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5th Ave Annual Easter Parade

Easter in New York has become synonymous with a pageant of people marching down Fifth Avenue, many wearing large over-the-top hats, reveling in the sunshine. The tradition of the Easter parade began after the Civil War as a “fashion promenade,” rooted in the custom of a Sunday walk following religious service. Wealthy New Yorkers would emerge from their respective houses of worship along Fifth Avenue to stroll down the street, dine at hotels nearby, or pay social calls. Some members of the congregation at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, located at 5th Avenue and 53rd Street, carried flowers used in the Easter service to St. Luke’s Hospital located at 54th Street.

The Sunday stroll was particularly popular on Easter Sunday as it marked a time to show off the latest trends in fashion. Dressmakers and milliners would line the streets producing sketches of the ensembles later copied by department stores within weeks of the holiday. Hats decorated with faux flowers, tall ostrich feathers, and taxidermy birds were at the height of fashion. We have shucked the voluminous dome-shaped skirts, but the excessive hats have always remained in style.

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