Readying the Red Hats

By Beacon Staff

Be on the lookout for crazy headwear and mirth – the Red Hat Society ladies are about to descend on Kalispell in all of their colorful glory.

As their name suggests, society members are easily identifiable by their spectacular red and purple hats, as well as a general devil-may-care attitude adopted for the 2009 Montana State Red Hat Convergence on Sept. 11 through 13.

Local artists Howard and Mauriene Jacobson have decided to welcome the ladies to town, creating a new display of extravagantly decorated red and purple hats at the Kalispell Grand Hotel.

“They’re just fun,” Howard said, looking over his creations.

The hats were purchased, Mauriene said, but the decorations are distinctively Howard’s. Each has a different design, some with brilliant birds made from paper, others with handcrafted flowers. One even has a red, stuffed animal crab acting as a bow on the back.

The Jacobsons’ hats should fit in perfectly with the Red Hat Society ladies, who are known for their exuberance and flourish. The society was founded by a group of female friends who decided to celebrate their mid-life years. It was built around the poem, “Warning,” by Jenny Joseph.

In the poem, Joseph describes the fun she will have when she gets older and doesn’t care what others think of her, including spending her pension on brandy and summer gloves.

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go,” the poem reads. It was the inspiration behind the Red Hat Society.

Women can join at official “red hat” status when they turn 50, with younger members wearing pink. The convergence on Kalispell is called “Boots, Bling and Bonnets,” and is expected to attract 500 society ladies, including a few from Canada.

A Red Hat insider who asked to remain anonymous, because she maintains she is not as rowdy as some of the other ladies in the group, said the events can get pretty wild. The whole conference is strictly for fun and social release, she said, a time when the women can let go of serious issues for a weekend and let loose.

The Jacobsons said they decided to decorate hats for the ladies when they found out some of the visitors would be staying at the Grand Hotel, where they have designed window and Christmas decorations for years. Howard, 84, said his designs were inspired by the Red Hat reputation.

“They’re kind of raucous, I understand,” he said with a big smile.

With her quick wit and generous laugh, Mauriene, 83, would certainly be eligible to participate in the festivities, but said she would hold back. Instead, she helped Howard with the hats and with gift cards depicting women in extravagant hats.

The Jacobsons met in a Chicago fashion school in 1945. Howard moved from his home in eastern Montana to pursue his dreams of clothing design. He said they starting dating after he talked Mauriene into going out with him. Sixty-three years of marriage and a lifetime of design work later, the two spend most of their time in their studio on Main Street in Kalispell.

“We have a ball,” Howard said.

“It’s our playpen,” Mauriene added.

The Jacobsons hope to sell a few hats and cards to the ladies, but it’s really all about the display.

“I think it’s kind of a welcoming to our fair town,” Mauriene said.