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Karen’s Quirky Style: Bonnet bash at the National Arts Club

BY KAREN REMPEL | This year’s Bonnet Bash at the National Arts Club was an absolute fascinator. My friend Jeff and I went as red-headed Rastafarian bird people from Mars, in keeping with the “Back to the Future” theme.

This being the National Arts Club, the clever Fashion Committee designed prize categories that tipped their hats to Lloyd Dunn, the inventor of Retrofuturism (depictions of the future created in an earlier era, like those science-fiction movies from the Fifties); the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the artistic philosophy Futurism; and, of course, the fly Marty McFly with his legendary DeLorean in “Back to the Future.” If they’d had a category for Cutest Couple in Coordinated Costumes, we would have won for sure!

Jeff is a genius at designing group costumes for his friends, and has been known to show up at our hangover gang 4 p.m. brunches with matching sunglasses, hats or flower leis for everybody. And he does a very sexy Justin Bieber! So naturally I tapped his talents to millinate our bonnets, and he far exceeded my expectations of antennae à la “My Favorite Martian.” He created these magenta space goggles that light up from within, as well as the Rasta braids with lit tips, and silvery, feather-trimmed gauntlets. Holy glowing light creatures from Mars!

Is there life on Mars? Karen Rempel and Jeff Reid beam in for the NAC Bonnet Bash. (Courtesy Karen Rempel)

The bartenders at the back were serving up futuristic turquoise cocktails in chilled goblets that practically smoked with icy goodness, adding to the festive air. The club was spectacular, decorated with mystical crystal creations by Sarah Sparkles and a striking headwear fashion installation by designer Penny Chu.

But what really lit up the crowd was each other. No one phoned it in for this, but rather put their artistic talents to an astonishing range of futuristic-themed costumes. We were all there to celebrate and marvel at each other’s creativity. The height of the evening was a vogue-capade where everyone had the chance to catwalk up and down the Grand Gallery to beats by DJ Erik Rydju while the crowd cheered each other on. 

The event’s organizer since its bonnetty beginnings in 2013, Nina Urban, co-chairperson of NAC’s Fashion Committee, told me, “The main reason I enjoy organizing it every year is just seeing how happy this creative event makes the guests and participants.” Let’s tip our hats to that!

Style notes:

  • Silvery satin button-down shirt with long sleeves and pointed collar by Chigant. Amazon.
  • Zip It vinyl micromini skirt with front zipper and silver loops. Purple Passion, 211 W. 20th St.
  • Pleaser patent leather thigh-high boots with silver heels. Fetishwear trade show, Vancouver.
  • Sparkly black tightsAmazon.
  • Metallic silver elbow-length opera gloves by Skeleteen. Amazon.
  • Bonnet decorations and feather-trimmed gauntlets. Jeff Reid Designs.

Rempel is a New-York based writer and artist. For her past columns, more photos of Karen, Jeff and some of the other guests, and fun Philip Maier photos, see


  1. Mary M. Ridge Mary M. Ridge May 19, 2023

    Love your photos!! So beautiful!! So glad we met up at NAC last night. Congratulations on your amazing photo in the show, and all that you do!

  2. Prof W Prof W May 19, 2023

    AAAAAHHHHH! next year my wee bairn will be away at college, and I am starting the plan for my bonnet NOW. This photos are so fantastic, and you two look AMAZING together!!! Hats off to the outfit doubling.


  3. Pat Duffy Pat Duffy May 8, 2023

    Love those “forecasting the new era” bonnets!! Sounds like amazing fun “back-to-the-future fun! To quote from Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto”

    “What is the use of looking behind us, since our task is to smash the mysterious portals of the impossible?”

    • Lew McFarland Lew McFarland May 8, 2023

      Thanks so much, Karen, for making life more interesting and fun. And hats
      off to you and Jeff.

      • Karen Karen May 19, 2023

        Thanks, Lew! This means a lot, coming from a renowned hat devotee!

    • Karen Karen May 19, 2023

      What a great quote! Very wise… let’s smash the mysterious portals of the impossible! xx

  4. zaphyrella zaphyrella May 8, 2023

    .❢✭➤➜❥❀✿…❀✿´✱✿ ♥➜❥. a nEw FaVe!!!! ~i LoVVVVE This ONE!~
    ThAnK yOU!!!.❢✭➤➜❥❀✿…❀✿´✱✿ ♥➜❥.

    • Karen Karen May 19, 2023

      Thanks, Zaphy!! Always great to hear from you!

  5. Bruce Shaw Bruce Shaw May 8, 2023

    Well now hats 🎩 off to you! What a wonderfully kooky cranium covering concert of characters. I also love your red lipstick 💄👄! Nice to have you continuing to share your carefree spirit.

    • Karen Karen May 19, 2023

      Thanks, Bruce! Your poetic alliteration always makes my heart sing! xoxoxo

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