On April 21, a throng of New Yorkers and visitors alike will head to midtown to attend one of the city’s most anticipated and inspired celebrations: the Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival.
Bedecked and bedazzled, half of the partygoers will mill about in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral wearing beautifully crafted, handmade bonnets that defy the imagination (and gravity in some cases)—proof that some people are boundless when it comes to originality, humor, and plain old holiday spirit.
And the other half? Well, they come to see what the first half is wearing and take a lot of pictures.
And then there’s Patricia Fox (a.k.a Purely Patricia.)
Patricia for the first time
When I first saw Patricia Fox, she was a joyous blur of pink fur and tulle, twirling in the middle of Fifth Avenue surrounded by photographers. The 2016 parade was well underway and Patricia was the reigning Queen.
It’s not easy to stand out in a large crowd wearing extravagant haberdashery, but Patricia did so easily.
She wore a pink tulle skirt the color of bubblegum, dotted with large, diaphanous butterflies under a voluminous cropped faux-fur jacket in fuscia. Her accessories ranged from huge, jawbreaker-sized pearls wrapped around her neck and wrists and long white gloves to shoes, spattered with paint in pink, red, blue and green (think Jackson Pollack), and an oversized, canary yellow change purse covered in tiny beaded flowers.
But the pièce de résistance was the handmade floral extravaganza, ala Carmen Miranda, that sat on top of her curly, carrot red hair. Her creation was at least three feet high and nestled within its petals were giant, glittering honeybees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
It took Patricia 15 hours over several weeks to make the bonnet, she told me by email. It was the first she’d made from scratch. All of the elements were attached with springs or wires so that whenever she moved it sprung to life.
The crowd couldn’t get enough.
“Here! Look here!” they’d yell taking picture after picture. And Patricia would twirl and twirl and twirl.
For 20 years, on and off, Patricia has been delighting Easter parade-goers with her unique sense of fashion, and while the event gives her the perfect excuse to ratchet up her “bouncy and high-spirited” style, as she calls it, it’s not as if her everyday ensembles go unnoticed. Her taste has always a bit quirky, bordering on zany.
“I am a colorful person living in a beige world,” she tells me. “I’m like ‘smile medication’ for others. I do not concern myself about judgement and know I am viewed with admiration and appreciation.”
Growing up, Patricia’s mother influenced her love of fashion. My mother “was a spectacular dresser, buying right out of the pages of Vogue,” Patricia explained. When she traveled or went out for the night, Patricia would dress up in her mother’s clothes and parade around her home. “I would gently caress all of the beading and smell her perfumed cashmere. I felt at six like a confection of glam and glitter.”
Today, Patricia is no less of a confection. She’s an assemblage artist (a means of expression using mixed media in fashion and home) who’s created her own lifestyle brand called Purely Patricia. She’s also a celebrity, spokesperson, brand ambassador, fashion icon, personal stylist, interior decorator, and jewelry designer, just to name of few of the professions she lists on her website.
Her fashion advice to those who care to listen: “Go into the world and show off your own personal style. Fashion today is about trends. Be a trendsetter not a follower.”
When asked what she’ll be wearing this year. She’d only divulge the following.
“Flowers, flowers, flowers!”
If you’d like to see Patricia and the all the other creative souls attending this year’s Easter Parade and Easter Bonnet Festival, head to 49th Street and Fifth Avenue on April 21 at 10am ET. It’s really less walking and more milling about that stretches all the way to 55th Street and lasts until 4pm.
Bring plenty of juice for your cameras because everywhere you look you’ll find someone wonderful to photograph. The bonnets and costumes are simple amazing.
Update — On Easter Sunday 2017
Patricia outdid herself don’t you think?
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