Women's Hats: Fun or Fundamental?

In the 1960s, my mom brought me this Dutch designer hat, I wish I still had it, it's become famous!

American women have historically loved hats; but that love comes and goes between the issue of balancing common sense and fashion sense. Baseball caps, cowboy hats, and winter wool have become wardrobe staples, but except for special occasions we have lost sight of the hats that were, and what they were called. Their shapes actually each had a name.

Greta Garbo, in a head hugging cloche, the classic French bell shape

A little history: Hats for more than any reason beside the absolute necessity of protecting one’s head, didn’t roll in until the Middle Ages when the Catholic church demanded that women cover their hair as part of their religion.

Ingrid Bergman, in a great beret, still winter wearable and still popular

Women shopkeepers rose to the challenge, creating a new industry, making or providing the needed head covers. After a few centuries, those simple hat makers became milliners, named after Milan, Italy, where the very best straw hats were made. Hat makers graduated to the grander term milliner by understanding the opportunity to put more than a head scarf on their wealthy clientele. The milliners of the distant past were generally women working out of their homes to make hats and accessories for women and children. Some of the more talented and savvy types took the lead in nudging their clients into fashion by styling them, just like celebrities are styled today in Hollywood. They landed up with shops catering to women's hats and in Europe, you can still find millinery shops full of confections to wear on your head.

Not missing this oriental inspiration form the 50s myself. This style was very hip and popular in a variety of materials. It stayed on the head because it had a fitted "Juliet Cap" that hugged the head under that pointy bit.

Women’s hat fashions changed with the seasons after the 18th century, just like styles do today. Some of the styles that have come and gone have left collectible traces. A little history here:  It’s hard to find and collect hats from the era from 1900 to the First World War, because one, hats are fragile things; and two, those hats were HUGE, reaching past a woman’s shoulders side to side. To secure these units women needed one, long hair, and two, a really long hat pin, up to 11 inches in length! Hatpins with fancy decorative ends are very popular collectibles and can still be easily collected in a range from about ten to over one thousand dollars. In addition, you can find hatpin holders, a collectible class of their own.

Ah the eternal winter movie. The stars of 1965's Dr Zhivago, Julie Christie and Omar Sharif

Here to aid you on your next special occasion hat hunt, is a lexicon of hat types and their actual style name and links to some great information. We didn’t add a photo of every type of hat we read about, but we included lots of pictures. Talk a walk down memory lane and add to your fashion knowledge.

Sophia Loren could rock a bag and make it look great, she does the same thing for the 1960s turban.
Click on these links to excellent blogs, and hats!


The most romantic and eternally popular hat, the Cartwheel, comes in many shapes and sizes and is still on top of the hat heap.


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