Lorraine White loves hats.
Red, pink, purple, green and gold. Cowboy, fedora, boater, and cloche. Since 2006, White has collected 50 of them in all shapes, sizes and colors.
“I walked into Wal-Mart and they had all these fabulous hats,” said White, 54. So she bought a few, and then a few more. She buys them all new and never spends more than $15.
At a South Hill coffee shop, White arranged an artistic display of her colorful bonnets. “I look for bold and stunning,” she said. “My hats have personality.”
She pointed out a few of her favorites. White calls a red straw cloche with a huge purple tulle bow her “Bulls Eye Hat.”
“You have to be a brave person to wear it,” she said.
While White enjoys attending teas, church bazaars and craft shows, she doesn’t need a special occasion to don a chapeau. She said, “I’m a festive person – I’ll make up a reason to wear a hat.”
The 1975 Rogers High School graduate is frank about why she loves to wear them. “People don’t see me as special,” she said, and shrugged. “I’m trying to stand out and get compliments. I feel important when I wear a hat.”
White pulled out several small photo albums filled with pictures of her headwear-themed birthday parties. She’s even taken her collection to Manito Park. Photos show the brightly-hued hats spilling out on the ground like wildflowers next to the Rose Garden.
Smiling, White picked up a stunning yellow boater with huge yellow bows pointing upward like sunbeams. She said, “I call this one my Bloomsday hat, because it looks like it’s blooming.”
A white bonnet, adorned with white netting and studded with gold flowers, looked like wedding finery, but White picked up a tan burlap fedora trimmed with gold braid. “I like this one because it’s different – like me.”
Another favorite, a wide-brimmed spring green straw, belonged to her sister, Linda Whitty. White’s eyes filled with tears as she pulled out a stack of photographs of Linda wearing it. “Linda died of cancer on Feb. 22,” she explained.
She’s often asked if she belongs to the Red Hat Society. But shaking her head, she said her usual reply is, “Hunnababy, that’s too highfalutin! I’m of the Colorful Rainbow Society.”
Then she grinned. “I have a lot of fun!”
White would love to see her collection featured in a calendar or a fashion show. In fact, she wouldn’t mind being featured, either. “I don’t view myself as a five-star fashion model, but I’d like to be in a fashion show. I have style, class and character. I wish they’d have one for plain Jane people like me, and give us an opportunity to shine.”
For now, she’s content to shine in her hats. “I call them ‘Lorraine’s Happy Hats,’ ” she said.
And she’d like to see others pick up the hat habit. “We’re coming to the holiday season,” she said. “Put on a hat and go out and celebrate!”