Women's Hats Through the Ages

Among the best-dressed:

British socialite Tara Parker- Tomkinson arrives at Westminster Abbey for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
British socialite Tara Parker- Tomkinson arrives at Westminster Abbey for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. | Source
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Hair receivers were a common component to ladies' vanity sets.

This vintage hair receiver was used to collect shed hair for making volumnizing "ratts."
This vintage hair receiver was used to collect shed hair for making volumnizing "ratts." | Source

Ladies' hats have moved in and out of fashion throughout history except among the wealthiest women who commonly accessorize with them. There was a time when ladies of all ages wore caps in public and at home.

In the mid to late 18th century in England, during the Georgian Period, married women wore head coverings called mob caps. These cloth coverings were made from linen, fit closely to the face, tied with a bow, and were open in the back to make room for pinned-up hair. They protected tresses from grime and were more convenient to wash than the hair itself. Worn only indoors, they were covered by structured bonnets when women went out in public.

In Colonial America, mob caps were worn by all women, but the aristocratic versions were sometimes pleated and included bows. By the 19th century, mob caps were mainly worn by servants and the working classes. During the French Revolution, the poorer class women were often seen rioting in the streets in these fittingly-named "mob" caps.

The simple gathered versions of this cap are still routinely worn in food service, factories, and hospitals by both men and women. Cloth and plastic versions are worn to protect hair during sleep and to keep it dry when showering.



Visualize the pompadour hairstyle of Marie Antoinette and the plumed hats that sat on top of her poofy hair.. This style was adopted by the English in the 19th century when hair was built up upon a framework. Hats were securely pinned to the support but gave the illusion of floating. Shed hair was removed from brush or comb and saved in a hair receiver to be used later for a ratt. Ratts, used to provide volume to hairstyles, were often potato-size and made from hair net material stuffed with hair, then sewn closed.

Marie Antoinette showing the pompadour style:

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Turban style

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Creative hats at Royal Ascot Derby

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In the late 19th century, Art Nouveau influenced the hats of the Edwardian era with wider brims that balanced both the fuller,fanning hairstyles and the flowing skirts. Hats were decorated with floral accents, rosettes and tulle. The effect was diaphanous and "frothy." This style evolved into the Merry Widow look of the wide-brimmed black, plumed hat with a chiffon over-wrap. We can see fine examples of the Edwardian styles in the movie,Titanic.

Another twist to the Edwardian style was the lingerie hat. This light weight muslin or linen hat was usually white, beige, or ivory and was worn in the heat of summer. It was considered a sign of wealth because these light colors suggested the use of maids for frequent laundering- a luxury of the upper-class. These hats were adorned with large flowers like cabbage roses, daisies, and poppies as well as bird nests, birds, and ribbon streamers. They were frequently worn to garden parties and summer weddings.

In the 1910s and 1920s as the hairstyles became shorter, hats sat closer to the head. Turbans and cloches were popular- often accentuated with feathers and jewels. The curved plumes from pheasants and other birds were called "Mephisto feathers" and were commonly used on the toque hats of the art- deco period. These hats took on taller profiles to compliment the high-collared fashions of 1915.

During World War I, military styles influenced millinery designs. Black veils were added for feminine appeal. Although these hats started out as mourning attire, this close-sitting, black-netted hat design lasted for 25 years. Hats were worn along with gloves whenever women went out to socialize or to attend church. This was true for those of the Depression Generation and the young affluent until the mid 1960s. The wider brimmed, floppy hats soon followed in the late 60's and 70s. By 1980 fashionable hats fell out of style for most women in the U.S. unless they were needed for sun protection. The Kentucky Derby would be an exception.

In Britain, hats have never lapsed in popularity due to Queen Elizabeth's fondness for them. She is rarely seen without one. Hats are worn at christenings, garden parties, weddings, and funerals. The main event for hat wearers is the Royal Ascot Derby. Ladies' Day at this event is considered to be the "Oscars for original hat design." Wacky hats are prominently on display each June.

Black Hat- painting by Alex Katz
Black Hat- painting by Alex Katz | Source

All of the elements from the various eras of fashion have re-emerged today and are seen in the collections of top designers today like Phillip Treacy, Siggi, and Judy Bentinck. Smaller sculptural hats called "fascinators" have become popular substitutes for wedding veils and less cumbersome alternatives to the traditional wide-brimmed hats. Hats of every type were on display at William and Kate's Royal Wedding. Although some were tasteful and some awful, they provided viewers with plenty of entertainment.

