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

The VFG is a non-profit international educational organization dedicated to the promotion and preservation of vinta… [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]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage The Ridgmont Make 1950s Straw Boater Hat With Black Band 20.5" - 606 K02Ant. Victorian Edwardian Unusual Straw Sequins Hat By Mme Georgette Paris FranceVintage 40s Hat Lot Gothic Black Velvet Satin Veil Bow Rose Tag Big Brim + Old GTrue Vintage 1940's G Howard Hodge Ladies Black Felt Hat With Rhinestone TrimOriginal 1940s Wartime Chic Tan Black Straw Velvet Detail Perch Hat 21.5Vintage Lot Of 10 Ladies Womens Hats Feathers Bows Tulle Ribbons 50's-60"sLot Of 10 Vintage Hats 50s 60s Pillbox Veil Fascinator Spring Fall Fur Straw Lot Antique Vintage Millinery Flowers Floral Hat Doll Bear Tiny Velvet Cloth MixVintage Victorian Bird Of Paradise Ladies Hat Trim - Taxidermy - 15" Lg Unused Superb 1860's Silk & Straw Wedding BonnetLot Of 4 Vintage Millinery Shabby Ladies Floral Hats Silk Velvet Tiny Flowers Primitive Antique 1800's Hand Woven Straw Ladies Field Sunbonnet Old Bonnet HatPretty In Pink! Vintage 50's Pink Wide Brim Hat!Vintage 1940-50 Shell Pink Velour Velvet Hat W Huge Feather Plume Gigi Hats NyOriginal 1940's Wartime Chic Black Straw French Beret Hat 21.5True Vintage Ladies Black Felt Hat With Wide BrimWhimsical 1930s Straw Hat With Velvet - - Curliques - Rare MillineryOriginal Edwardian Velvet Toque HatEstate Sale Womens Green Pleated Double Brim Velvet Trim Straw Hat Pink FlowersVintage 1940-50 Deep Burnt Orange Velvet Hat W Huge Feather Plume Gigi Hats NyEstate Sale Womens Pastel Garden Party Fasinator Netting Velvet Loop Floral HatVintage Hat Lot Of 10 Fascinators Straw Veils Topper Velvet Floral Rhinestones Lot Of 4 Vintage 1960's Ladies Summer Straw & Petal Hat Pillbox Pot Side SlouchGrouping 14 Vintage Hat Pins-no DamageVintage Skol Nips 1930's Ladies Aqua Blue Feather Head Piece With NettingLadies Vintage Hat Collection Of 7 Felt, Velvet, Satin, Straw/ Excellent Ladies Vintage Summer Hat Collection Of Navy And White Hats/ Straw, FeathersVintage Ladies Lavender Straw Hat With Veil And Flowered BrimVintage Lot Of 5 Ladies Flower Hats Bows Feathers Felt Netting Velvet #2Beautiful Bollman Wool Mr.john Vintage Mint Green Fedora Feathered Hat3 Vintage Ladies Dress Hats - Lace- Net - FlowersVintage Lot Of 5 Ladies Wide Brim Hats Bows Feathers Felt Velvet #4Estate Sale Flo-raye New York Jays Womens Peach Pink Organza Layered Pleated HatLot Of 7 Wide Brim Kentucky Derby Hats Church Embellished Sheer Straw Vintage1940's Vintage Black Velvet Hat With Feathers"lynne Brooke"True Vintage 1940's Ladies Green Ribbon Felt Hat With Flower Trim1950s Pink Velvet Leaves Tiny Tilt Hat W Pink Ostrich Plumes Halston ? BergdorfVintage Antique Beige Turq Peach Velvet Millinery Hat Flower Unused Estate Sale Phipps Womens Black Velvet Pillbox Style Satin Rosette Detail HatVintage 1940's "lorie" Black And Blue Velvet Pill Box Hat ~ 57th St New York Vintage Stix Baer & Fuller Women's Hat Pink W/ Broach Must See!Vintage Ladies Bridal Headband Hat-white Chiffon Bow True Vtg Antq 1910 - 20 Edwardian Fully Lined Cloche Designer The Oscar Hat LrgTrue Vtg 1950s Ooak Designer Jack Mcconnell Wool Felt & Feather Red Feather HatEstate Sale Womens Rust Orange Green Red Pheasant Feather HatVintage '60s Yellow Roses Hat~with Tag~not Worn~adolfo Ii~nrLot Of 8 Vintage 1950- 60's Cocktail Whimsey Veil Cage Hats Petal Bows Tendrils 1950's Vintage Pink Straw Hat With Flowers - Sweet !!Ladies Vintage Straw Black Hat With Feathers And BowVintage Millinery Flowers**pink**red**ladies Hat Flowers**millinery Craft LotVintage Adoria Black Wool Felt Ladies Hat Vintage 40s 50 Summer Hat Lot Pink Flower Woven Ribbon Bow Bonnet Church Gc OrgVintage Millinery Flowers**yellow*peach**ladies Hat Flowers**millinery Craft LotVintage Big Girl Velvet Headband Hat-black Double Bow Headdress True Vintage 1950s Dark Blue Hand Made Feather Bandeau Headband HatTrue Vintage 1950s Royal Blue Feather French Bandeau Headband HatEstate Sale Womens Yellow Gold Straw Boat Hat Stripe Straw Trim Band Hat BoxYves Saint Laurent Paris New York Straw HatVintage 1950's Era Designer Hat With Big Flowers No ReserveLot Of 4 Women's Vintage Pillbox Dress Church Hats

