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]

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]

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]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Black Straw Wide Rim Edwardian Hat With Harvest Fruit & FlowersAntique Edwardian Bridal Veil Corona Tiara Millinery Flowers Lotv + Roses TulleJanie & Jack 4 5 Yr Very Victorian Pleat Button Top Wool Skirt Tights Hat Lf5Wow~vintage 'greater' Bird Of Paradise Black Feathers~millinery~victorian~decoClassic 1850's Silk Cane Bonnet ProvenenceVintage Victorian Edwardian Flapper Girl Women's Hat Or Headpiece Wedding TiaraAntique Black Edwardian Warshauer New York Paris Silk Velvet Merry Widow HatVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Pink Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Sissy MaidAntique Vintage Victorian Ladies Black Hat Excellent ConditionChilds Victorian Edwardian Fancy Dress White Bonnet Hat White Book Day Bo PeepVictorian Bird Feathers Millinery Ornamental Wispy Hat FeathersJazz Age 1920's Vintage Straw HatAntique 1860's Civil War Black Silk Velvet Beaded Mourning Hat Ribbons FeathersVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Black Bonnet Cap Hat White Sissy MaidChilds White Pinny Apron+hat Maid Waitress Catering Victorian Edwardian TudorAntique 1890s Blond Hair Wig Gibson Girl Victorian Dress Au Bon MarchAntique Victorian Lace Satin Bows Bonnet Large Hat Wired Little Woman Prairie Victorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Black Bonnet Cap Hat White Sissy Maid100% Wool Black Victorian Mad Hatter Magic Top Hat Adult New Medium 7 1/4"White Adult Baby Adult Child Victorian Edwardian Satin Bonnet Sissy Fancy Dress Adult Black Pinny Apron+ Hat French Maid Sissy Waitress Bar Cosplay Victorian Victorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress White Bonnet Cap Hat White Sissy MaidVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Black Bonnet Cap Hat White Sissy MaidWomen's Ladies Victorian Edwardian Feather Hat 1800's SassVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Bonnet Cap Hat Sissy Maid Red SatinWhite Satin Victorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Bonnet Hat Sissy Maid Victorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Blue Sissy MaidVintage Black Winter Bonnet With Straps In Excellent ConditionVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Aqua Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Sissy MaidVictorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Black Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Sissy MaidHandmade Victorian HatPurple Goth Victorian Masquerade Steampunk Medium Clip-on Top Hat W5"xh 2" NwtBlack Victorian Masquerade Steampunk X-small Clip-on Top Hat W 2 3/4"xh 1 1/8"Victorian Edwardian Adult Baby Fancy Dress Aqua Satin Bonnet Cap Hat Sissy MaidLilac Adult Baby Adult Child Victorian Edwardian Satin Bonnet Sissy Fancy Dress