Fashion's Past Excites Present Day Collector

By Eric Olson

May 23, 2014 Updated May 23, 2014 at 9:34 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (21Alive)-She was making her own clothes in elementary school and as an adult Lydia Gerbig-Fast has become a first rate milliner…a hat maker, specializing in hats from the 1800’s..she made these pieces for War of 1812 reenactors. But Lydia’s favorite fashion frolic,,,is collecting.
Lydia has more than 250 hats in her collection, most purchased at flea markets or antique stores for five or ten bucks.
“This is one of my favorites this is probably from the 1950’s,” she says as she doffs one of her collectibles, “and I’ve been wearing this one for probably 20 years.”
Lydia collects hats from the World War One era up through the 1960’s but hats from the 1930’s and ‘40’s are her favorite…an era when fashion was flamboyant, confident and very sharp.
“I wear a hat every time I leave the house,” she says. “I grocery shop at Wal-Mart but I still wear a fashionable hat and dress to Wal-Mart.”
Lydia began sewing as a toddler so crafting fashion is second nature to her. She says that experience gives her an appreciation for the craftsmanship in these historic pieces like this hat from the 1910’s.
“It’s made of velvet,” she says, “and there’s a pasteboard inside to which the velvet is glued. When I find a big hoard of hats at an antique shop or at a flea market and the price is really good, it’s difficult to restrain myself and not come home with a bag of ten hats.”
Hats are still out of fashion in America for the most part but with TV shows like Mad Men and other influences, that may change. It’s a change this fashion collector would love to see.
“They should be worn with attitude; you wear them cocked to the side tilted forward,” she says. “Women always tell me ‘I can’t wear hats’ and I always tell them if you can wear shoes you can wear a hat.”
Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.

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