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]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Genuine Vintage Christian Dior Black Velvet Loose Beret Hat - F1 C22True Vtg Antq 1920s Gorgeous Antique Gold & Silver Metalic Threaded Cloche Hat True Vtg Antq 1920s 1930s Deep Mauve Sisal Braid & Silk Lrg Cloche Hat Sz 24"Vintage 20's Authentic Cloche Flapper Hat Rhinestones Small SizeSpectacular! Vintage 40's Felt Wide Brim Hat With Cut-outs Ex!Fabulous French Vintage Art Deco Asymmetric Brushed Felt Cloche Hat Rare FindBnwt~authentic Vntg Chanel Wool Beret/french Cap/hat~satin Band & Bow~orig TagsHuge Lot 14 Vintage Ladies Womans Hats Fascinator Feathers Straw Fur Flowers +++Vintage Black Mink Fur Wool Winter Hat 1970s 1980s Feather Hat Pin GorgeousFlirty 40's Grn Felt Tilt Hat W/blk Curly Feathers, Felt Bows & VeilBeautiful True Vintage Leopard / Cheetah Real Fur Pillbox Hat Vintage 30's 40's Hat Chapeax Louise- Asymmetrical Brim!Civil War Era Hand Sewn Ruched Bonnet With Net Frill Silk Hat Antique True Vtg Antq 1920s 1930s Restored Pine Needle Green Horsehair Cloche Hat Lrg SzVintage Jack Mcconnell Gold Metallic & Rhinestone Bow Cloche Ladies Designer HatVintage B Altman Co Fifth Avenue New York Mink? Fur HatSo Cute! Vintage 40's Tilt Hat With Bows And Sequins Ex!Vintage Black Ostrich Feather & Velvet  ladies HatMagnificent!! Vintage 40's Silver Tip Fox Tilt Hat Beverly Hills Hollywood!Superb! Vintage 40's Riding Style Tilt Hat- Sloped Crown Ex!Antique Victorian Edwardian Hatpin Hand Painted Flowers Lovely Vintage Hat Pin 1920's Flapper Hat By Tina Of 5th. Ave. N.y.Lot Of 7 Rare Vintage Ladies Hats Some Union Made Wool Felt Mesh Lace Glam 50's Blk Velvet Asymmetrical Hat W/side Feather Pad & Tall Feather40's Flair....blk & Grey Persianllamb Tilt Hat W/matchingmuffLuxurious Vintage Mink Dark Brown Real Retro Fur Hat Saks Jandel Washington DcLot Of 11 Vintage Ladies Womens Fur Hats Real & Faux FurLot Pink Vintage Wedding Fascinators Floral Birdcage Veil 1950s 1960s Millinery Vintage 30s Black Silk Velvet Slouch Tilt Hat Toque Asymmetrical RhinestonesVintage 1920's Black Felt Cloche Hat~celluloid Design~estate Find~newport HatVintage Ladies Flapper Style Hat 1930 By Patio Tailored Hats New YorkChic 40's Blk Felt Asymmetrical Tilt Hat W/white Feathers Around Crown & VeilVintage 2 Metal & Wood 1930's Hat Stand Pattn Appl For 1 Red & 1 Blue Lovely True Vintage 1950s 1960s Christian Dior Designer Couture Genuine Mink Fur HatTrue Vintage 1950s 1960s Luxurious Real Genuine Fox Fur Cloche Hat Lrg Sz 23"8 Vintage 1940-60s Womens Feather Hats - All Colors All Kinds All Unique Dramatic! Vintage 40's Brim Hat With Velvety Flowers Vtg Ladies Hats Lot Of 6 Mixed Brown ,blackVintage Ladies HatFab Vintage Exotic Spotted Real Fur Hat Soft, Supple , And Luxurious Paris FindVintage Inspired 1920 Style Stunning Tan & Brown Cloche Hat Downton GatsbyVintage Inspired 1940s 1950s Style Navy Blue Halo Hat Pillbox HatLot Of 8 Vintage Ladies Hats, 5 Pair Of Gloves, 1 Purse & HatpinsVintage Antique Deco Lot Designer Flapper? Hats Womens Derby Andrea FashionVintage Schiaparelli Paris, Yellow Scolloped Brim Pillbox Hat . C. 1950's Fabulous Rare Vtg Womans Cherry Hat 1960's-70'sFabulous French 1940s Black Felt Hat With Great Stitch Detail By " MarcelleVintage Black Kurt Jr By Tom Hann Wool Bollman Hat With FeatherFour Very Vintage Formal Hats:lilly Dache, Capar Davis, Coralie/extremely UniqueGroup Of Six Vintage Hats Lot, 1800’s To 1950’s, Black, Navy, Red, Yellow, BeigeClassic Dark Brown Sable Mink Dress Hat By Lora Beautiful Doris Day Style HatVintage Countryside Classics Brown Ladies Outdoor Collapsible Hat - C1 M04Vintage Velvet Mourning Hat Theatrical Feathered Pill Box Edwardian Victorian Vintage Connor Peach Veiled Pill Box Hat With Feathers, Burlesque - F1 S36Vintage Ladies Hat W/cherries & Face Netting1940s Felt Hat With FlowersVintage Mr. John Geo W Bollman Beige Wool Felt Cloche Hat Mink Fur Trim GreatVintage Gwenn Pennington Exclusive Dark Brown Mink Fur HatHoliday 50's Red & Blk Velvet Toque W/tall Gathered Crown & Curled Blk FeathersGorgeous 1950's 60' Vintage Christian Dior Chepaux Feather Cloche Hat Paris Ny

