History of Womens Hats

 

THREE WOMEN IN A BOATER
19th Century – 1860 – 1900

 

American Spoon bonnet, c. 1862 - Canadian Fanchon bonnet, c. 1866

American Spoon bonnet, c. 1862- Canadian Fanchon bonnet, c. 1866

 

American Black velvet hat, c. 1878 - American Bonnet, c. 1880

American Black velvet hat, c. 1878- American Bonnet, c. 1880

 

By 1860 parasols had become a fashion staple and bonnets, except for cold weather wear, became purely ornamental. Due to their reduced functionality, bonnets decreased in size throughout the decade. Styles began with the ‘Spoon’ bonnet named for its shallow shape. It had a peaked crown that could be decorated with a nosegay of flowers.

 

The even smaller ‘Fanchon’ was popular in 1865. It was little more than a triangular shaped piece of straw or silk, often with wide ribbons that framed the wearer’s chin.

 

Throughout the 1860’s hats began to be re-introduced into the wardrobe. They included Glengarry highland caps and little circular pork pie hats. Tyrolean style peaked crown hats and little doll hats appeared at the end of the decade. The doll hats were decorated with cockades of feathers. They were worn perched at the front of the head over enormous hairstyles.

 

Canadian Three Story hat - c. 1885

Canadian Three Story hat- c. 1885

 

Illustration of bonnets and hats - 1887

Illustration of bonnets and hats- 1887

 

American purple velvet hat, c. 1894 - Canadian mannish styled sporting hat, c. 1896

American purple velvet hat, c. 1894- Canadian mannish styled sporting hat, c. 1896

 

Throughout the 1870’s and 1880’s, hats and bonnets were on a fashion par. Women who wanted a more modest appearance often preferred bonnets. Sadly for bonnets, this eventually associated them with a matronly appearance. Very tall hats of the mid 1880’s were known as ‘3-story’ or ‘flowerpots’ and for very good reason. They soared atop the hair, appearing as if a roof on the tower of a building. This style originated as a revival of a late 18th century woman’s riding hat. That in turn was a copy of a man’s style of the same period.

 

Masculine styled clothes and hats entered women’s wardrobes in the 1890’s via new forms of sporting and activity clothes. ‘Boaters’ and ‘Trilbys’, previously considered masculine, were now appropriate wear for all but the dressiest of occasions. Hats downsized in the middle of the 1890’s but grew in width again by 1900

 

OUCH!
20th Century – 1900 – 1920

 

Woman adjusting hat illustration - 1903

Woman adjusting hat illustration- 1903

 

American silk rose trimmed straw hat, c. 1905  - Canadian Silk toque with Aigrette panache, c. 1911

American silk rose trimmed straw hat, c. 1905- Canadian Silk toque with Aigrette panache, c. 1911

 

Fancy straw hat with pink rose trim, c. 1912 - American black silk faille hat, c. 1914

Fancy straw hat with pink rose trim, c. 1912- American black silk faille hat, c. 1914

 

In the early Edwardian period (1901-1907) it was fashionable for a lady’s silhouette to resemble an S-shape. The hat was an essential element. It was worn on top of piled up hair and positioned to cantilever over the face. This curvaceous form was carried through the bodice that was pouched over the waist and ended in a trained skirt. Also popular in this era was the ‘toque’, the name given to a brimless hat.

 

After 1908 the silhouette became more slender. Conversely the hat became increasingly larger. By 1911 hats were at their largest, often with the brim extending beyond the breadth of the wearer’s shoulders. To secure these huge creations to the head, hat pins – sometimes as long as 18 inches – were skewered through the hair and hat. The hatpin had other advantages too. Any man who attempted an unwanted advance soon discovered that a hatpin was all a frail woman needed to defend herself.

 

During the First World War hairstyles decreased in size so hats gradually began to sit lower on the head and, generally speaking, became quite plain. Large plumes and ornate decorations were frowned on. It was considered unpatriotic because it suggested that the wearer was more concerned with her own appearance than with the war effort.

