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]



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]



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    

Vintage 50's Faux Leopard Hat And Handbag SetTrue Vtg 30s 40s Teal Wool Felt Calla Lily Tilt Top Hat With Removable Full VeilTrue Vtg 40s 50s Wool Felt Designer Cloche Hat W Brass Foil Adornment & FeathersFun Lot Of 33 1950s 60s Ladies Lovely Vintage Hats - Feathers, Velvet, Satin +Fabulous Lot Of 13, Womens Vintage Hats, Very Nice Cond., See All Pics...Chic 40's Turban Style Hat W/brass Ring & Matching Wool PurseGlamorous Vintage Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesTrue Vtg 1940s Ny Creation Periwinkle Blue Wool Felt Tilt Top Hat W Back Band Antique Rare 18th Century Calash Bonnet 1700s Millinery Hat Study PieceVintage Canadian Fur Womens Hat Red Warm Winter Cap #227Ladies Wool Hat From The 30's,gorgeous Green, Fur Felt Size Medium, Gotta See.Very Pretty Vintage Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesFlapper Gatsby Headpiece Hat Vintage Brass 1920s Rare Art Deco Egyptian Revival Beautiful Vintage To Modern Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesVintage 40s 50s Brown Wool Felt Molded Beret Hat Rhinestones MerrimacAwesome Vintage Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesVintage Tiny Velvet Millinery Hat Flower SprayWonderful Vintage Lot Of Vintage Hats And AccessoriesAlluring 40's Burgandy Felt Halo Hat W/split Brim & Pom Pom Feather SprayVintage 1950's-60's Schiaparelli Paris HatVintage Estate 40s-50s-60s Designer Velvet Millinary Wool Straw 18 Piece Hat LotVintage C1950’s Wool Plaid Ladies Hat Best&coVintage 1920's-30's Bridal Veil..tulle..wax Flowers..two Tier..lace EdgeTrue Vtg 1930s 1940s Wool Felt Designer Side Band Pillbox Hat W Curled Feathers8 Antique Vintage Ladies Hats Hollywood Studio Estate Floral Fred Mueller Ranchwear Women's Black Wide Brim 3x Beaver Felt Hat. Size LargeTrue Vtg 40s 50s Wool Felt Velour Skull Tilt Top Hat W Rhinestone Accent & BandVintage French Hen Feather Topper Tilt Hat Pinup From Gabrielle Modes ParisLot Of 8 Black Vtg Women's Hats & Tams Some Designers Mostly Velvet W/ AccentsVintage Hat Lot 30's 40's 50's 10 Hats In All Evelyn Varon Chanda & SandsweptHuge Whispy Black Edwardian Feather Distinctive 40's Blk Felt Asymmetrical Hat W/top Felt Loops & Sequin LeavesJaunty 40's Blk Felt Tilt Hat W/ostrich Plumes & VeilVtg Cocoa Perry Ellis Wool + Leather Strap Equestrian Western Boho Wide Brim HatShabby Vintage Bridal Veil Corona Tiara Millinery Flowers * Linen Lotv + RosesVintage Ladies Hats-mr D Amy Ny Italy Mr John Etc Wow Flowers, Lot Of 10 PartyVintage 40s 50s Molded Black Wool Felt Wide Brim Hat Dior's New Look BowsVintage 1960s Christian Dior Ladies Jeweled Turban Hat Chapeaux Paris New YorkGorgeous Batch Antique French Rose Pink Straw Weave Milliners Hat Trim C1900True Vtg 1940s Wwii Ny Creation Wool Felt Tilt Top Hat W Art Deco Celluloid PinVintage 1930's Societe Des Modes De Paris Fifth Ave. New York And Hatbox1940s 50s Vintage Linen Hat W Navy Blue Velvet & Feather TrimPretty Vintage Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesJack Mcconnell One Of A Kind Pink Hat With FlowersVintage 40s 50s Coral Rose Pink Felt Hat Black Velvet Bows New York Creation 22Vintage C1930’s Wool Ladies Dark Navy HatVintage C1930’s Wool Ladies Dark Navy Hat Lot 02Gorgeous Batch Antique French Soft Blue Straw Weave Milliners Hat Trim C19001930's Vintage Black Velvet Picture Hat Wide Ribbon Band Union Made Sz 21 1/2"Antique/vintage Wood And Steel Hat/wig Stand Blue Enamel PaintVintage Tiny Velvet Roses Millinery Hat Flower SprayVintage Woman's Hat 1940s Tilt Hat Brwn Straw 2 Layers Ruffles Dotted VeilVintage Men's Guyer Straw Boater Hat With Black 1942 Band - Election Hat Gorgeous Vintage Lot Of Hats, Orig. Hat Boxes, & AccessoriesFab Roaring 20's Cloche Hat Pink With Velvet French Millinery Must See Vintage 40s 50s Navy Blue Straw Wide Brim Tilt Bolero Hat Ace-hi New LookMr. John Pace-setters Paisley Print Woman's Hat With Original Box1950's Vintage Glenover Henry Pollak, Inc. N.y. Navy Hat With Red Trim 100% WoolLot Of 2 Lovely 1930's Vintage HatsVintage 1940s Ladies Blue Felt Derby Style Hat W Feather Cluster By Yearounder

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

Dr. Seuss exhibit coming to Long Island
Newsday, October 31st

In fact, this is the first time Theodor Seuss Geisel's hat collection, numbered in the hundreds and of which 26 are on display, has left the late author's California home. "Hats Off to Dr. Seuss!" is an art exhibition that displays Geisel's personal...Read more

Jon Stewart premieres film at the Paramount Theatre
KVUE, October 30th

You start to see the wheels kind of like, what if I get a loft downtown, and then I could, I'm sure they have a business I could get into, make vintage hats, I don't know, but it's been nice," said Stewart. His movie, Rosewater hits theaters Nov. 13...Read more

Pinterest's seventh employee on being black in Silicon Valley
USA TODAY, October 30th

The seventh employee at Pinterest, Edmund, 24, is a designer responsible for the look and feel of key features on the site, which acts as a digital clipboard for users to share photos of hobbies and interests, say wedding cakes or vintage hats. Yet, as...Read more

Counterparty and the Asset Revolution
Bitcoin Magazine, October 30th

Obviously that's where I live most of the time if you haven't seen my goofy hat collection, but there's plenty of apps in the real world as well. Because the mobile integration I think is pretty easy, we can expect all kinds of stuff here. So right now...Read more

Ranveer Singh reveals his bald look for 'Bajirao Mastani'
TheHealthSite, October 30th

At a recent promotion, he revealed his new, bald look for his next film 'Bajirao Mastani.' The extremely flamboyant actor carried this look with much grace and style and was confident as ever. He completed his look by wearing a vintage hat. The...Read more

FairEnds Highlights Its Fall/Winter 2014 Hat Collection Using Insane Dance ..., 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

'Hats off to you ladies': Conservation Plaza exhibit showcases hat collection
Herald 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 9th

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