What Happened to Easter Outfits?

Easter used to be about the outfits—the frilly socks and dresses, the Stacy Adamses and Steve Harveys, the fancy and fanciful church hats–as much as it was about the eggs, especially in Black communities.

Has that tradition disappeared or transformed into something else? The Michigan Chronicle contacted several store owners and managers to find out—mostly through a stroll down the historic Avenue of Fashion on Livernois.

According to Karen Lowenberg, owner of Top That, an accessories store in Oak Park, “Every woman loves to accessorize. And they should accessorize because accessories make the outfit. You can be wearing a simple dress, and then put on a beautiful hat or a beautiful hair accessory, a nice pair of shoes—which I don’t sell—or a nice pair of hosiery. You can walk into a place—and you can dress your baby with a beautiful headband and a beautiful baby frock—and it makes a statement.”

After the post-pandemic lull people started shopping again and she noted that customers wanted to accessorize more. The older women “love the bigger hats with more on them” as well as the “higher, taller hats.” The younger crowd–who are being coaxed into going back to church by their elders—lean toward fascinators because they can be used for multiple occasions, such as going out with friends. The interest in fascinators came from the royal weddings of Princes William and Harry.

When it comes to the well-remembered frilly socks, Lowenberg said her shop still sells them, but the trend is a ruffle but not as frilly and made out of modal, which is a soft material.

She also said that she was seeing more colors than the pastel palette that older generations wore.

David Woodard, a manager at The Mad Hatter on Livernois, said in a phone interview that, though he dresses in the traditional suit for Easter, he noticed that the men in their 20s to their 40s don’t dress up as much, let alone top off their suits with hats.

“The kids are asking for fedoras now,” he said. “I usually direct them to the wide brim hats we have.”

Woodward agrees with Lowenberg about hats. “Hats complete the outfit. I don’t understand how men wear suits without them.”

Reverend Bernard Bell, who is the manager at The Broadway, an upscale men’s clothing store, said in a one-on-one interview with the Michigan Chronicle that people don’t shop like they used to as far as buying suits for Easter.

“Now, they’re buying suits for proms and graduations. It’s very good for us.”

When asked why, he cited the pandemic. “It stopped a lot of people from going to church—and shopping to buy something to wear to go to church.”

However, he said that the church advice of “come as you are” due to financial constraints was not a cause as far as he knew.

“I can’t speak on not having the money, and I can’t speak on the different churches’ dress codes. But where I fellowship at, at Macedonia Baptist Church, we wear suits to church. We dress.

“People can come as they are, and we’re not going to point you out and say you can’t come in because you have on a pair of pants and a shirt or a sweatsuit and some gym shoes. We don’t do that. We talk about people wearing suits. You dress the part when you go to church. You wear your best because you want to give God your best.”

The Michigan Chronicle thanked Bell and walked to The Red Door to speak with manager Stacey French. She was managing The Shoe Box, which shares the same owners. French agreed with the other managers about the downward trend regarding dressing for Easter. However, she think the slow decline comes from an interesting phenomenon: casual Fridays in the workplace.

“When casual Friday started, it rolled into the rest of the universe, and it overtook dressing as a formality. People even dress down going to church now. You do have a few of us old-school folks who like to dress and wear some pretty shoes and a hat—that’s still a beautiful thing to me and few of us who like to dress. But a lot of people haven’t taken up the torch and continue to dress with a hat, gloves and a pretty dress and heels for Easter.”

French said people will come to the store for a specific event, such as a concert or birthday celebration.

When asked if the pandemic was a cause of the shift, she said, “COVID didn’t help it, but the switch started before COVID.”

The Michigan Chronicle’s last stop on Livernois was Teasers Boutique, a women’s store owned by designer Paulette Williams. Asked the same questions as the other owners, Williams said that, since COVID, “people aren’t dressing the same for church as they used to.” “They’re dressing down somewhat but looking presentable enough for church, but they’re not doing a lot of the hats and things like that.”

That meant that Williams had to change her inventory “from ladies’ suits to nice dresses.”

“What COVID brought to the fashion world is the idea that we don’t have to dress up anymore. When you come into Teasers, it’s about events and sparkly [things] to stand out more.

“I really didn’t like that people were dressing down. When you dress up, you feel good. You’re going somewhere and you’re happy, instead of falling into the habit of having a track suit on and being down because of COVID. I didn’t let it beat me.”

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