NEW YORK — The bonnets were out on Fifth Avenue for the annual Easter Parade — outlandish 21st century headpieces that were hardly bonnets, featuring everything from bunnies and butterflies to grassy, egg-dotted lawns and even a tall ship on the high seas.
And the parade is hardly a parade. Instead, while Easter Sunday Mass was celebrated at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the altar, the avenue was milling with people decked out in homemade costumes that seem to get zanier each year.
The crowd included Christians, Jews, Hindus, agnostics, atheists and others who felt like strolling around Manhattan on a sunny spring day, including hundreds of tourists.
"It's all about versatility," said Mary Anna Smith, a New York custom milliner whose business card reads "The Tipsy Topper."
It took her a half day to fashion her "hat": a bright blue sailing ship floating on sea foam, made from an elaborate kite and some fluffy white stuff she said was "a trade secret."
"It's about sailing to new heights," said Smith.
She also created headpieces for two friends, one topped with a massive butterfly and another with a tropical umbrella dripping with felt balls and anchored to a bird's nest, then to human hair.
Just feet from the parade, the trio was tending to last-minute finishing touches, adding bobby pins to make sure the contraptions didn't topple.
"It's Easter and I didn't want to be too garish," said Smith's friend, Kristen Lee Sergeant, a Manhattan jazz singer in a simple green dress. "But then again, I do have a huge butterfly on my head!"
The 2015 Easter Parade bore little resemblance to the first one, which started in the 1880s as a strolling display of what prosperous New Yorkers wore to Fifth Avenue churches. In recent decades, the street gathering has morphed into a sort of costume circus — including pet dogs.
Carmen, a 4-pound Chihuahua, was not exactly happy with her getup.
"She didn't love this one because it's kind of heavy, and she won't walk in it. But if I carry her, she's fine," said owner Melissa Mejias.
A consultant to the city's Department of Education, Mejias dabbles in dog attire.
She used a Simplicity pattern — yes, they have a dog line — to sew Carmen's coat from one of her old shirts, adorning it with a flowery headband plus a necklace purchased from a company that makes accessories for tweens. And to make sure Carmen didn't run off into the elbow-to-elbow crowd, Mejias kept her on a bejeweled leash.
As for Mejias, she wore her mother-in-law's old Easter hat to the parade, a dark red velvet one she'd pulled out of a closet.
"I'm carrying on that tradition," said Mejias.