Every time in the last week or so that Etiquetteer has mentioned attending the Easter Parade on Fifth Avenue in New York, people have asked "Do they really do that?" The true answer is "Yes, but not quite." No traditional parade with floats and marching bands takes place, but then the word "parade" is rather misleading. The original Easter Parade was more a promenade of the New York bon ton in their best clothes for Easter rather than what we think of as a parade.
The Easter Parade today has less to do with a promenading, at least not in an organized, graceful kind of way. It's really more of a block party with no announced dress code or refreshments (well, BYO, Etiquetteer supposes), but the general theme of "Easter" and a predisposition to elaborate headgear based on the lyric "In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it." The Easter Hat Thing has been going on longer than Etiquetteer thought, as The New York Times reports someplace in the 1870s as a start of the custom, and a reporter remarking in 1887 "the bonnets shall not be resurrections, but creations never before seen."
This leads to four categories of dress:
Costumes: Full-on couldn't-be-mistaken-for-street-clothes costumes. Themes Other Than Easter took their place in this category, too.
High Style: Inspired most especially by the fashions of the 1940s and early 1950s, these ladies and gentlemen could walk into church or the Plaza and not look out of place. (And really, more people should be walking into just about anyplace dressed like this.)
"Deft and Tasteful Suggestions," to borrow a phrase from the late Ignatius J. Reilly: The use of one, or perhaps at most three, accessories to express a theme. Anyone wearing an overdecorated hat or a a pair of bunny ears with everyday street clothes falls into this category.
Spring Colors: The use of good color without costume elements.
Non-Participants: An absence of Easter flair.
As at any public gathering, there are Problems of Perfect Propriety to dodge. First off, there's no use going if you don't want to be photographed. Almost everyone there was taking photos, and if they weren't, it's because they were too busy being photographed themselves. "And you'll find yourself in the rotogravure" indeed! Be gracious when people ask to take your photograph, and be gracious even when they don't ask. It is most Perfectly Proper ask, though, so be sure you do before snapping away. This often leads to wonderful conversations.
When people ask to take photos with you, acquiesce gracefully.
Pay compliments! People have clearly gone to some trouble to present themselves at the acme of their desire (whether that be high style, Easter excess, political humor, or classic simplicity), and they'll appreciate your unqualified good feedback.
One of the biggest challenges is photobombing. Accidental photobombing, that is. So many are so very focused on getting that perfect photo that they're unaware of their bodies blocking someone else from getting that perfect photo of something else.
Etiquette is situational awareness. Be aware of where you are and who's around you. Of course, too much of this and you could be paralyzed in the midst of the swirl. Know when you need to get through, and see if you can do so without actually dislodging anyone else. Jostling isunavoidable, but Etiquetteer can report being seriously bumped only once.
So how, you might be asking, did Etiquetteer add some Easter flair to a Perfectly Proper ensemble for the Easter Parade? The application of a beaded boutonniere did the trick:
If you'd like to promenade at the Easter Parade, Etiquetteer encourages you to do so. It's a tremendous amount of fun seeing the variations and themes developed that, at the root, come from the Perfect Propriety of what used to be called "Sunday best." Enjoy!