 

By the end of the war and in honour of the soldier’s girlfriend (the era’s heroine) the fashionable ideal was for a youthful look. Hats slipped down the head, making the wearer appear as if she were dressing-up in her mother’s hat. Conveniently, the deeper crown also provided more security in keeping the hat in place while traveling in an open car.

 

BY GOSH – THE CLOCHE
20th Century – 1920 – 1940

 

Crinoline cloche with ribbon flower trim, c. 1927 - Red velvet helmet cloche, c. 1929

Crinoline cloche with ribbon flower trim, c. 1927- Red velvet helmet cloche, c. 1929

 

English black straw afternoon hat c. 1935 - Green felt and rust suede hat, c. 1938

English black straw afternoon hat c. 1935- Green felt and rust suede hat, c. 1938

 

The crown continued to deepen in the 1920’s, eventually covering the entire head in the ‘cloche’ style. Brims were optional but usually utilised only on summer hats, where the brim acted as a visor from the sun’s rays.

 

By the early 1930’s crowns became shallow once again to accommodate the decade’s fuller curled hairstyles. Wide brimmed hats were popular. On hot summer day’s they acted like parasols, which were now out of fashion. Mannish styled ‘fedoras’ were perfectly suited to wear with tailored suits. By the end of the decade, crowns began to grow upward much like the 3-story hats of the 1880’s

 

HALO HALO
20th Century – 1940 – 1965

 

1942  - Canadian pink straw doll hat

1942- Canadian pink straw doll hat

 

American “V” for victory rhinestone trimmed wool turban  - c. 1945

American “V” for victory rhinestone trimmed wool turban- c. 1945

 

American pancake straw - 1950

American pancake straw- 1950

 

The wartime 40’s saw a huge variety of hats that were suitable for any face shape, hairstyle or personal preference. Throughout the war and on both sides of the Atlantic, elaborate creations brightened dreary utility fashions, brought about by rationing. In fact the only items not rationed were hat materials. Explosions of feathers, veiling and artificial flowers were popular. They were dubbed in France as ‘piece de resistance’ or ‘resistance piece’ against Nazi occupation. The ‘Doll’ hat, a very small hat that perched on the very front of the forehead, revived Victorian styles. There was also a brief resurgence of the bonnet, as well as turbans and halo hats. The latter sat on the back of the head and framed the face and the fashionable upswept pompadour hairstyles.

 

French bead embroidered brown felt juliette cap -  c. early 1950s

French bead embroidered brown felt juliette cap- c. early 1950s

 

American blue satin hat with feather quill - mid 1950s

American blue satin hat with feather quill- mid 1950s

 

Post war 1940’s and 1950’s saw many women choosing not to wear hats on a regular basis. To preserve its market, the millinery industry set about creating variety and extravagance. Generally speaking hats remained small and close to the head. They were now touted as the essential accessory to complete the ensemble. Alternatively, ‘pancake’ or ‘cart wheel’ hats sat flat atop the head reviving turn of the century styles. By the late 1950’s the turban returned to fashion. As hairstyles grew in size in the early 1960’s, hat styles had to adapt. In vogue were tiny poufs of veil or pillboxes that perched on the back of the head.

 

French black straw pillbox - early 1960s

French black straw pillbox- early 1960s

 

French Black straw Bretton - early 1960s

French Black straw Bretton- early 1960s

 

UNTIL THE HAT LADY SINGS
20th Century – 1965 – 2000

 

As fashions of the mid 1960’s were geared for youth, which wore hats sparingly, headwear became an accessory of the past. Even the Catholic Church dropped its dress code, abandoning required head coverings for women in 1967. With the exception of cold weather wear, the fashion hat all but disappeared in the 1970’s. Credit goes to Princess Diana’s influence in the 1980’s that met with some success in bringing hats back into style. More recent attempts to bring back the hat have centered on health in response to holes in the ozone layer. This has given reasons to think about hats once again. In reality, its role as the necessary accessory is long gone. Until the next time!

 

American black leather helmet  - c. 1967

American black leather helmet- c. 1967

 

Canadian blue satin cocktail hat  - c. 1985

Canadian blue satin cocktail hat- c. 1985

 

Written by Jonathan Walford/Kickshaw Productions. All Photos Courtesy of Kickshaw Productions.


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