Aiken is home to many fine southerners, and there is one woman in particular who has made a name for herself through her love of southern hospitality, etiquette, tradition, and most of all, fashion.
Sissy Brodie has lived in Aiken for over 80 years. While she is known for her humor and wit, she is also known for her acquisition of over 300 hats. She wears them year-round, no matter the season. Some are simple and some she embellishes. Each has it’s own uniqueness and story.
“My love for hats began when I was a young girl,” explained Ms. Brodie. “I’ve been wearing them for as long as I can remember. My mother dressed me in hats and I wore them whenever I could. As I grew older, ladies in the community would leave me their hats when they passed away. I would come home to boxes of hats on my front porch and have collected them ever since.”
She continued, “you know, as I child, my family would drive by The Willcox – my father wouldn’t let us enter because we were locals, but I remember stopping to take family pictures on the front steps. My friends and I would also run to The Willcox after primary school and hide behind the bushes outside the old tea room, where the pool is now located. My girlfriends and I loved to get glimpses at the elegant woman inside The Willcox. I would see their beautiful dresses and hats and listen to them stirring the sugar in their iced tea. I swear I can still hear them today, it’s a sweet memory I hold on to.”
Sissy has a reputation for giving back to her community. She makes pillows for friends in the hospital and teddy bears for families who’ve lost loved ones, she picks up weary bicyclists traveling through Aiken, hosts tea parties for young girls and teaches them southern etiquette. Her favorite subject to teach is ‘how to wear hats’ to women who think they don’t look good in them. She encourages women by saying, “It takes a certain ‘hattitude’ to wear a hat. If you think you can’t pull off wearing a hat, then you must change your ‘hattitude.’”