Writer Shannon Severson // Photography by Patrick O’Brien

Women’s hats have played a starring role in high fashion for centuries. There’s nothing that completes an outfit or exudes confidence and personality more than a beautifully crafted chapeaux, many of which are works of art in themselves. This month, hats will also be synonymous with goodwill and the importance of supporting the local library.

Cave Creek resident Andrea Markowitz has collaborated with fellow library supporters Dianne Olson and Jo Gemmill and Desert Foothills Library adult program coordinator Ashley Ware to create a charity event worthy of a hat tip.

The English Rose Tea Room on Feb. 27 will host the elegant fundraiser — to benefit Desert Foothills Library — during which attendees may enjoy tea, cakes and a chance to take home one or more of 50 vintage hats.

“I am excited to share my [English Rose] Team Room with other guests who love their local library, love hats and of course love drinking tea,” Gemmill says. “I think it will be the perfect combination and a delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

Markowitz is generously donating a selection of designer and one-of-a-kind hats from her late mother Florence’s extensive collection that spans several fashion eras from the 1950s to the early 2000s.

“My mother always wanted to look fashionable,” Markowitz says. “Getting dressed, for her, was an expression of her artistic nature. I do believe that if she’d had the opportunity to pursue a career, it would’ve been fashion design or interior design.

“I remember she used to go shopping in New York and have her hats sent back to New Jersey. My brother and I would get so excited when she had on a new hat, new shoes, a new dress and a pocketbook. She loved to make people smile. If she made someone smile by looking nice, she was doing something good.”

Markowitz adds that reading was very important to her mother.

“My mom would be delighted to learn that her hats will benefit the library,” she says.

The fundraiser was initially set to take place back in March 2020 but organizers decided to postpone it as a precaution due to the pandemic. The delay has only created even more anticipation for the event, which Olson says was conceived out of Markowitz’s love for the library and desire for her mother’s hats to continue to be cherished.

“It was heartbreaking to have to postpone the event because it took Andrea a long time to ready herself to part with these symbols of her mother’s grace and beauty,” Olson adds. “What a shame it would have been to see these designer nuggets vanish without a legacy.”

Markowitz says the unexpected blessing of the delay was that it inspired the idea of using Gemmill’s English Rose Tea Room as the venue, the interior and patio of which were recently remodeled.

“We used the additional time to create an event that will be even more elegant and exciting than the original one we planned,” Markowitz says. “We realized this time around that the lovely ambiance of The English Rose Tea Room would be the perfect complement to the lovely hats.”

Since tea and hats make a perfect pair, Gemmill expects to see many of the hats again as they crown the heads of her teatime guests in the future.

Olson has a fondness for hats herself and vividly recalls her own mother’s trips to Dottie’s Chapeaux, the local hat shop in her hometown, to purchase hats that paired stylishly with her business suits.

Mr. John, a designer her mother favored — and whose clients included Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall and Vivien Leigh — is among the designers whose hats will be featured at the benefit. Another featured designer is Christine A. Moore, a milliner of the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup and many other prestigious races.

“Dressing was a sign of respect to the people around you,” Olson says. “I recall a tale of the Queen Mother during the war years in England, answering a question about why she dressed so elegantly when moving among the war-weary populace, stating that she would dress the same way for a visiting dignitary and that the citizens of the kingdom deserved just as much respect. Our moms never left the house without wearing their ‘respect.’”

For organizers and attendees, the connecting thread of support for Desert Foothills Library is the bow that ties it all together.

“Desert Foothills Library is so grounded in its significance to the community,” Olson says. “Who could not recognize its importance and sense of duty? Everyone is welcome to a free library card without the onus of taxation. “To a child, that card represents admission to the future. To adults, it is the promise of hours of relationship with real and imaginary situations or a nostalgic return to the wonders of one’s learning years.

“A delightful spot of tea while browsing through bonnets is a tangible joy while all the proceeds benefit our dear friend — our library.”

Vintage Hats Fundraiser // Feb. 27 // 3 p.m. // English Rose Tea Room // 201 Easy St. Suite 103, Carefree // $35 // 480-488-4812 // carefreetea.com