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Fashion by Felicia: Berets

Felicia Caponigri | Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall is never an easy season. While the semester begins with the heat and excitement of summer, it soon becomes as complicated as the varied colors of leaves that fall from our precious campus trees. Fall is a time when the lushness of the landscape slowly begins to turn inward, reclaiming the green with which it had so willingly welcomed us, preparing for the cold winter ahead with each changing shade of red and burnt orange. Underneath the beauty of this luscious canopy, we rarely pause to notice how quickly the time is passing, how fast the football season is progressing or how swiftly our own present moments in college are relegated to the past.

Slowly but surely, however, nature reminds us … until one day during our morning walk to the sacred space of Starbucks, in the midst of skirting away from a mad squirrel or two who look intent on devouring the just-plucked-from-the-closet classic leather booties gracing our feet, our minds stage a revolt of Donatella Versace proportions. “Just a minute,” you say, as your head tilts with acute attitude, “I’m not ready for bittersweet, melancholic, sitting around-the-fire-pondering-one’s-future-career-options days yet! Who do you think you are, fall? Don’t rain on my parade!”

Before bursting into a full on belt that even Barbra Streisand would think twice about, we remember our other tool with which we commune with nature and the world: our wardrobe. What favorite fashion friend can communicate our personal flair, attitude and plans for an Indian summer in the face of fall foliage? Only the beret is jaunty enough to accomplish the task.

The beret is an accessory that makes you walk differently, talk with more passion and smile brighter and broader. Why is that? Is it the jaunty way it angles on your head, the contrast it gives to your usual hairdo, or the added sparkle your eyes seem to have knowing you have something fabulous decorating your head? Perhaps all three, but historically this cap has been inspiring the masses for generations.

Originally a characteristic accessory of Basque shepherds, the angle at which a shepherd tilted his fashionable headgear, and even the color, communicated secret messages from hill to hill.  Berets were soon exported to France, and still today any caricature of a Frenchman sees the indispensable beret, along with a baguette, bottle of wine and flowers. In the 1920s it began to gain power as a fashion statement, and thanks to Faye Dunaway in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, this hat became a statement of feminine rebellion.

There are a few auras you can project with this accessory. Strong powerful woman of the world: go with a military beret with leather trim. Ingénue: A lighter color in a soft fabric will make you ready for Paris’ Left Bank. A stiffer material will stay at attention, while a softer beret will mold to your head for a softer look. While Gene Kelly looked good in this accessory, it may not be for you, Notre Dame men, so as an alternative, feel free to trade the baseball cap for the newsboy cap. It has the same history and attitude without the caricature baggage (just please, not backwards). Ladies, start your beret journey at Topshop.com.

Contact Felicia Caponigri at   fcaponig@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily of The Observer.