Hats are indeed fascinating, and they are coming back into the limelight. Wearing a hat is a great way to express creativity and to put an elegant touch to an outfit or hairstyle. Hats also protect the face from the damaging rays of the sun. There are many styles to choose from nowadays in all price ranges. A beautiful woven, wide brimmed straw hat can be found for $30.00 and will certainly do duty beyond the garden. Call on your imagination and add some pretty accents. A hat can be as changeable as a woman's moods and always adds style and mystery when worn with a pair of sunglasses!

Royal Wedding: hats on display

Princess Kate's stepmom in law , mother, and Grandmother- in- law, the Queen at the Royal wedding  Camilla Parker-Bowles , Carole Middleton, Queen Elizabeth II
Princess Kate's stepmom in law , mother, and Grandmother- in- law, the Queen at the Royal wedding Camilla Parker-Bowles , Carole Middleton, Queen Elizabeth II | Source
Queen Margrete II of Denmark and  Princess Michael of Kent
Queen Margrete II of Denmark and Princess Michael of Kent | Source
Lady Windsor and  Victoria Beckham in a Phillip Treacy "fascinator"
Lady Windsor and Victoria Beckham in a Phillip Treacy "fascinator" | Source
Princess Eugenia and Princess Beatrice in Phillip Treacy
Princess Eugenia and Princess Beatrice in Phillip Treacy
Zara Phillips, Princess Anne's daughter
Zara Phillips, Princess Anne's daughter | Source
Lorna Brooking
Lorna Brooking

Check this out!

What hat style would you have worn to the Royal Wedding?

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© 2011 Catherine Tally

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Comments 16 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I really enjoyed looking at all those fabulous hats. That was a great part of the wedding!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thanks,Pop! I agree that it really added to the whole event, and I was having a laugh just imagining some large bird swooping down to nest in one of them!


toddwertz profile image

toddwertz 5 years ago

This is fantastic. I love royal hats.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Thank you,todd. I'm really glad you enjoyed my hub. There were so many amazing hats on display at the wedding!


almasi profile image

almasi 5 years ago

Thanks for a fabulous hat hub. I loved quite a number of them but I think Victoria's Beckham hat and outfit was close to a 10. Voted beautiful.


nicolerkilpatrick profile image

nicolerkilpatrick 5 years ago

Amazing hats, I love it.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

almasi,

I'm really glad that you enjoyed my hub. I agree that Victoria Beckham's hat was one of the nicest designs. The dress that she designed could have benefited from a nice bold pendant. Although it was plain, she still looked good!


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Nicole,

Thanks for your nice comment. :>)


writer20 profile image

writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

although I'm originally from the U.K. some of these hats look totally ridculous to me


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 5 years ago from Los Angeles Author

writer20- Yes! Many of the hats were a bit over the top, but the parade of them kept me awake until the ceremony got underway. :>) Thank you for stopping by. I hope you visit me again soon.


Claudia Tello profile image

Claudia Tello 4 years ago from Mexico

I like this royalty hat tradition, it’s fun! My favorite one: Lady Windsor's.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 4 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hats are delightful fashion sculpture! I agree that Lady Windsor's design is the best w/ the asymmetrical elliptical shape and the decoration to balance it all. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!


Express10 profile image

Express10 3 years ago from East Coast

I'm from the U.S. and have never seen hats quite like this until the wedding. Most of the ladies here (myself included) wear hats rarely, if ever. Good to look at I suppose but I would not be caught dead wearing any of those hats, particularly the ones that appear to rest on the forehead only. And yes, it does appear a few of them would make excellent nests for a variety of wildlife :) While I may wear something a bit more simple, I enjoyed reading this hub and looking at these pics.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles Author

Hi Express10,

Britain certainly leads the way w/ hats! I wear the occasional ballcap w/ a short ponytail or brimmed sun-hat in the garden because of skin damage. I hate flattened hat hair, so I would probably opt for pulling my hair back for an asymetrical style like Lady Windsor's if I had a royal wedding to attend! I love her hat! I'm glad you enjoyed the history and pictures and appreciate your stopping by to read and comment. Thank you!

Cat :)


poetryman6969 profile image

poetryman6969 19 months ago

British women do have a flair for this sort of thing.


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 19 months ago from Los Angeles Author

Indeed! Thank you poetryman for stopping by to read and comment:)

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