Nothing tops a beautiful outfit like a perfect hat. Whether it’s a lacy headdress decorated with velvet and tulle from the mid-Victorian era or a wide-brimmed, "flower power" sun hat of chenille daisies from the 1960s, hats reflect and define the fashions of their day.

During the 1860s and ’70s, the popular drawn bonnets of the mid-19th century became oval, framing the face more naturally than the round ones that had preceded them. These spoon bonnets 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 sewn onto their tops.

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 high with loops of ribbon and drapes of rich velvet. Wide Gainsborough hats, sometimes called cartwheels, were the exception to this general rule. These showy chapeaux were decorated with so many feathers that laws had to be passed to prevent entire species of birds from going extinct.

As the 20th century dawned, the Gibson Girl dominated fashion. The hallmark of the look was an hourglass figure (achieved by painfully tight corsets) 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, resulting in black velvet hats trimmed with ostrich feathers and velvet-and-silk flowers.

In the years before and after World War I, gigantic garden hats were still 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 decade to come, close-fitting cloche hats were introduced.

Women in the 1920s went crazy for hats. In addition to the ubiquitous cloche, some with wide swooping brims, some without, women wore sculptural hats resembling airplane wings or actual crowns. Felt hats were embroidered with Art Deco flowers, and kits were sold for just $.89 so that women could make their own "crushers," as they were called. Actress Louise Brooks made it acceptable to wear pokes and helmet hats, and so-called Speakeasy hats were studded with sequins and costume jewels.

Things sobered up a bit in the 1930s, but only a bit. Black Sou’wester hats made of braided hemp continued the helmet look. In fact, straw hats went from garden to dressy, as straw cloches were woven with ecru to resemble smart tweeds. Knit turbans took off thanks to Greta Garbo, the pillbox was introduced, and women even took to wearing sequined or rhinestone-accented calot caps, which resembled large yarmulkes and were first worn by the ancient Greeks. Colorful berets and pirate caps, as well as felt or stitched geometric Dutch Boys, added to the decade’s sense of style...

During World War II, the fedora reigned, mostly due to Ingrid Bergman’s look in the 1942 film Casablanca. Crocheted snoods designed to keep hair from getting tangled in machine parts were a counterpoint to Rosie the Riveter’s famous red with white polka dot headscarf. After the war, berets of crushed velvet and printed barkcloth gained ground, as did bandeaux, which weren’t really hats but looked like them from the front when padded and worn like a tiara.

In the 1950s, hats almost resembled the costume jewelry of that period. The mushroom cloche and the melon hat were just two of the hats that took their shapes, and names, from food. Celebrities such as the Duchess of Windsor and Gloria Swanson wore casques, sailors, and large-brim hats interchangeably. Mamie Eisenhower wore an Air Wave hat to her husband’s first inauguration. Small but visually arresting cocktail hats were decorated with everything from dyed feathers to faceted beads, while bowlers, rollers, and Bretons were perfect for everyday wear.

Finally, in the 1960s, hats reflected the rising dominance of youth culture. The decade began with turban-like bubble toques made of feathers, prints, or mesh. Felt conehead caps and zippered Bobbie helmets exuded a Carnaby Street vibe, while fake fur was the fabric of choice for many pointed fedoras. Patent-leather jockey caps, from jet black to bright yellow, continued the Mod style, and even straw Gainsboroughs, which now seemed entirely in step with the trend toward natural looks, returned to the fashion stage for yet another bow.

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]

MyVintageVogue

MyVintageVogue

The history of 20th-century women’s fashion largely played out in the pages of magazines such as “Harper’s Ba… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

1960s Fashion and Textiles

1960s Fashion and Textiles

Put on your go-go boots and check out this wavy, groovy tribute to 1960s fashion and textiles, courtesy of the Vict… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Fashion Guild

Vintage Fashion Guild

While primarily designed to steer buyers to online vintage clothing shops, this blog is chock full of interesting, … [read review or visit site]

Fashion-Era

Fashion-Era

Bursting at the seams with content, this site contains hundreds of pages of fashion and costume history, including … [read review or visit site]

