promenade to East Bay Street and on down to 5 East Battery for lemonade.
Note that we said they would be promenading. Not walking. Not sashaying. Not strutting. Promenading. Defined as "a leisurely walk taken for pleasure, to display one's finery, etc.
You know, there's just not enough promenading any more, and quite frankly, GMLc counts itself staunchly pro-promenade. If there is any place on earth that was just made for promenading, it's our Charleston. And if there was ever an appropriate time to promenade, it's springtime. SO hats off to our Hat Ladies, proud preservationists of promenading!
30 Saturday, The Hat Ladies Easter Promenade. Don your Easter bonnet ad walking shoes and meet at Washington Park (corner of Broad and Meeting streets) at noon for a promenade (on the sidewalk) from Broad to East Bay streets, ending at 5 East Battery for lemonade. Free.
"Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats" is the inspiration for a spring concert to be presented by the Charleston Symphony Orchestra's Gospel Choir on March 24th During the Palm Sunday concert, members of the Charleston community (churches, sororities, and other groups such as the Hat Ladies of Charleston) will read excerpts from the stories of women featured in the book
"It is really a wonderful, beautiful piece of history for the African-American woman and everybody who has ever been around her and her hat wearing," says Gretchen Barbatsis, a member of The Hat Ladies of Charleston."
"The concert also is a wonderful way of bridging the traditions of African-American women and white women, both of whom are invested in wearing hats, love wearing hats, and have put great meaning into wearing hats". One reason that The Hat Ladies of Charleston encourage people to wear hats is that it really completes your presentation to the world….We just know inside that we're queens, and these are the crowns we wear."
Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, .featuring "hat ladies" from various area groups and churches, including "members of the Charleston Hat Ladies, who are dedicated to reviving the tradition of wearing hats."
Students in Garrett Academy's culinary arts class prepared sweet tea, soup, and other delectables for The Hat Ladies Luncheon on Friday, January 25. The students prepared and served the food as part of their class in the elegant dining room at Garrett Academy. The Hat Ladies, a group of women from Charleston who dress up and wear fancy, unusual, and beautiful hats, enjoyed the meal, learned about programs at Garrett Academy, and had an altogether lovely time. The Hat Ladies, for those who aren't familiar with them, "are Ladies who love to wear hats, but don't always have the confidence or occasion to do so," Archie Burkel, club [president, said. "We find the occasions and miraculous things from it," Burkel said. "It's the fun , yet meaningful things we do," she added.
The Hat Ladies' mission is to support activities in Charleston, and they often travel to local schools, listen to the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, join in the Race for the Cure, take preservation society tours, and more. "We're very tuned in to what's going on around town," Burkel said. Burkel and School-to-Work Coordinator Liz Franchini organized the luncheon. Preparing and serving the lunch to the Ladies offered "real world" experience for the students at the Academy. "When they leave here," the Principal said, "we want them to be as successful as they can be."
The Charleston Hat Ladies are being sighted all over town. If you'd like to join them, put on your favorite hat and attend their monthly brunch at Elliott's in the Westin Francis Marion Hotel at 10:30am on Saturday, January 5th.RSVP to 724-3808, ext. 32 and tell them you're a Hat Lady.
In the News