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

A party with purpose: Girls with hair-loss disorder getting new locks
Daily Inter Lake, November 22nd

“For her it doesn't matter. She has an enormous hat collection. “Every once in a while, though, she'll say, 'I wish I had hair,” Joyce continued. “Hair is a big thing for women. It's so much a part of our femininity ... if she gets a good [wig] she can...Read more

Tea room brings Christmas House site back to life
Tampabay.com, November 20th

Passing on to the dining rooms, those who had come to sip and nibble noted a wall display of women's vintage hats, from the cloche to the veiled pillbox. Aimee Gans has designed and decorated each room with a theme: the Downton Parlor in rich maroon ...Read more

Stampd “Golden Era” Hat Collection
BallerStatus.com, November 13th

West Coast-based brand Stampd pays tribute to arguably the best decade in hip-hop with this "Golden Era" Hat collection. The two-piece drop features snapback caps with either "LA" or "NY" on the front panel, and each year of the '90s along the side panels...Read more

Madaline has treasures at bargain at Spence's
The News Journal, November 7th

He finds, among the jewelry trays, a handful of vintage hat pins. One is topped by a sterling silver bull dog. "These are yummies," he said of his discovery. As for the bulldog; "It's awesome." He will resell these treasures at his business: Yummies...Read more

Vintage hats, clothing topic of program by Shirley Connors
Maryville Daily Times, November 1st

When the Knoxville-based Abner Baker Chapter, United Daughters of the Confederacy held its monthly meeting Oct. 19 at Historic Sam Houston Schoolhouse in Maryville, vintage hats, dresses, muffs and other items gave members a glimpse into the fashions ...Read more

Chris Davenport reveals his 'hat' collection
Aspen Times, October 30th

Chris Davenport and Griffen Post take in the views in Canada on a recent ski trip. « 1 of 5 images; ». Related Media. Aspen's Chris Davenport could be anything for Halloween. The iconic skier, climber and ski mountaineer could don any number of...Read more

FairEnds Highlights Its Fall/Winter 2014 Hat Collection Using Insane Dance ...
Complex.com, October 29th

Continuing its no-frills execution of panel caps, American headwear brand FairEnds presents its Fall/Winter 2014 collection with a dance-infused video lookbook. Created by Field Day founder Josh Cohen, the clip showcases the label's latest selection of ...Read more

Dr. Seuss's Private Hat Collection Is Quite A Sight
WBUR, February 19th

Dr. Seuss's personal hat collection is on tour for the first time in history. An exhibit called Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!, which debuted at the New York Public Library in January last year, will stop in six states over the next seven months. The exhibit...Read more