Being Top Hat of The Hat Ladies combines Archie's passion for fashion and compassion. The result is a volunteer brigade of stylish Ladies who are making a difference in their lives and their community. When she is not pulling things out of her hat, she can be found teaching "Memoirs Done Write," gardening, swimming or working on her latest project: A workshop called "Hints from The Hat Lady, From Head to Toe." 3 things you don't know about me: Wearing only my hat, I posed nude for art classes at The College of Charleston before The Hat Ladies came to be. I bungee jumped head first from a hot air balloon in Colorado. I danced with my husband at the wedding of Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, Romania.
West of The Ashley
By Warren Cobb
"It's time for hats to come back," said Archie Burkel of The Hat Ladies of Charleston at their Gently Used Hat Sale at Consigning Women in The Shops at Avondale Point. Dozens of fine hats changed hands at the event, which was a fundraiser for the group's various charitable activities.
Hats of all styles, colors, and for every season were available at the one-day sale. Hat Ladies brought in their gently used hats to donate to the sale. While the sale was open to the public, members of the group got first pick for an hour before the store opened.
A portion of the proceeds will go toward a $500 scholarship for a Garrett Academy of Technology student. This is the sixth year The Hat Ladies have provided funding to a young lady at Garrett.
Burkel, the head of the organization or "Top Hat," says the scholarship will go to a girl who they think personifies the group's ideals. "We're looking for a girl with a sense of fashion and compassion, and the ability to relate to people of all ages, who engage in community service," she says.
The Hat Ladies have about 200 members, according to Burkel. What draws them together, she says, is a genuine, long-standing love of hats, which they then carry into volunteerism. Throughout the year, The Hat Ladies are organized in supporting several charitable causes in Charleston. Burkel says she sees them as "stylish ambassadors" to the community.
Though she agreed the fashion of wearing hats for both men and women had waned in the recent past, Burkel insists hat wearers are a growing group. "Every fashion trend eventually comes back," she says. "I've seen a tremendous increase in people wearing hats."
Hat making is making a resurgence, according to Burkel. The internet has created a new market for budding millliners. Young designers can now make hats in their garage and have a ready market for their product online.
Burkel says hats are a lot more than just a fashion statement; they also serve as a sign of a friendly, welcoming person. "My motto is hats open doors," she says. "It's not just a hat. People want to talk to you. It opens lines of communication, and you never know where it will go."
The Post and Courier
Photo: The annual Afternoon Tea at St. Matthew's recently raised more than $15,000 for the programs of the St. Matthew's Community Outreach Center. The Hat Ladies of Charleston Enjoyed the tea room and gift boutique on June 2. Pictured are Janie Stiles, Jackie Lear, Archie Burkel, Mary Catsimatides, Rosie Bolchoz
The Charleston Mercury
Photo: Hats Off to our Military. With graHATitude, The Hat Ladies, www. hatladies.org
The 6th Annual Hat Ladies Easter Promenade
n elegant procession of Hat Ladies, their gentlemen, children, and pets in Easter finery recenty strolled through downtown Charleston in honor of hat-wearing traditions and in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Hat Ladies are Ladies of all ages and backgrounds, who are brought together by their genuine love of hat in a spirit of camaraderie and community service. "It is our volunteerism (while wearing those hats) that sets us apart from other hat-wearing, fu-loving groups," says founder Archie (Barbara) Burkel, also known as "Top Hat," often spotted in one of her signature black and white hats.
Learn more abut the history of The Hat Ladies at www.hatladies.org. Photo by Jane McMackin: "Hat by hat we can make a difference!" Pictured are Dolores Zink of Mount Pleasant and Carol Williamson of the Isle of Palms who participated in the HatLadies Easter Promenade April 7.
The Charleston Mercury, Out & About, Photographs by Blair Halford
The Hat Ladies photos covered a half page of The Charleston Mercury. Captions included: Hat Lady extraordinaire Archie Burkel, with her top banana John Burkel, prepares to lead the Hat Ladies Easter Promenade down Meeting Street. Maggie Capewell, Dale Scott, Anice Carr, Andrea St. Armand, and Willi Jones.
