It’s my second Easter in New York City, but today is a world apart from my first. As we’re still in coronavirus lockdown, there is no Fifth Avenue Easter Bonnet Parade this year. Instead of going out to photograph one of the city’s most creative citizen spectacles in person, I’m sharing my photos from last year’s parade.
Last year, Easter was on April 21, a week after we’d arrived in the city. The parade is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, especially since it’s essentially a freestyle parade – there is no formal march, instead, show ponies and spectators mingle on Fifth Avenue. You can wander through the crowds and get front-row views of the whimsical costumes and stop for a chat with their creator. It was perfect for street photography, as everyone who dresses up can’t wait to pose for a photo!
My favourite photos from the day were from the moments when the parade-goers weren’t posing, but were simply enjoying the moment – although I’m not sure if you’re ever truly candid when you’re parading in an extravagant easter bonnet. Next time, I’d bring a zoom lens – it was so crowded, which made it very hard to shoot.
A very short history of the Easter Parade
I’d never heard of an Easter Parade in Australia, but a fashionable parade has been part of the Easter tradition for centuries. Easter has long held significance for new clothes across many cultures in the Catholic world. In the Dark Ages, the parade was a solemn procession. In Tudor times, superstition dictated that Easter was a time for new clothes and an old Irish adage states an old Irish adage states “For Christmas food & drink, for Easter new clothes”.
The Easter Parade tradition in New York dates back to the 1870s, when it was a more formal affair and more about showing off the finest fashions. Today, the parade is no longer a formally organised event and instead has taken on a life of its own. Rather than being about the latest fashions and finery, it’s now about showcasing your creativity. Designer millinery for the most part, has been replaced by handcrafted bonnets, created by passionate New Yorkers.
There are still nods to the elegance of yesteryear, with a handful of participants donning elegant store-bought clothes in shades of pastel, and some incorporating their own creativity into a more elegant costume. Whether designer or a flamboyant creation, there are still lots of top hats, three piece suits, pearls and full skirts.
Below are my favourite photos from the day. Have you been to an easter parade before? Let me know which are your favourite outfits in the comments.
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