When I attend estate sales, the vintage clothing ladies are almost always there too. I have to admire them. They are professionals. Some of them supply designs to the entertainment industry; others resell to upscale clients, to whom everything old is new again (and worth paying for).
The vintage clothing ladies always wear lovely and exotic clothes, in contrast to the rest of us who think of an estate sale as an opportunity to connect with a lot of dust and dress accordingly. The VCLs arrive early to get the best place in line. When the sale opens, they move through the house with deliberate speed, heading for the bedrooms. They sort through closets, racks and piles of old clothing, seeking poodle skirts, designer labels from the 1950s, pleats and silks and blouses with big polka dots. They are simultaneously polite and fiercely competitive.
Sometimes the VCLs' concentration on clothing causes them to overlook smaller items tucked away in a box on the closet floor or in a dresser drawer, like these hat flowers that I snagged.
Most of the flowers have a c-clasp pin on the underside, so the flower can be attached to the band or the brim of the hat. Others could be attached using a long straight pin with a faux pearl top. The pin allowed the flower to be worn on more than one hat, or alternately attached to the lapel of a coat.
Almost all American women (and men) stopped wearing hats during the 1960s. Online opinions as to why, vary. Some say that the changing times gave people the choice to dress casually. Relaxation of dress codes in churches meant that women no longer had to have their heads covered at worship. Other experts say that when Americans moved to the suburbs and drove cars -- instead of living in the city and taking public transit -- the interior of the automobile gave them less headroom, and consequently less hatroom, than the train or bus.
You still see women wearing hats from time to time, and nowhere better than at church. Time magazine's website has a photo essay based on the recent book Crowns, by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1874131,00.html
Collectors Weekly gives the history of hats with flowers during the 1950s: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/hats/womens-1950s-hats
The Hat Museum in Oregon showcases chapeaux: http://www.thehatmuseum.com/
Maddeningly, while I was writing this post, the song "Artificial Flowers" popped into my head. It's from Tenderloin, a 1960 Broadway musical about a preacher campaigning to clean up a New York red-light district in the 1890s. "Artificial Flowers" was written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock (who would later create the music for Fiddler on the Roof).
This is what the song sounded like on Broadway: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8ha_OL1SHA (Those lyrics would have been real tear-jerkers at the turn of the 20th Century.)
But you may be more familiar with the version that's running around inside my head today, which Bobby Darin swingingly recorded. Here's a live version of the tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDK_R9JVQgc