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Pair your panama with a summery top, as seen here on the Ungaro runway.
Pair your panama with a summery top, as seen here on the Ungaro runway.


Go ahead, ladies, tip your panama Add to ...

Colombian-born Esteban Cortazar is the young designer for the Emanuel Ungaro label. He is burdened by neither the hoopla nor the pressure accorded his peers with equally big britches to fill. But he knows how to do ageless.

Take the panama hat he sent out onto the spring runway. There will be no demure, no corny, no mothballed bonnets for me this Mother's Day. This hat is not about the conquest of masculine edge. Put on a good panama straw and you are not "the babe in the hat" - or "the kook in the hat." You are not looking for compliments. You are not hiding from anyone.

For a very long time, hats were not easy to find. People who wore them were "hat people" and their headgear flashed a sign that said, "I'm unique." (There is no more useless word than unique.) But, as hats become more prevalent each season (it started with a bucket and then moved to a newsboy cap), the chains have added hat sections.

For women's hats, there is generally only a mass end and a high end (the schmancy milliners who attempt to keep an arcane art alive). And then there is the absolutely charming Big It Up. Online and around Toronto, Big has U.S. and Canadian-made hats for a decent shake (this version is $110) - and for normal folks as well as the dandies.

A panama hat, to return to the hat of the moment, can be a part of your outfit without screaming, "I'm a hat!" A panama hat wearer doesn't fret about hat head. For goodness' sake, it comes from Latin America, where no one worries about early bedtimes.

By pairing it with this off-the-shoulder, elegantly elasticized blouse, Cortazar is giving a free lesson. Soft, sexy, billowy. But not gaudy. Wear this look with great jeans. And whatever the heck shoes you like. But I'd try some coloured Converse. Because then, no matter how many kids are whingeing at you, every time you look at your feet, you can admire your lilac high-tops.

Whatever dramas the progeny can mount, if you have a great hat and great shoes, you (and they) will never forget there is a hot, stylish woman general in charge. Five stars, ladies.

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