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    

Antique Hat Making Wooden Form Mold Mad Hatter Victorian Women's Fashion LadiesTrue Vtg 1930s Asymmetric Rhinestone & Velvet Designer Jeanne Tete Cloche Hat Superb Antique Vintage French Bonnet Wedding Cap With Lace, Braid, Beads CrystalTrue Vintage 1930s Redesigned Black Wool Cloche Hat With C-clasp Gemstone PinVintage 1920's Art Deco Flapper Little Girl Old Hatstand Figural Wood Hat StandHundred Plus Vintage Old Velvet Millinery Flowers Leaves Dolls Hats French JapanVtg 40s 50s Platter Hat Church Hat Variegated Blue VelvetVintage 40s Black Straw Floppy Brim Ruffled Heart Hat Netting New York CreationVtg Ladies Hat Lot Feather Felt Pillbox Mixed Styles & Eras Some Unused ~ 11Flapper Style 1940s Hattie Carnegie Black Ostrich Puff Demi-cloche W Beading NrCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Velvet Millinery Flowers,pods,leavesLot 15 Vtg Ladies Hats Straw Wide Brim Mod Bubble Bucket Floppy Great For PartyLot Of 9 Ladies Vintage Hats Cloches 20s 30s 40s 50s Straw Feather Velvet NetFashionable 40's Blk Crepe Ruched Tilt/hat W/flowers & SnoodVtg 50s 60s Crown Church Hat Blue Velvet And Linen Leaves W Blue BerriesCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Lavender/purple Millinery Flowers,nrCollection Of 10 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Velvet Millinery Flowers,pods,leavesOriginal 1925 Millinery,hat Making Book,cloches,straws,wire Frames,ribbon TrimsTrue Vtg 1930s 1940s Art Deco Kelly Green Wool Felt Tilt Top Hat Celluloid Front8 Vintage 1940-50s Womens Hats All Florals Most Straw All Good And UniqueVintage Originals Beautiful Ladies Hat E Werle Chapelier Made In ParisWoman's Vintage Hat And Fur LotExceptional 1840's Midnight Blue Velvet Bonnet Antique/vintageGlamorous Vintage Lot Of Hats, Purses, Scarf, JewerlyVintage Lot 7 Velvet Orange Satin Peach Felt Purple Sequin 40s Black Felt HatsVtg 30s 40s Side Hat Tilt Hat Blue Gray Wool Felt W Soutache Swirls N RhinestoneVery Pretty Vintage Lot Of Hats And AccessoriesVintage Faux Leopard Fur - Pillbox Hat & Purse - City Of Paris60's Mod Yves Saint Laurent Hat Vintage Antique Hat And Box, Civil War LadiesVtg Frank R Jelleff Winter White Fur Felt Hat W/mocha Feather Plumes + VeilAwesome Lot Of Vintage & Modern Purple Very Fancy Church Hats And PurseAntique Hat Lot Fancy Dress 40s 50s 60s Ladies Kentucky Derby Vintage Floral +++Styled By Jack Mcconnell Hat/ Red Feather- Beret Rhinestones/beads WowVintage Jantzen Rubber Swim Cap HatBeautiful Vintage Lot Of Feather Hats, Purse, Necklace9 Bunches Of Antique/vintage Millinery Forget-me-nots, Palest Yellow, Pink, BlueLot Of 12 Vintage Women's Hat ( As Found Condition) Different ColorsVintage Ladies Royal Blue Fur On Wool Felt Hat Schiaparelli Paris VgcVintage 1960s Ladies Yellow Feather Hat Velvet Flowers Doll Teddy Hat MillineryVtg Cranberry Red Velvet/satin Hat W/feather Cluster & VeilVtg 40s 50s Pink Felt Tilt Hat W Sequin N Bead LeavesVintage 1920 Flapper Era Wax Flower Veil Tulle Bridal Depression Hat Lace Veil Huge Lot~ Antique Millinery Flowers/leaves ~ Antique Doll Hats~miniature Crafts Vntg Museum Book Hats French & American Millinery 1910-1970 Color Illustrated NrVintage Hat Lot..edwardian 40's 50's 60's Mink Pillbox* Saucer* Tilt Top 22pcsAunthentic Vintage Mod London Style 1960s White Curly Lamb Fur Hat M SoftVintage Antique Christian Dior Woman Dress Hat Bonnet W/flowersTrue Vintage 1950s 1960s Horse Hair Braid Designer Mr. John Jr. Chic Cloche Hat Vintage Mr John Wool Gold Green Cloche Hat With Chenille TrimOrnate 1870-1880 Straw Bonnet W/ribbon TrimGenuine Edwardian Antique Hat A Rare Find In Wearable Condition By GageLot Of 6 Vintage Hats, - Fur, Suede & 2 Fur StolesVtg 20's Headband Sequins Seed Pearls And Netting Ladies Vintage Wide Brimmed Hat Bonnet Summer Spring Easter 15 In.big Vtg 30's Wool Felt Poke Bonnet Style Hat Church Dress 21" W Oestreicher's Box9 Vintage Womens Hats 1940-50s Each Different And Unique And In Good ConditionPretty Vintage Lot Of Hats, And AccessoriesVivid Red Satin 1880's Vintage BonnetSleek 40's Brn Felt Hat W/pointed Crown, Asymm. Brim & Veiling

Recent News: Womens Hats

Source: Google News

Dr. Seuss' Hat Collection Displayed at Water Tower Place Starting Friday
DNAinfo, September 19th

Geisel kept his extensive hat collection in a hidden room behind a bookcase off the library of his San Diego home, and was fairly secretive of his hat-collecting hobby, Dreyer says. But he did write a book loosely about it, "The 500 Hats of Bartholomew...Read more

Designer hats an investment from the heart
Sydney Morning Herald, September 18th

By the 1980s, Waters' hat collection included Stephen Jones, Christophe Coppens and those by Issey Miyake. A few Australian milliners are also included in Waters' collection such as Gregory Ladner and Naomi Goodsir, the latter now making a name for ...Read more

Date night? Harry Styles gets his hat out and attends Coldplay gig with ...
Mirror.co.uk, September 18th

We have trouble keeping up with Harry Styles' ever-expanding hat collection, but his female companions are now becoming quite difficult too. The One Direction crooner was spotted at a Coldplay gig on Wednesday night with a stunning companion. Wearing ...Read more

Fashion fillies get set for Port Cup
Port Macquarie News, September 18th

Sculptural and vintage hats will be popular this season. 4. It's all about grooming and details, right down to your manicure and immaculate hair and make-up. 5. Accessories complete the look - your bag, gloves, shoes and jewellery all help catch the...Read more

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Football: Week 2
Uproxx, September 16th

The Dark Fantasy continues, as one of the worst weeks for many normal people's actual fantasy football teams becomes one of the best weeks for our messed-up league. Unfortunately, this Space Jam-like transferral of points from everyone who started ...Read more

These Photos Are Hilarious! Wanna See How Pharrell's Staying On Top Of His ...
PerezHilton.com, September 11th

While some people collect shoes, Pharrell has his hats! That's not to say the singer and Adidas designer doesn't have an enviable shoe collection, but boy, does he take care of his toppers! Leaving his hotel in Manchester on Wednesday, Pharrell was...Read more

'30 in 30': Women Candidates to Watch in 2014 -- Alma Adams
MSNBC, September 10th

Adams has fought for equal pay, raising the minimum wage, and is famous for her diverse hat collection. North Carolina hasn't elected a new Democratic woman to the House in over 20 years. How has being a woman in a field dominated by men impacted ...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