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.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
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Midnight Musings: Who would you be?Shelter Island Reporter, October 24th
What possibilities that old chest held! Scarves, lacy nightgowns, vintage hats and high heels. The faded pink satin-trimmed netting of a ballerina tutu, a fuschia-colored princess gown, a Pilgrim girl dress and hat, a fringed and beaded hippie vest, a...Read more
A look inside SAIC's Fashion Resource CenterChicago Reader, October 24th
dress Michelle Obama was supposed to wear; we leafed through Visionaire, a magazine that costs over $300; we were presented with garments that look like origami when folded, that need to be handled with a glove, and that were made out of vintage...Read more
Community BriefsWaterloo Cedar Falls Courier, October 24th
Accessories such as hats, jewelry, ties, feather boas, hair accessories and other items are available for rent. The shop also sells wigs, vintage hats, makeup, mustaches and more. Children and adult sizes are available. For more information, call 232...Read more
AROUND TOWN: Fall is time for renewalWicked Local Marshfield, October 24th
If you'd like to get involved in the next hat collection for a local group, get your knitting needles ready and contact Terry at TJohnson@ywcacam.org or 781-834-8371. Writing group. Page 2 of 2 - Writers write. And here's your chance. The Ventress...Read more
'Irish Pub' offers an inviting lookBoston Herald, October 23rd
On the walls of pubs, you might find everything from a hat collection to sports jerseys, a photo of Robert Mitchum (star of David Lean's Ireland-set “Ryan's Daughter”) and a portrait of an owner or a regular. Beneath the soles of your feet are floors...Read more
2 Ferndale productions deliver nights of fun and frightDetroit Free Press, October 21st
The actor's other major role is as the Mad Hatter, who insists there is no room at his tea party and then invites theatergoers in, allowing them to sip imaginary tea and don vintage hats. Some of the characters will be unfamiliar, especially for those...Read more
'Hats off to you ladies': Conservation Plaza exhibit showcases hat collectionHerald Zeitung, October 18th
Christabell Reiche West, a volunteer for the New Braunfels Conservation Society, said she's always had a special love for hats since she was a young girl in Guatemala. Now, years later in New Braunfels, West is on a mission to share this love with the ...Read more
YouTube millionaire Jamal Edwards collaborates on slick new hat collection for ...JOE, October 10th
On Thursday the 9th of October (THAT'S TODAY CALENDAR FANS), he releases a hat collection in collaboration with his one-time employers. The hats are emblazoned with the 3B's logo standing for Base, Body and Business. Edwards sees the need for ...Read more