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Thoroughly Modern Millinery

NAACP leader Roslyn Brock makes a style statement with fashionable hats

Roslyn Brock

Photo by John Loomis

Roslyn M. Brock, 50, is a health care executive and chairwoman of the NAACP national board of directors.

From the time I was a little girl in Florida, I've loved hats. My grandmother Leona Pittman believed a woman was not properly dressed for church without one. She always tilted her large brims to the right, slightly covering her right eye.

In my 20s, I started wearing hats to church as a tribute to my grandmother. Today I'm known for my hats at my church and at the NAACP, where I've served for 30 years. I'm following in the legacy of female civil rights leaders who completed their Sunday go-to-meeting clothes with fashionable hats.

Now I own about 200 hats, including everyday styles and special-occasion designer hats. I love Philip Treacy, Queen Elizabeth's couture designer. I also like Louise Green, a milliner in Los Angeles who specializes in vintage styles. I'll buy the hat first and then find a suit or shoes to match. Sometimes I'll have a hat for six months before I find just the right outfit for it. I like to keep up with trends, but I also recognize that wearing hats is a time-honored tradition. It keeps our history and culture alive.

—As told to Barbranda Lumpkins Walls

Hat tricks: Roslyn Brock's do's and don'ts:

Do buy basic colors of white, black, navy, purple, taupe and red for your hat arsenal. They take you through all the seasons.

Do put tissue paper in hats to keep their shape. Misshapen hats are the worst.

Do buy the right size. If it cuts off your circulation, leaves a mark on your forehead or covers your eyebrows, leave it in the store, no matter how pretty it is.

Don't greet someone in a way that will disturb your carefully placed hat. Just tilt your head or nod to say hello.

Don't wear fascinators (à la Princess Beatrice at William and Kate's royal wedding) as the center of attention for your outfit. Use them as an accent piece.

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