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Straw Struck

September 11, 1987|ROSE-MARIE TURK

The hats uncovered by Fashion87's mini straw-hat poll reveal millinery madness is in top form with style, wit, charm, even a fine pedigree or two.

Though they're fashionably up to date, most straw hats are worn for a rather old-fashioned purpose: protection from the sun. Whether they began as a gift, a souvenir, an impulse buy or a searched-for treasure, they share a common bond: Their owners know a good hat when they see one.

Michael Thomas, a 25-year-old art director with "thinning hair," bought his anti-sun fedora at the Montecristi hat works in Santa Fe, N.M., this spring. "I always wanted a fedora and it's hard to find a nice one," he says.

He likes his because of its fine texture and go-anywhere style, and he recently wore it (rather than his baseball cap) to the Herbie Hancock concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Thomas is convinced "it has changed the way I carry myself. It's more elegant, so I walk a little slower, I linger a little more."

Makeup artist Jennifer Walder treats her Patricia Underwood hat like an only child. It reminds her of the hats she wore as an English schoolgirl, she says. And although she was tempted to buy another straw this summer, she didn't:

"I decided mine is pretty versatile. And I've had it so long now, it has a sentimental value." Besides, where would she hang another chapeau? Hers "is displayed on a beautiful Art Deco stand. There's room for only one hat."

For Veronica Gonzalez-Rubio, owner of approximately 20 vintage models, the goal is good-condition specimens at bargain prices. "Flea markets are a great place to find them," says the assistant television director. "The most I've ever spent is $25, but I'd rather pay between $5 and $10."

She buys natural-color straws, such as a '20s cloche purchased in London, and replaces any age-ravaged trimmings. If one comes with mildew stains, she puts it in a plastic tub filled with water and three Efferdent tablets for half an hour: "It lifts the stain right out," she says.

Finding hats is the relatively easy part; finding hat boxes is more difficult. And wearing a hat brings comments, according to Gonzalez-Rubio. "But I don't wear it to be outlandish. I'm not like a Hedda Hopper. I own some hats that are really charming, and I wear them because I hate to see them just sitting around."

Adds Pat Poncy, artist's assistant and owner of nearly a dozen hats: "They're fun to wear, and it's easier in Los Angeles than in many other places. But it does draw a lot of attention. You have to be ready for that. You need to be feeling extroverted."

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