The Antique Corset Gallery

The Antique Corset Gallery

Take a deep breath, and check out this sparse, simple, and beautifully designed site showcasing 250 years of corset… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Absolutely Stunning!! Vintage 40's Tiny Perch Tilt Hat With Roses Ex!Aafa Mid-19th Century Quilted Blue Bonnet Antique Needlework Ladies Bonnet Lot Of 16 Ladies Vintage Hats Wool, Straw, Netting, Fabric + Fur Colar + Hat BoxVintage 30s 40s Black Wool Felt Unusual Tilt Tip Hat Feathers Veil Austelle MintVtg Millinery Antique Lot Velvet Flowers Hat Trim Notions FrenchVintage Wooden Hat Stand Art Deco Bellhop Figure 1920's Era12 Antique Vintage Ladies Hats Hollywood Studio Estate Feathers Wax Floral Charming! Four Vintage 50's 60's Hat Lot As Is Restoration Millinery Flowers TrVintage Arctic Blue Silver Fox Fluffy Real Fur Cossack Ski Hat Vintage 1960s Genuine Fur Leopard - Ocelot Pillbox Hat And BeltFab Lot Of 6, 1930's -50's, Excellent Cond.,see All PicsVintage Stule Victorian Ladies Wire Hat Wig Stand Display Pink Roses ToleLarge Lot (17)of Vintage Ladies Dress Hats/hair Accessories/costumes/l@@k!!Vintage 1930s 40s Black Perch Hat Tilt Hat W/ Feather Pom Pom8 Vintage Authentic 1920's-30's Ladies Hat Lot, Gatsby,flapper,cloche Style NrLot Of 16 Ladies Vintage Hats Wool, Straw, Netting, Fabric + 6 Vintage Head BandLot Vintage Tiny Millinery Flower Forget French Doll Bonnet Hat Velvet Trim RoseVintage Millinery Flowers Stem Of Velvet & Silk Lavender Pansies W Bud & LeavesAntique Ladies Hats Vintage Womens Hats Lot Of 7 Vintage Clothing Hair Bands Lot Of 14 Ladies Vintage HatsVintage Schiaparelli Ladies Hat ParisVintage 50s Hat Lot Leopard Velvet Collar Glove Rhinestone Veil 1950s 40s G Glam1920s Wide Brim "pamela" Flapper Hat W Deep Crown,black Velvet Ribbons,lined VgVintage 1920's Cloche Hat Embroidered And Silk Applique Leaves - Gatsby, DowntonVictorian Straw Velvet Woven Bonnet Hat Lined Lace Velvet LinenLot Of 17 Fantastic Ladies Designer Vintage Hats #2Vintage 1940 Flo-raye Platter Tilt Ostrich Wide Brim Hat Millinery Flower VelvetAntique Glass Epergne Bridal Flower Holder Wedding Vase Edwardian Bouquet Czech Gorgeous 1930s Vintage Cranberry Red Pleated Velvet Cloche Turban HatHuge Lot Vintage 40's 50's Hat Millinery Trim Veil Velvet Grosgrain BowsVintage Flowers Miniature Millinery Hat Doll Trim Doll Bear Crafts Lot Mini Vintage 50s Hat Lot Flower Velvet Beaded Headband Church + Gloves 1950s 40s PinkChic! Vintage 40's Black Straw Tilt Hat Ex!Mid 19thc Antique Brussels Application Lace Fall Cap For Crinoline DressesSo Sweet! Vintage 50's Fruit And Flowers Hatslot Of 2 Ex!Womens Vintage Hat Pill Box Lot 9 Hats With Hat Box ..... Retro 50's CoolLot Of 7 Vintage Navy Brown Black Pillbox Cabbie Women's Hats For RepairExquisite Antique French Silk Netting Hat Veil Original Packaging C1900Lot Of 17 Fantastic Ladies Designer Vintage Hats #1Jack Mcconnell Hat BoxVintage Ladies HatLovely Ladies Vintage Cloche Toque 1918-1920 Hat Blue Heron Hat Flapper New YorkLot Of 6 Vintage Womas Hats Glamour Felts Frank R Jelleff Washington DcVintage Whimsey Navy Tulip Hat With Birdcage VeilLot 21 Vintage Ladies Hats- 40's, 50's, 60's - Velvet Straw Feathers Flowers NetVintage G Howard Hodge Ladies Hat Yellow With Hat BoxAntique Ladies Women's Mourning Bonnet Hat Black Cloth Ribbon HorsehairGorgeous 1920's Ladies Wide Brim Vintage Sun Hat Made In ItalyVintage 1920's Edwardian Lovely Fine Woven Navy Brim Hat Rose Floral Trim Wonderful Vintage Victorian Felt Hat Bonnet Blk Aegrettes Plumes Satin Bows A Lot Of 6 Ladies Vintage Hats Wonderful! Vintage 60's Purple Feather Headband Hat!Vintage Black Patent Whimsey Hat With Birdcage VeilExquisite Antique French Silk And Chenille Hat Veil Original Packaging C19001950s Autumn Leaves Hat,g Howard Hodge,black Velour Felt W Gold Chysanthemums Vintage Ladies HatLot 3 Vintage 1940-50s Close Hats 1 Navy & White 1 Navy Felt 1 Wht Beaded JulietLot 3 Vintage 1950-60s All Feather Pillbox Hats 1 Blk 1 Multi 1 Wht W StrawberryLovely Parasisal 1920's Ladies Vintage HatVintage Hat Lot 7 Dobbs 5th Ave Box. Glenover Henry Pollak, Bullocks Wilshire