Rosie Bolchoz and Debbie Beahm proudly posing in their finery before the annual Hat Ladies Easter Promenade on Saturday, April 7. The sartorially splendorous Joan Poet, Becky Nixon and Jeanie Heath, taking a moment from polite conversation. Dolly Hamlin, Austin Scott, and Deborah Scott, smiling on a cool morning in Washngton Square in anticipation of the Hat Ladies' promenade down Meeting Street. Andrea St. Armand and Willi Jones, showing the Hat Ladies can also exhibit modern flair. Finally, there is a photo of Mayor Rudy Guilani tossed in with the caption...Perhaps he will march with the Hat Ladies next time.
The Post and Courier, Local News, Tenisha Waldo
Hats Rule on a blustery day
Chill aside, 160 turn out for annual Easter Promenade
Raye Chapman planned to don a pink linen dress ensemble at Saturday's sixth annual Easter Promenade, but changed her mind just moments before she left her West Ashley home to head to downtown Charleston. Instead of the typical balmy spring day she had hoped for, temperatures were in the mid-40's Saturday morning.
And for Chapman, it was just too chilly outside to wear. She layered herself with an ivory wool pantsuit and wore a pink turtleneck underneath to match her ivory sun hat adorned with pink and coral flowers. She even pulled out her beaver fur stroller to keep toasty. "Twenty minutes before I left, I decided, "I can't be cold," she said, holding tight to the brim of her hat to keep the wind from blowing it away.
Chapman and other members of The Hat Ladies, along with their beaus and several youngsters, braved the cold as they paraded down Meeting Street in stylish toppers. Crows of tourists, many of whom were dressed in heavy jackets and winter coasts, lined downtown streets and snapped pictures of the procession.
The Easter Promenade has become the annual highlight event for the Charleston-based organization that was founded six years ago by Archie Burkel. Burkel, known as the Top Hat, established The Hat Ladies to emphasize self-esteem and promote community service. The women regularly volunteer at hospitals, schools, and convalescent homes, and help out with other civic activities. Saturday, all the promenade participants wore blue ribbons to observe National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Hat Ladies switched thing up a bit this year and followed a new route. Instead of parading the streets of Broad and East Bay, they headed straight down Meeting Street to White Point Garden. They then gathered for refreshments at the Palmer Home Bed and Breakfast on East Battery Street and hosted an Easter egg hunt for the kids.
Despite the brisk weather, Burkel said about 160 people came out to this year's event. "The sun is shining on our promenade," she said. "What I love is they just kind of adjusted and they still look beautiful. Even if there's a coat on their shoulders, it doesn't matter. We pulled them all together so to heck with the weather."
Andrea St. Armand of downtown Charleston said her hat made of pink ostrich feathers helped keep her warm. Her strategy was to shake off any frosty feelings. "I'm going to pretend like it's hot, sunny, and breezy," she said before the procession began.
Summerville resident Anice Carr said she looks forward to the promenade each year. This year was the coldest it's ever been, she said, but Carr still strolled and waved to the onlookers with elegance and grace. "I learned from my mother to always carry myself like a lady," she said. Photo by Tyrone Walker, with caption: Dale Scott of Mount Pleasant, adorned in a flowered chapeau just for the occasion, waits in Washington Park on Saturday for the start of The Hat Ladies' sixth annual Easter Promenade through downtown Charleston.
The Post and Courier, The Fun Five, Dan Conover
Wave to Hat Ladies
Charleston's popular Hat Ladies will be out in force and wearing their finery Saturday for the sixth annual promenade through the Historic District. This year's stroll-and-wave starts at 11 a.m. at Meeting and Broad streets and follows a "shorter and sweeter" route down Meeting to White Point Garden. About 150 ladies are expected to join in, all wearing hats and ribbons in support of child abuse prevention. come early and bring a camera. (www.hatladies.org)
The Post and Courier, Oivia Poole
The Broad Street Merchants Association is joining force with the elegant and community-minded Hat Ladies of Charleston just in time for the Hat Ladies 6th Annual Easter Promenade, which takes place April 7. During the promenade, the Hat Ladies will combine a fashionable display of their Easter finest with raising awareness and funds for Child Abuse Prevention.
