Some people are hat people; some people aren't. On Easter, if you're not a hat person, you might as well stay in the house.
"Now this one's like the one I'm buying, but it's a different color," said Elizabeth Bethea yesterday, sitting before a mirror at Bachrach's Millinery on 11th Street NW. "The one I'm getting for Easter is in peach, to match my dress."
Elizabeth Bethea is definitely a hat person.
She tried a pink-petaled number. A bit too big, she thought. Then she was handed a blue snap-brim, very natty with a flower sticking up on the side. Watching herself in the mirror, she pushed gently at her temples, tugged the hat down at the base of the brim. Next came a large, wedding-cake effect, all in white, with more flowers. This one drew "ooohs" and "aaahs" from the onlookers.
"Now, that-," she murmured cryptically. She took it off, and put on a straw boater. Nope. She would stick with the peach snappbrim.
The people at Bachrach's love her. She buys two or three hats a month, and she may have as many as 30 summer hats plus a couple dozen winter hats around the house.
A teacher at Garrison Elementary School, she is the youth director at the New Southern Rock Baptist Church, and the hats are mainly for church.
"It's a dressy occasion, and you're expected to wear a hat," she said. "Especially on First Sunday, that's Youth Day, and I like to wear something different."
She is a regular at Bachrach's-one of the few hat shops in the entire country that not only cleans, blocks, alters, shapes and creates hats in everything from fur to straw but also carries a full line of veiling and decorations.
Sometimes she has a hat custom-made: "If I'm having a dress made, I might bring in the material to Mrs. Bachrach, and she'll make a matching turban. She's very good. She'll tell you if something isn't right for you."
Phyllis Bachrach Hart, the owner's daughter, said: "Mrs. Betha can wear many different types of hat, which is nice. Some women can only wear one type."
In the last few years, she added, Mother's Day has been getting bigger than Easter. Feathers are coming back, and brimmed Panamas "because of all the warnings about the sun being bad for your skin."
What is it about hats, anyway?
"Oh, I don't know," said Elizabeth Bethea. "Of course they're dressy. Most of mine are keyed to the outfit I wear. But they lift your spirits, too. They make you feel good."
There's an old rule of thumb about buying a hat: If it makes the corners of your mouth go up, that's the one. CAPTION: Pictures 1 through 5, Elizabeth Bethea considers hats at Bachrach's Millinery with Phyllis Bachrach Hart, Photos by Harry Naltchayan-The Washington Post