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

Minor-league baseball: Former College of Marin pitchers playing for Single-A teams
Marin Independent Journal, August 1st

Tyler Ihrig's hat collection within the Chicago Cubs organization has notably increased this summer. The 6-foot, 210-pound left-hander began the minor-league baseball season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. Five innings on the mound later, he was sent to...Read more

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders clip Columbus
Wilkes Barre Times-Leader, July 31st

Today at PNC Field: If you have a hat collection, don't miss tonight's giveaway as the first 2,500 fans in attendance will receive a RailRiders hat. Today's Probables: RailRiders TBA vs. Columbus RHP Toru Murata (9-4, 2.90). On Deck: The series with...Read more

3 NFL Teams You Won't See Returning to the Playoffs in 2015
The Cheat Sheet, July 30th

young receivers and Larry Fitzgerald is a legend, Arizona's rushing attack is once again looking flat, unless Northern Iowa's David Johnson proves to be something special. My guess is it turns out as ugly as Arians's hat collection if Palmer goes...Read more

Korean War veterans' memories are in his hat collection
The Daily Breeze, July 19th

I don't mean that in a self-appreciation way, I mean it literally. I don't wear them any more. And now I am left with close to 100 baseball caps (97 to be exact). I also have about dozen or so oddball hats picked up more or less as a necessity when...Read more

BySju x Oliver Proudlock Bowler Hat Collection
FashionBeans, July 14th

London-based milliner BySju has teamed up with Oliver Proudlock of Serge DeNimes on a limited edition bowler hat line. Also known for his role in reality series Made In Chelsea, designer Proudlock worked in collaboration with the British brand to...Read more

Vintage Hat Auction Supports the Beverly Area Arts Alliance
DNAinfo, June 25th

lending the walls of her business to local artists looking for space to display their works. The Vintage Hat Auction and Cocktail party is free to attend. The evening will also include live music by Colin O'Malley. For more information, visit the...Read more

Indy gets never-before-seen Dr. Seuss hat collection
Indianapolis Star, May 5th

That tall, red-and-white striped top hat donned by the Cat is his most famous. But Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known by his pseudonym Dr. Seuss, created and amassed many hats, all with a rambunctiousness and palette fit for a man of unrivaled ...Read more

Dr. Seuss' touring hat collection is headed to Beverly Hills
Los Angeles Times, March 23rd

It includes some of the crazy lids the good doctor (who died in 1991) had amassed as part of an extensive personal hat collection. (On a side note, this reporter saw the exhibition on in New York in February 2013, and, prompted to pay homage to Dr...Read more