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What's Up Magazine

Vintage Hats Make a Fashionable Comeback

Nov 09, 2010 06:41PM ● By Anonymous

During the mid 1800s it was considered imperative that a women's ears be kept covered. The 1855 Godey's Lady’s Book. A guide to fashion and etiquette stated, "We give up the ear. Pretty or not, it cannot afford to be shown. Any face in the world looks bold with the hair put away so as to show the ears. They must be covered. The curve line of the jaw needs the intersecting shade of the falling curl, or the plait of braid drawn across it. So evident is it to us that nature intended the female ear to be covered—(by giving long hair to women and making the ear's concealment almost inevitable as well as necessary to her beauty!)—that we only wonder the wearing of it covered by hair or cap has never been put down among the rudiments of modesty."

During the 1800s the most popular style in women's headgear was the bonnet—closely fitted to the head with ties under the chin. The best known style was the poke bonnet, which got its name from the manner in which the brim reached out from the face.

By the late 1800s women's large bonnets had shrunken into small hats, often decorated with straw flowers, feathers, and ribbons. The Edwardian era (1890–1916) fostered the growth of women's hats to large proportions, complete with extravagant decorations, while the straw Panama hat became popular for men during the summer months.

Recently the concern over ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer has made the wide-brimmed hat and the baseball cap required attire for the summer months, but such hats often emphasize functionality rather than fashion. During the 1980s and 1990s the popularity of Lady Diana and her elegant hats brought headgear back into the fashion limelight.

Most current hat designs mimic the designs of their predecessors worn in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus there has been a renewed interest in collecting and wearing vintage hats. Why spend money on a new hat when you can buy the original for at most half the price? Before you start throwing away the old hats that once belonged to your mother, grandmother, or aunt, start looking in the fashion magazines. Your old hats just might be the latest style.

Vintage hats generally retail from $10 to $45. Collecting hats is an inexpensive hobby since you can buy some at yard sales for as little as 50 ¢.

The 1920s hat style the “cloche” is great for winter hats, since the cloche hugs the head in an effort to add mystique to the popular bobbed hairstyles of the flapper era. A wool felt cloche can keep your head warm.

The 1930s fostered a return to elegance, with veils and feathers. Small, brimless hats remained in favor because those were the styles worn by movie stars, the leaders in fashion during that era, so that their faces could be fully seen during filming.

The 1940s introduced a more tailored approach to fashion. Military styles and the sailor hat were adopted, as well as medium-width brims and turbans. The pancake hat came into vogue in the early 1950s and the pillbox hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy became the rage in 1960.

Ironically it was the election of John F. Kennedy to the office of president that caused the demise of the millinery industry. The president did not think it necessary to wear a hat in public. And men, following his lead began to leave their brimmed hats at home. The emphasis in style turned from hats to hairdos. Men began wearing their hair longer and fluffier, while women had their hair teased and then shagged.

The changes in millinery fashion over the years reflect the changes of values and lifestyles in our society. Hats often gave an added dimension of personality or mystique to the appearance of the person wearing them. Try wearing a vintage hat, and it just might do more for you than keep the sun out of your eyes.


Have an outrageous hat, brand new or vintage?

Wear it to this year’s Best of Annapolis and Best of Eastern Shore Party, sponsored by What’s Up? where attendees will tip their hats to the Best of Annapolis and Best of Eastern Shore winners. Wear an outrageous, most creative, or most beautiful hat and win a prize—top prize is $500 cash!!!