Last week, some of the Hast Ladies dressed in hats from previous promenades met with artists from The Hamlet Gallery, The Edward Dare Gallery and Carl McGill Fine Art to sit for paintings. Paintings and examples of hats will be on display at The Hamlet Gallery, Carol McGill Gallery, Jake's Coco Vivo, Rivendell, and The Edward Dare Gallery until The Promenade on April 7. The artists who donated their time and materials for these paintings are Jennifer Black, Madeline Dukes, Stephanie Hamlet, Susan Hecht, Kellie Jacobs, Melinda Lewin, Carol McGill, and her students.
The paintings will be available for sale via silent auction, and the hats will be auctioned by the sealed bid procedure, with a portion of the proceeds going to child abuse prevention.
Pictures of the hats indicating the minimum bid, as well as photos of the paintings, will be posted on www.hatladies.org. Bids can be e-mailed to hatladies@aolcom or placed in the boxes provided in each shop on Broad Street, where the art is on display. Bidding will close at 1 pm. April 7, the day of the promenade. In the case of a tie, the name will be drawn out of the hat, of course.
The annual promenade begins at 11 a.m. at the corner of Broad and Meeting streets. There is a new route this year, so check out www.hatladies.org beforehand. For more information on Broad Street Merchants' Association, contact the Edward Dare Gallery at 853-5002 or www.edwarddare.com. For more information on The Hat Ladies, contact Archie Burkel at www.hatladies.org.
Announcements for The Hat Ladies 6th Annual Easter Promenade appeared in the following publications: Charleston Magazine, Charleston Gateway, Little Black Book for Busy Women, Skirt! Magazine (full page as well as Calendar), Post and Courier
The Post and Courier, Tenisha Waldo
Archie Burkel looks to help others, at the drop of a hat:Archie Burkel owns lots of hats. Top hats. Straw hats. Feathery ones. Some with butterflies, bows, ribbons, flowers. Even purses shaped like hats. She has a closet full of them, and several adorn the walls in her James Island home. Just how many hats? "Not enough," she said.
Six years ago, Burkel founded The Hat Ladies of Charleston to share her love of hats with others. The group has evolved into a fashionable public-service organization working to boost self-esteem and bring hope to those in need, because 'just wearing a hat seemed pretty stupid,' said Burkel, who once was a high school guidance counselor and has worked at Atlanta's Carter Center.
The Hat Ladies group has since branched out to at least nine other cities nationwide, included subsets in Illinois, California, Georgia and Virginia, and membership continues to grow locally.
The women participate in various civic activities year-round and dedicate numerous hours to community service each month.
Burkel said she looks forward to their hat-decorating projects at MUSC Children's Hospital the most. They help the ill kids beautify drab, plain hats.'To hear how children wait all day, that this is what gets them out of bed, and to see their faces light up when we hand them the mirror after they've added to the hats, it just reinforces when you look good, you feel good,' Burkel said.
As Top Hat, Burkel spearheads the group's efforts, giving her time relentlessly to organize volunteers and gather support for events, such as the Preservation Society house tours, The Race for the Cure, HabiHAT for Humanity, and many more.
Those who know her best say there's sincerity in her smile and comfort in her willingness to pitch in at the drop of a hat.
Al Stiles met Burkel about two years ago when his wife, Janie, joined The Hat Ladies. He said Janie had suffered with depression and anxiety disorders for years, on top of other chronic physical ailments, and she often didn't feel like getting out of bed. But he said Janie was energized by Archie and her organization. 'She has her good days and her bad days still, but certainly, if there's a Hat Ladies affair, if she can get to it, she's there, because it means so much to her,' Stiles said.
The Hat Ladies group is gearing up for the sixth annual Eater Promenade in April in support of Child Abuse Prevention Month. If you go to join in the elegant stroll down Meeting Street, make sure you bring your HATtitude. That's what it's about about, 'feeling good from the bottom of your toes to the top of that hat,' Burkel said.
The Summerville Journal Scene
Hats off!The Hat Ladies of Charleston ushered in the new year in grand style with a luncheon held at the famous Woodlands Resort & Inn in Summerville. About a half-dozen women from Summerville belong to the growing social club, which is busy year-round with community service projects. Also, plans are in place for The Hat Ladies Sixth Annual Easter Promenade at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 7, beginning at Broad and Meeting Streets in Charleston. For more information visit www.hatladies.org. Staff photo by John Charles Robbins
In the News