Why ‘church crowns’ became hallmarks of Black women’s Sunday best

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In terms of culturally significant headgear, there are baseball caps, cowboy hats, and then, in a realm all their own, there are Black women’s church crowns. What gives these splendid hats their significance?

Every Sunday at Friendship Baptist Church, located at 2030 Palm Ave. in Fort Myers, you will find G. Yvonne Powe praising the Lord, dressed in her Sunday best with a glorious hat to match.

G. Yvonne Powe in church. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

“I just was always inspired as a little girl to see my mother and her hair and all of the other ladies in church wear their hats,” Powe said. “I always had a desire to wear a hat even from a young child because I thought it was very flattering.”

Powe started living that dream in her 20s and slowly grew a collection over the years. Now, she doesn’t know how many she has. But only a certain few get the title of “favorite.”

“The ones that I inherited from my mother; those are very special to me, some of which were given to her by our brother, who is now also deceased,” Powe said. “I feel like I’m glorifying God, because that’s what a head covering for a woman is supposed to do, according to Corinthians 11:5.”

As that Bible verse says in the New International Version: “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.”

G. Yvonne Powe with her church crowns. (Credit: WINK News)

For Black women, their church crowns hold meaning beyond Scripture. They gained popularity in the 1900s, back when many Black women were working in someone else’s home as domestic workers and nannies and didn’t get to dress up that often. Sunday church services gave them the chance to dress to the nines for themselves and for God. Church crowns later became a status symbol.

“That was their time to look good for the Lord,” Power said. “So, I feel like I’m honoring the Lord.”

And Powe honors her mother and generations of ladies before her.

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