Maya Angelou Hat Designer, Vanilla Beane Pass Away at Age 103
Vanilla Beane, the proprietor of Washington’s most renowned hat and bridal business has passed away. Vanilla Beane began his career as an elevator operator in a hat shop before going on to create some of the most sought-after designs.
According to reports, Vanilla Beane, popularly known as “D.C.’s Hat Lady,” passed away on Sunday, October 23, in a Washington hospital.
The Washington Post reported that Beane, who was 103 years old, died as a result of complications following an aortic tear. Her grandson, Craig Seymour, confirmed this.
Combining grace, elegance, and longevity, Ms.Vanilla Beane embodied Black excellence. Today, we send our love and prayers to Ms. Beane’s family and all who will miss her. pic.twitter.com/hK5qDCQvLo
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) October 25, 2022
The brilliant hats that Vanilla Beane created and produced at the Bené Millinery and Bridal Supplies store on Third Street, NW, were well-known. African American ladies who wanted to buy hats for important events like church, weddings, and funerals were drawn to her creations. Each unique design featured a variety of hats, such as tams, turbans, Panamas, sailors, and cloches.
According to The Washington Post, she once said, “NOBODY WANT TO WALK INTO A CHURCH AND SEE SOMEONE ELSE WEARING THEIR HAT.”
Famous African American women who wore Beane’s clothing include author and poet Maya Angelou and Dorothy I. Height, the founding mother of the American civil rights movement.
According to the source, Beane manufactured her hats the traditional way. Her method involved molding and embellishing buckram, a stiff cotton, with various textiles after wetting it.
In 2009, she stated to The Washington Post that “some individuals appreciate really intricate headgear.” “SOME PEOPLE PREFER SIMPLE HATS, WHILE OTHERS LIKE SOPHISTICATED HATS. I AIM TO PLEASE EVERYONE, NO MATTER WHAT RACE OR BACKGROUND THEY MAY HAVE.”
The “Hat Lady” of Washington, D.C. reportedly worked six days a week for fifty years, including her hundredth year, making her fingers stiff and harsh.
In a 2019 article about Beane in The Washington Post, Craig Marberry, co-author of Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, remarked, “The hat tradition came out of the idea that you were expressing how God has blessed you.”
“THE MORE FLAMBOYANT A HAT, THE MORE GOD HAS BLESSED YOU.”
The National Museum of African American History and Culture is said to have some of Vanilla Beane‘s hats on exhibit, including a red felt bicorn and a green velveteen design.