In the past few years, an increasing number of women over age 50 have realized that as they age, they don’t have to become less fun or fun-loving. To the contrary, some even say that it’s good to be a bit freer and more unconventional as the years go by.
These ideas are put into practice in many zany ways by members of the Red Hat Society, including FMCA’s version of this fun-filled group. Many FMCA members have likely seen these ladies wearing purple dresses and red hats as they gather at the association’s international conventions, area rallies, or chapter meets.
Part of the movement’s origins go back to 1961 when a poem titled “Warning” was written by Jenny Joseph. The poem begins, “Warning: when I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me ….” It continues to describe an elderly miss who behaves in a lighthearted, non-conforming manner.
Ladies actually began fulfilling this promise “” by wearing red hats, purple dresses, and getting together to have fun “” in California a few years ago. One thing led to another, and their activities were featured in a national magazine in 2000. By 2002 the Red Hat Society held its first convention in Chicago. Today thousands of chapters exist around the globe.
Red Hat Society members are women over 50. Younger women can attend meets but must wear lavender and pink rather than purple and red. (They’re called “Pinks” by the elder sisters.)
FMCA has two chapters dedicated solely to Red Hat activities “” the Rolling Red Hatters and Over 50 & Fabulous. In addition, ladies in countless chapters throughout FMCA have formed their own Red Hat subgroups.
Marilyn Proffitt, F182265, the “Queen” (president) of the Over 50 & Fabulous chapter, said activities at the chapter’s gatherings vary, but they’re always fun. “Sometimes we have tea, sometimes we have punch, or a luncheon; it’s just whatever you try. One club I know of, they do high teas.”
When these ladies get together, their attire and accessories are important. It turns into a contest to see who has the silliest or most elegant clothing. Marilyn said outfits range from the ridiculous to the sublime.
“Anything goes “” we’ve had a woman come in with red-and-white kneesocks, braids in her hair, and gaudy red house shoes. One girl at the contest in Minot was most elegant, with long, red gloves; a long, purple dress; a wide-brimmed hat; and jewelry all over the place.”
It’s all done in fun, and humor reigns. “The gaudier you are, the better you are. My hat grows flowers,” Marilyn said. One member of the Over 50 & Fabulous chapter constructed a purse that coordinates with her regalia very well “” and she made that purse herself, from a brassiere.
Door prizes sometimes are distributed to ladies who are judged to have a winning clothing ensemble. Word games, entertainment, and other activities can be included. Many of the ladies from the Over 50 & Fabulous chapter also belong to other Red Hat groups that have sprung up in other chapters.
But is the Red Hat phenomenon just another fad, like the Macarena dance? Will it fade away in a few years?
“I don’t think the ladies will let it die. I think this is a fun thing; it’s for everyone because it’s not cost-prohibitive,” Marilyn said. “And anything goes. I think that’s why the women enjoy it “” you can let your hair down and have a good time.”
The 40 or so ladies in Over 50 & Fabulous all are part of a group that arrives very early at FMCA conventions, the majority of whom are involved in parking or security setup. “It’s sort of unique in that sense; [most people would not be able to] join us or come to our luncheon, because we hold it before the convention,” Marilyn explained. “We only meet twice a year, and [the meetings] are purely for the setup crew.”
So, if you’ll soon be involved in the same pre-convention activities and would like more information about the chapter, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services Department at (800) 543-3622.