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

Bored By Your Instagram Friends? Here Are 28 Refreshing Accounts To Follow
Huffington Post, August 28th

No one needs to see more photos of babies and brunch on Instagram. We all know this. The difficulty is in finding accounts that breathe some much-needed fresh air into our sometimes monotonous feeds. That's why we've compiled the following list of ...Read more

Penn State Behrend students bring a piece of home with them on move-in day
Penn State News, August 26th

An assortment of New York Mets baseball caps sits on a dresser in the corner of Anthony Faulk's dorm room. “I couldn't leave home without my hat collection,” said Faulk, a Blairsville native who plans to major in mechanical engineering technology at...Read more

Museum Talk: deLaval cream separator
Northeast Arkansas Town Crier, August 26th

Hours are 1-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free. We are now featuring a special exhibit of vintage hats once worn by area residents. The annual quilt show is Sept. 27. It is free to enter your quilt and free to attend the show. People...Read more

'Heart for service'
The Durango Herald, August 24th

Manna Soup Kitchen relies on volunteers, 700 of them whom donate more than 10,000 hours each year, to meet its mission. On Thursday, volunteers primarily from the First United Methodist Church of Durango, from left, Martha Diehl, Claudia Sprowso (not ...Read more

Iroquois Library to celebrate 75th birthday
The Courier-Journal, August 20th

will celebrate its 75th birthday Saturday with an open house that includes a history presentation from Metro Councilman Tom Owen, a performance by the Moonlight Big Band, weaving demonstrations by The Little Loomhouse and a vintage hat contest...Read more

Show Us Your Jersey and Hat Collection
Da Windy City, August 20th

For me personally, nothing is as awesome as picking up a new jersey or hat. Even though my wallet doesn't like it when I buy a new jersey or hat, I still love when I get a package and know I'm opening up another awesome jersey. I guess you can say I...Read more

The late Mickey Easterling's hat collection to be auctioned
The Times-Picayune - NOLA.com, August 15th

About 250 of the late New Orleans arts patron and philanthropist Mickey Easterling's hats will go on the auction block August 23-24 at New Orleans Auction Galleries, 510 Julia Street. The collection includes designs by Yves Saint Laurent and Jack...Read more

Amber Rose Rivals Pharrell's Hat Collection With This Jaw-Dropper! See It HERE!
PerezHilton.com, July 30th

Huh. We're all for mixing prints, but we think Amber Rose might have taken it too far! The hawt mama (and Wiz Khalifa's wifey) was spotted leaving The Roxy Theatre in WeHo on Tuesday in an entirely mismatched ensem. Amber kicked it off with a floral ...Read more