Store has women seeing red

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

“When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me, and I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves …” — Excerpt of poem by Jenny Joseph from her book “Warning.”

CHESAPEAKE — Red carpet, lavish red hats, purple clothing, bolos, gloves, glitzy sunglasses, red hat jewelry, purses and shoes create a lively atmosphere in the little shop La Rouge Boutique in Chesapeake.

Owner June Lester is having too much fun to open her store every day. She is queen of the “Sassy Old Broads” Red Hat Society chapter and very active in her club.

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“We have girls all the time trying to find the purple clothes and the red hats, and actually they’re rather hard to find,” Lester said. “There’s not another shop in the area that I know of.”

Her husband, Dan Lester, owns the building where the shop is located. It was vacant for quite a while until she renovated the store and it became La Rouge Boutique in January 2006.

“This stuff you can’t go to the mall or shopping center and find,” Lester said.

She doesn’t have to advertise much. The women in her club wear her clothes and she passes out cards at different functions.

“Of course, people want to know where you got (the clothes) and that’s how they come,” she said. “When the girls come here, nobody’s in a hurry. I usually have tea and coffee and cookies and they may be here an hour to an hour and a half just to buy a hat. We have a good time.”

So, she only opens her store on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and has more of a social gathering during that time.

Before the Red Hat Society was formed, after reading Joseph’s poem, Sue Ellen Cooper, of Fullerton, Calif., decided to buy a vintage red hat and a copy of the poem to give as birthday gifts for her friends.

According to the Red Hat Society Web Site, “one day it occurred to these friends that they were becoming a sort of Red Hat Society and that perhaps they should go out to tea — in full regalia. They decided they would find purple dresses which didn’t go with their red hats to complete the poem’s image. The tea was a smashing success.

Thus, the Red Hat Society was born. There are very few rules and it has fondly been called a “dis-organization.”

Members over age 50 must wear red hats and purple dresses when they go out to a function and members under 50 must wear a pink hat and lavender outfit.

The Red Hat Society is now worldwide in the east in China and in Europe.

“There are no rules for the Red Hats,” Lester said. “The only rule is there are no rules.”