Hat styles in the first part of the 1940s were essentially a continuation of the forms that had been popular in the 1930s, especially small examples since materials for all types of clothing, including hats, were rationed. At times, hats took their inspiration from the war effort itself, seen most obviously in the trend toward berets for women.

Designers of berets were endlessly inventive, creating hats that sat on the head at a tilted angle, often with dramatic, platter-shaped crowns. Other designers used stiff black felt as a sculptural medium, impressing Art Deco patterns and designs into berets. After the war the beret persisted, but in the hands of designers like Hattie Carnegie, it lost its hard, militaristic edge, leaning instead to softer, more feminine materials such as black velvet accented with delicate beading.

Tilt or doll hats, as they were variously known, were also ’30s carryovers. Again, the small size of these hats allowed manufacturers to make as many hats as possible with their small rations of materials. But the hats often did not look very small, thanks to the ribbons, bows, flowers, and feathers that were piled on top of them, the veils that hung from their rims, and the jaunty military lines that mimicked army soldier caps.

Another type of small hat was the bumper, which was often woven of straw or formed from felt and frequently came with a veil. Turbans, which had been popular in the 1930s, remained a popular toque during the war years. Some were made of rich velvet and rose above the wearer’s head by as much as a foot. Other more humble creations were built out of cheap rayon and sold by Sears for all of 49 cents.

Snoods and bandanas were even less like hats. These bare-bones examples of headwear, designed principally to keep long hair from getting tangled in machinery, were popularized by various personifications of Rosie the Riveter. For example, the famous “We Can Do It!” war poster shows Rosie in a red with a white polka dot handkerchief wrapped around her head. When Ginger Rogers starred as Rosie in the 1942 film “Tender Comrade,” she wore a crocheted snood similar to ones produced by Lilly Daché.

Of course, women wore actual hats during the war years, too. The fedora was perhaps the most popular traditional hat, mostly due to Ingrid Bergman’s ensemble in the 1942 film “Casablanca.” Also in vogue were floppy felt hats wrapped in plaid ribbon and sporting a single, enormous turkey quill. Finally, in 1944, the head and Paris were both liberated as women wore wide-brimmed hats that were sometimes 18 inches across and made of cutwork felt or tightly woven straw.

Designers and their customers could not get back into the swing of fashion quickly enough. With Europe still rebuilding around him, Christian Dior launched his revolutionary New ...

As the 1940s waned, the cloche seemed to evolve into the close hat, a head-hugging chapeau that usually went without a brim and was popularized in the following decade by Lucille Ball on the “I Love Lucy” show. Feathers in monotones of black or coordinating compositions of reds, oranges, or greens often crowned these understated beauties. For some women, though, even a close hat was too much toque for one’s head. For them, a bandeau of fake fur was enough.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

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]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Ladies Gray Wool Black Satin Bow Hat 1940sStellar 40's Black & Pink Top Hat Tilt W/pink PlumeTrue Vintage 1940s Asymmetric Claw Headband Designer Hat W Metallic Face VeilSpringtime 40's Ivory & Purple Flower Tilt Hat W/veilExquisite Ladies Black Wool Felt Hat By G. Howard Hodges 7-11 5th Ave., Ny1930's Vintage Ladies Brown Dress Fur Hat One Size Ocelot Leopard Print PeltsTrue Vintage 1930s 1940s Genuine Mink & Chocolate Grosgrain Fabric Tilt Top HatSharp 40's Blk Felt Hat W/ribbed Crown, Wide Front Brim & Feathers Rare - Vintage Antique 1930s 1940s Navy Blue Saucer Hat -- Norman Durand LabelVintage 1940s White Wool Wide Brim Dress Hat Bridal Kentucky Derby Wedding RoseVintage Beige Wide Brimmed Ladies Hat W/ NettingVintage Costume Hat Wide Brim Feathers Floral Velvet Black Madame EvelynVintage Lecie Women's Black Saucer Hat W Rhinestones & Bow1940's, Vintage. Champagne, Silk Shantung, Scalloped Bonnet Hat W/ Roushed BandVintage Ladies Black Fashion Hat 1930-1946 (depression, Wwii) One Size1940's, Vintage, Lavendar & Purple, Fascinator, Skull Cap, Hat W/striped BandVintage Costume Hat Feather Big Brim Blue Floral Lace 1940's Vintage Red Velour Woman's Hat Valerie Modes Size 22Vtg 50s Lilly's Dillys By Lilly Dache Flower Fruit Salad Hat Whimsey FascinatorVintage 40s Black Fur Felt Jaunty Angular Tall Hat New York Creation Ruth LinkDramatic Vintage 1930's-40's Black Wool Beret W/velvet Flowers Vtg Costume Hat 19th Century Straw Feather Green Orange Napoleon Lll EmperessVintage Betmar Ladies Burnt Orange Mystere Imported Fur Hat1940's, Vintage, Gold Velvet, Skull Cap Hat W/olive, Yellow & Gold Satin Trim