The Hat that made History – The story of Bessie Coleman
My name is Kyra and I own a clothing brand called Resilient Grace where I tell the untold stories of African-American women that we should have learned about in history class. Every Wednesday I dress up as a Black Heroine from the past and tell her story. It’s called “Woman You Should Know Wednesday”. This week, with the help of the beautiful Lieutenanthat from Gigi Pip, I am recreating and telling the story of the first African- American female pilot, Bessie Coleman.
Bessie’s story is beyond phenomenal and is saturated with resilience and determination. She was born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, almost 30 years after slavery ended in a home with dirt floors. She was the tenth of thirteen children and like most African-Americans in the South during this time, her parents were sharecroppers. Bessie did not know a job outside of sharecropping, and the Jim Crow South she was born into was filled with violence and lynchings
against African-Americans. Bessie’s escape from this world was school. She loved school so she walked 8 miles every day to attend her one room segregated school house. She was good at reading, and math, and she even had early dreams of flying. However, every year school would stop during cotton season so that kids like Bessie could go home and help their families work by picking cotton. Despite her circumstances, Bessie always knew she wanted more than the life
she had grown up in. At this time, flying was exclusive to white men. White women were rarely allowed to attain A pilot’s license, but racism and sexism had doubly excluded black women.
When Bessie was 24, she moved out of the South, and into Chicago to live with her brothers and have a change of pace. At this time, Chicago had better opportunities for African-Americans, so she worked as a manicurist in a barbershop. In the barbershop, WW1 pilots would come in sharing war stories and even talking about how some of the combat pilots in Europe were women. This reignited Bessie’s passion to fly, so she applied to flight schools.
Unfortunately, she was denied from every school she applied to in the United States, but she came to the conclusion that Europe was another world that allowed people who looked like her to fly planes and she wanted to be a part of that. She found a sponsor in a man named Robert Abbott who owned a prominent African- American newspaper. She studied French for a year
and then Bessie moved to France to begin her journey of making her dreams come true.
In November of 1920, Bessie moved to France, and by June 1921 she became the first African-American woman to receive her pilots’ license. She returned to the United States in 1921 and was held a hero in the very same place that she had been denied her dream. She became a stunt pilot and known as “Brave Bess” and “Queen Bess” .She took this newfound fame and immediately went to work to create a world with better opportunities for little girls like her that
had grown up with big dreams. She became an activist who refused to do airshows that did not allow African- Americans to attend. She also became a public speaker who shared her story to encouraging African-Americans to go after their dreams. She even did airshows in Texas, including flying over the areas she had grown up picking cotton. She also began work on her big dream which was to create a flight school for African Americans. She once said, “I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.” She may have been the first, but she didn’t want to be the last. Unfortunately, Bessie was killed in a plane accident when she was only 33 years old. However, in 1929, other black aviators made her dreams come true by creating a flight school called The Bessie Coleman Aero Club.
As I wear the Gigi Pip Lieutenant hat, I am reminded of Bessie, and how excited she must have been to put on her pilot’s hat for the first time. It was probably the first time she felt like her dreams were valid and that she could really make a change. Bessie Coleman refused to take no for an answer, and her drive and determination opened the door for so many women to come behind her.
So to the woman who wore the hat that changed the world, THANK YOU.
Finding your perfect hat starts with finding the perfect fit. Let's answer some common questions to help you find a Gigi Pip that will give you the best look and feel.
Hats are measured by the inside circumference at the bottom of the hat's crown (the sweatband) and most often measured in centimeters. While hats may be sized according to their measurement, it is fairly common for women's hats to be sized based on average women's head sizes and then adjusted down to fit.
For example - Since the average women's head size measures 57cm, a small to medium hat would be made to fit 57cm and then can be adjusted down to 55cm. Larger head sizes measure up to 59cm, so a medium to large size hat would be made to fit a 59cm head size and then can be adjusted down to 57cm. Children ages 7 and below are typically 53cm, and those ages 7+ tend to be 55cm. Because of this, Gigi Pip hats sizes are as followed:
Kids (53cm to 55cm)
S/M (57cm to 59cm)
M/L (59cm to 61cm)
Additional Sizing Chart (based on average women head sizes):
X Small - 55cm (21.65 Inches)
Small - 57cm (22.44 Inches)
Medium - 58cm (22.83 Inches)
Large - 59cm (23.22 Inches)
X Large - 61cm (24.01 Inches)
There are two primary methods of measuring your hat size and are based on the style in which you wear your hat. You will need to take both measurements (shown below) and then use the larger of the two measurements to determine your hat size. Once you've received your hat, you can decide on the style you'd like to size your hat to and adjust your hat accordingly.
TIP: If you don't have a textile measuring tape, use a string or piece of yarn to measure the distance around your head. After you have marked the yarn around your head, lay it out flat on the ground or table and measure the straightened out piece of yarn with a measuring stick or regular measuring tape.
Method 1: The Traditional Style
This is the traditional style of wearing a hat. The front tip of the hat is low on the forehead, just above your eye brows, causing the hat to sit nearly level with the ground. To measure your head using the traditional style method, measure the distance around your head from the center of the back of the head to the forehead just above the eyebrow as shown below.
1. Use a textile measuring tape (or string) to measure the distance around your head crossing through the center part of the back of your head and the forehead just above the eyebrow. The tape should be level with the ground.
2. Check the measurement of the tape wrapped around your head. Hat sizing is in cm. If you are in-between sizes, we suggest sizing up and adjusting your hat accordingly.
Method 2: The Halo Style
This is the halo style way of wearing a hat. The front of your hat is raised up and the hat sits on the back of your head. To measure your head size using the halo method, measure the distance around your head passing through the back of your head, just above your neck, and the front of you head up on your brow as shown below.
1. Use a textile measuring tape to measure the distance around your head passing through the back of your head, just above the neck, and the front of your head high on the brow. The tape should be higher in front than in back.
2. Check the measurement of the tape wrapped around your head. Wearing a hat Halo style is usually a smaller hat size than wearing a hat traditionally however we recommend using the larger of the two hat sizes. If you are in-between sizes, we suggest sizing up and adjusting down.
All Gigi Pip hats are made to adjust to the perfect fit. Before making any adjustments, check the inner band type and follow the directions below.
1. My hat has draw strings - If your inner band has draw strings located behind the tag on the rear side of the hat, simply pull them tight to adjust your hat size down a size or two. Pull gently to avoid a tare.
2. My hat DOES NOT have draw strings - Many types of inner bands do not allow for a draw strings such as leather, elastic or cotton with a foam lining. Hats without a draw string are adjusted by using Gigi Pip's Hat Sizing Tape (sold separately). Hat sizing tape has long been the preferred method of adjusting hats because it allows you to keep the inner band in its natural form and the foam molds comfortably to the head.
Directions to use Hat Sizing Tape: Place the foam tape on the inside of your hat, behind the sweatband, with the sticky side facing towards the hat wall. Wrap the tape completely around the hat for maximum size decrease or cut tape length in half for a more moderate decrease. Size to fit prior to removing the adhesive cover. Once the fit is correct, remove the adhesive cover, press firmly into place, and wa-lah.
For more questions about hat sizing, please contact Gigi Pip at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that you know what your hat size is, let's find The Best Hat for your Face Shape!