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!12 Antique Vintage Ladies Hats Hollywood Studio Estate Feathers Wax Floral Charming! Four Vintage 50's 60's Hat Lot As Is Restoration Millinery Flowers TrDivine Miss Dior By Christian Dior Dramatic Diva Black Mesh Feather HatExquisite Antique French Silk Netting Hat Veil Original Packaging C1900Estate Lot (8) Womens Hats/victorian/edwardian/repair/resto/parts/etc2 Vintage "art Deco Or Mid-century Modern" Millinery Hat Stands-handpaintedExquisite Antique French Silk And Chenille Hat Veil Original Packaging C19001915 Orig Millinery Hat Making Books,patterns,instructions,women's Institute VgHuge Lot Vintage 40's 50's Hat Millinery Trim Veil Velvet Grosgrain BowsLot 3 Vintage 1950-60s All Feather Pillbox Hats 1 Blk 1 Multi 1 Wht W StrawberryCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Velvet Millinery Flowers,pods,leavesBlack Felt Vintage Women's Hat With Rhinestones, Pheasant And Color Feathers HatGorgeous 1930s Vintage Cranberry Red Pleated Velvet Cloche Turban HatAuthentic Antique 1920 Cloche Hat With Velvet Flowers Devon Paris London New YorChic! Vintage 40's Black Straw Tilt Hat Ex!Lot Of 16 Vtg Ladies Hats-velvet, Wool, Lace, Straw, Linen-unionmade/saks/belmarVintage Stunning Swirl Black Ostrich Feather Wide Brim Hat1930s Vintage Original Christine Park Ave Flirty Wide Brim Red Straw HatLot Of 13 Vintage Ladies Hats/head Piece - Union Made, Christine, VandervoortsGorgeous Vintage Purple Flowers Felt Tilt Hat Ny Creation Ex!Vintage 1940s Pancake Hat ~ Black Finely Woven Straw €Lot 3 Vintage 1940-50s Close Hats 1 Navy & White 1 Navy Felt 1 Wht Beaded JulietVintage Elsa Schiaparelli Red Felt HatRare French Blue Antique Bird Of Paradise Millinery Feathers,plumes For BandeauVtg 30s Feather Sequin Beaded Skullcap Hat Cloche Cocktail Art Deco Fascinator5 Vintage Womans Hat Lot Dress Church Ice Blue Orange Pink Ivory Fabulous 1930s Vintage Janyth Roy New York Wide Tapered Brim Straw HatLot Of 13 Vintage Hats Winter Summer Church Lady Straw Velvet Many ColorsLot 5 Vintage Women's Hats With One Box ~ Estate20-30's Deco Lot Of 24 Designer Flapper Hats Cloche Womens Hat Downton Abbey1920's Antique Vintage Cloche HatGorgeous Antique Victorian Black Chantilly Lace Ribbon Rosettes & Bows Cap Hat1950s Vintage Flirty Coralie Peekaboo Wide Brim Black Straw Hat12 Beautiful Vintage Fascinator Net Veil Silk Flower Hat LotVintage Black Satin Rose Hat With Birdcage Veil 1950- 1960100% Auth. Vintage Red Feather Jack Mcconnell Blk Wool & Rhinestone HatCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Fall Millinery Flowers, No Reserve1950s Autumn Leaves Hat,g Howard Hodge,black Velour Felt W Gold Chysanthemums Vintage Lot Of Millinery Crepe Paper Flower Petals Blooms Stamen Berries Vintage Schiaparelli Paris Black Velvet Hat With Net Lot 4 Vintage 1960s Whimsey Cage Veil Hat 2 Genuine Mink Tails 1 Blk Halo 1 BowsVintage Pink Velvet & Satin Hat With Netting Pill Box Ladies Womens Fashion1920s Vintage Silk Ribbon Cloche Hat With Deco Rhinestone OrnamentAnitque Cloche Edwardian HatVintage Casper Davis Black Wide Brim High Fashion Couture Hat California C1940Vintage Old Antique Wood Wooden Hat Stretcher Mold Block Size 6 3/4" To ? Black Straw Chapeau...red Roses " El-don Cleveland New York" Mint C. 1945-50Lot 3 Vintage 1940-50s Half Hats 1 Genuine Mink Tails 1 Blk Felt 1 Blk VelvetVintage Jack Mcconnell Boutique Embellished Beaded Rhinestone Hat Black GoldCharming Ivory Straw Chapeau...lilac & White Roses C. 1950 Lot Vintage '47-'65 Womens Ladies Hat Yellow Linen??? CottonLot Of 5 Vintage Ladies Wide Rim Hats 40's 50's Velour Velvet StrawAntique Edwardian Victorian Lt Blue Curled Ostrich Feather Plume Millinery Hat Vintage 60's Christian Dior Gold White Feather Hat Chapeaux Paris New YorkVintage 30s 40s Glazed Black Straw Flat Tip Tilt Hat W/ Fancy Knotted Silk Cord4 Vintage Ladies Hats, Flying Nun, Velvet,straw W/ Flowers, Lace,beading,costumeLot Of 5 Vintage Hats From Mid Century VelvetCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Pink Millinery Flowers, Nice VarietyVintage 1900's Edwardian So Lovely Woven Brim Veil Hat Rose Floral Trim

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

Firing on all cylinders at car show
Daily Liberal, August 31st

Along with the vehicles, families could also enjoy an icecream, ride on a trike or shop for anything from socks to vintage hat boxes. Awards were given for vehicles in 10 different categories including top vehicle overall to best swap display. All...Read more

Jobs of yesteryear
Boston Globe, August 29th

Fitzpatrick, 38, and his assistant Kira McClellan, 29, a master seamstress and hat collector, clean and block fedoras and borsalinos in the climate-controlled basement of the shop. Their tight work space is filled with shelves of colored ribbons for...Read more

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

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

Mad Hat Collection of New Orleans Socialite Mickey Easterling
WGNO, August 14th

There's a hat for every day of the year in this collection. And the New Orleans society legend who left if behind…left if for you. WGNO News with a Twist features reporter Wild Bill Wood takes you on a tour as the hats go up for auction. For more...Read more