Ortha Smith and Gwen Barnard missed Julia Roberts' makeover stroll down Rodeo Drive in the movie, "Pretty Woman," but they didn't need Roberts' striking costume to influence their shopping ensembles.
Smith and Barnard, longtime shopping partners, dress for an uptown luncheon and buying spree every Thursday.And they top off their outfits withhats.
Barnard admits to wearing a hat every time she goes out the door, not just uptown. "I always wear a hat to the grocery store; I even put one on to take out the trash. I've worn hats since I was 17 and put on that BYU beret," she says.
"A hat completes a costume," added Smith, who worked as director of the personal development program at LDS Business College and as an instructor for the John Robert Powers School. "I wore a hat to work every day for years. Whether or not a hat was in style, it was appropriate business dress in my field."
The hat look is not only appropriate in today's accessory market, it's a top seller.
And Julia Roberts and her colleagues ignited the recent surge in sales.
Eric Javits, a young New York milliner, designed the hat Mia Farrow wears in three-quarters of the Woody Allen movie, "Alice."
The hat assumed the name of the movie character, according to Javits. "There's no doubt the style, a kind of coach derby or schoolgirl, will be dubbed `The Alice.' " Javits describes the hat as "ingenue and sophisticated at the same time."
Though the "Alice" hat is selling briskly, it was another Woody Allen movie character, Diane Keaton in"Annie Hall," who really put the spark back in the millinery business, according to Javits. "That slouch pull-on is still a must with young contemporary buyers."
Movie episodes like Roberts' Rodeo Drive walk wearing a taupe and white sheath topped with a simple straw roller, Audrey Hepburn's glamorous hats in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," or even Joannne Woodward's chapeau collection in "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," exert a noticeable influence on the sales of hats.
Andrea Duffield, accessory buyer at Nordstrom, credits movies with reviving interest in hats, but also notes the merchandising power of magazine and print ads.
"We've had lots of people looking for the hat Shirley MacLaine wore on a recent Town and Country cover."
Bob Dunlap, owner of the Accessory Depot, agrees.
"The magazines have really been promoting hats for younger buyers in the last year. When the kids see all the exposure in the media, the trend is bound to catch on."
Dunlap explains the "countrywide happening" thrives in the Salt Lake market, estimating his hat sales at double last year.
Straw hats with flowers and stylized baseball caps are among Dunlap's top sellers this season.
Cindy Payne, Nordstrom accessory manager, credits the summer season itself for an increased interest in hats.
"Women are concerned about protecting their faces from the sun. We get a lot of vacation-going buyers. Hats and sunglasses are must-have items for a summer trip."
After the movie blitz and a broad-based media campaign, younger women are discovering what Ortha Smith and Gwen Barnard have known for years - a woman wearing a hat captures immediate attention and makes a daring fashion statement.