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In Straw Vote, Spring Hats Are Candidates for Change


Spring is in the air, and for women it's a time to get some mileage out of those pastel shoes, to wear linen again and to feel guilty about those stacks of hats gathering dust on a shelf.

Maybe the hats were gifts, or you thought they'd be perfect for a certain outfit. But now that outfit has long been resigned to the giveaway clothes bag, and you've decided you're just not a "hat" person.

But unlike most other clothes and accessories, hats don't go out of style very quickly.

Chances are the straw hats in your closet are still wearable with a variation or two. "Straw hats tend go very well with a linen outfit," says Liz Menzies of Swept Away Clothes to Go in Irvine. "The small, fitted hat, called a roll hat, is very popular this spring; it gives you a kind of retro look."

The Panama style, or any straw hat with a wide brim, is also a classic. "We always get a lot of requests for those," says Stephanie Grani of Stephania in San Juan Capistrano. "They give your face a lot of protection from the sun, and they're made in a wide variety of colors."

An old straw hat makes an excellent traveling companion, especially to tropical climates. It is fashionable in ways that a visor or baseball cap isn't. "It can go with a bathing suit and a nice casual outfit," Grani says. "And it's one of those things you don't have to worry about packing. It's not going to be permanently misshaped in the suitcase."

The white straw hat has faded in popularity, but there is a way to make it work for today's styles. "Many women are 'tea dying' their hats," Menzies says. "They'll dip or pour tea on it and let it dry, which makes it a little darker."

An easy way to update a dusty straw hat is with lace. "You can make a simple band for it with lace, or attach some dried flowers to the brim for an accent," Menzies says.

One way to give a hat character is to add a ribbon that picks up color in your outfit. "Some of the hats we carry come with a couple of different ribbons that you can put on to make them more versatile," Menzies says.

You can even go beyond fabric to personalize a hat. "Take jewelry and put it on a stem and stick it through a hole in the hat, which can change the look completely," Grani says.

* Do you need an antidote for a wardrobe problem? Write Closet Rx at The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or fax to (714) 966-7790.

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