Vintage Victorian and Edwardian Hats

When the Victorian Era began in 1837, bonnets with large, hooded coverings that framed the face were made out of satin and silk. That was for indoors, but when women went outside, they often wore wide-brimmed straw hats that were typically trimmed with handmade fabric flowers.

By the 1850s, circular bonnets became more sculptural and stiff. Sometimes they were made of braided cotton but other bonnets of the day were built of straw and trimmed with silk chenille. A decade later, these popular drawn bonnets had become oval, framing the face more naturally than the round ones that had preceded them. Known as spoon bonnets, these charming hats were decorated with ribbons, lace, and flowers made of organdy and silk.

Straw skimmers, also known as rounds, were worn outdoors—the best of these had patterns of silk braids, real feathers, and other decorative embellishments sewn onto their tops. At the same time, simple straw boaters with flat tops and brims came into vogue for both men and women.

Throughout the Victorian Era, particularly after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, mourning hats to go with mourning jewelry and similarly somber attire were common ways for women to express their grief. Some of these mourning hats included veils to hide the face. Most were black, with dyed ostrich plumage to match, but colors like lilac and gray were considered acceptable for women in the later stages of mourning.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the Panama hat was finding an audience in Ecuador. Unlike boaters and bonnets, which took their shapes in part from the structural properties of their materials, Panama hats were more like straw versions of felt hats, from fedoras to derbies. They were woven from Toquilla plant fibers, which could be blocked and shaped into styles such as the Optimo, a straight-sided crown, with a ridge running down the length of its top.

As the 20th century dawned, boaters were the hats of Vaudevillians, yachtsmen, and horseracing enthusiasts, while politicians favored Panamas—Theodore Roosevelt was famously photographed wearing one in 1906 on a visit to the Panama Canal. By then, many of these hats featured black bands, which had graced Panama hats since the 1901 death of Queen Victoria.

By the end of the century, hats were moving in two directions. Some were demure, almost too small for the heads they were perched on. Others had high-domed crowns and were piled ...

In the Edwardian era, the Gibson Girl dominated fashion. The hallmark of the look was an hourglass figure and a big hat up top. Gainsboroughs were still worn, thanks to their popularization in the 1907 musical “The Merry Widow.” Smaller, but no less ornate, pompadour hats were a mirror of the popular hairstyle of the same name. By the end of the century’s first decade, Edwardian fashions were in full swing, producing black velvet hats trimmed with ostrich feathers and velvet-and-silk flowers.

In the years before and after World War I, gigantic garden hats remained in vogue, but other trends were having an impact. Hats resembling berets and turbans began to appear, as did Musketeer hats. Tricorne hats, motoring hats, and straw boaters all had good runs toward the end of the decade. And as a precursor of the 1920s and the flapper era, close-fitting cloche hats were introduced.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

Des Chapeaux

Des Chapeaux

A French tribute to women's hats and other headwear from the 1940s... primarily magazine images, with some commenta… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]

American Hatpin Society

American Hatpin Society

Who knew there was so much to hatpin collecting? This site is all about great hatpin images - from recent hatpin co… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Beaver Fur Top Hat And Box Leather Silk Lined 22.75" Band Victorian Antique Edwardian Victorian Black & Metallic Rose Floral Trimmed Hat BonnetAntique Edwardian Victorian Wired Roses & Ecru Lace Brim Hat Wedding BridalVintage Antique Edwardian Victorian Black Velvety Dress Hat Ostrich Feathers 22Dashing 1912 Edwardian Velvet & Fur Hat/wide BrimAntique Victorian Hatpin Holder Store Display Pyrography Burned Wood W/hat PinsCranberry Velvet Victorian Style Hat Movie Used - BeautifulBeautiful! Vintage Antique 1800's Wired Silk Bonnet Hat!1820-40 Rare! Ladies Lg Brim Hat Neo-classical RibbonVintage 1900s Edwardian Mourning Hat Spiderweb Hat Goth Hat Victorian Hat1899 Artistic Millinery Book~ Millinery Handbook Ora Seaney Hat Techniques LoreVictorian Old Western Downton Abbey Touring Hat Elsie Massey Made In Usa 8030Vintage Antique Victorian Henry Heath Silk Top Hat Mens Black M Medium 1913 Fantastic Lot Six Antique Large Ladies Millinary Plumes Ostrich Feathers ColorsNavy Kentucky Derby Feather Fascinator Hat Wedding Church Hat Victorian HeadbandVintage Edwardian Downton Abbey Wide Brim Furry Ostrich Feathers Berries HatGorgeous Vintage Victorian Straw Hat/orginal Florals Wide Crown Boater StyleAuthentic Antique Victorian Mourning Cap Or Hat~ Black Silk? & Crochet, RibbonAntique Civil War Vintage Womens Bonnet Victorian Black Mourning Dress Hat RareWomen's Ladies Civil War Victorian Reenacting Straw Hat Bonnet James Towsend 7 Vintage Ostrich Curled Feather Plumes 12inches Long36pc Factory Box Millinery Hat Flowers 40s White Roses Shabby Chic Victorian VtgVintage 7 1/8 Mad Hatter Top Hat Wool Black Dorfman Pacific Victorian Dickens Victorian Brown Velvet Brimmed Bonnet Hat W/silk TrimVintage 7 3/8 Mad Hatter Black Top Hat Wool Dorfman Pacific Victorian Dickens 12 Antique French Feather Wings Millinery Ornaments Black New Paris Labels GreatRomantic Victorian Style White Velvet Top Hat W Veil-m/l 22.5-23" Or 7 1/4-7 3/8Romantic Victorian Style Black Velvet Top Hat W Veil-l/xl-23.5"-24"-7 1/2- 7 7/8Vintage Antique Victorian Wire Hat Stand Display12 Art Deco Brass Filigree Hexagon Buttons~ 7/16 In. ~ Czechoslovakia CardFantastic Lot Six Antique Large Ladies Millinary Plumes Ostrich Feathers BlacksExquisite Antique Tatted Lace Ladies Head Covering Boudoir Cap HatSet Of 3 Antique Ladies Nightcaps Or Bonnets - White - Fine Shape!Victorian Tea Party Hat, Boa,gloves Antique Vintage Crocheted Bonnet CapVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Pink Sissy MaidChilds White Pinny Apron+hat Maid Waitress Catering Victorian Edwardian TudorVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Lilac Sissy MaidVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Red Sissy MaidVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Lime Sissy MaidVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Hat White Sissy Maid