There was a time when American women (and their European counterparts) did not leave their homes without wearing a hat. Photos from our recent past show us ample evidence of the creativity, allure and fashion quotient of the hats women wore in their daily lives.
From the decade 1910-1919 we have lovely cloche (bell) styles that were worn low on the head, or wide-brimmed, colorful creations that framed the face.
The twenties ushered in a much more relaxed style of dress, to go along with the changing mores (“Flapper Girls” and speakeasies…). Hats then were everything from large hair bands to cloches, to slouchy berets.
In the thirties, fashionable women wore longer hems and hats in styles that ranged from fedoras to straw boaters.
The forties might well be the decade of the most fanciful hats. Old movies attest to milliners’ delight in using veils, flowers, birds, feathers and all manner of design elements on their hats.
To me, the fifties might be the decade most identified with hat-wearing women. It was a conservative yet stylish period and the hat was the accent to a woman’s ensemble. The elegance quotient was unmistakable and evident also in the fashions in clothing, make-up and in other accessories.
In the early 60s, hats were still de rigeur for stylish women, although by mid-decade, their use had declined precipitously.
You can’t mention hats in the 1960s without giving Jacqueline Kennedy her due. Jackie’s fashionable attire and European sensibility made her an easy-to-admire style icon.
Many of her style choices are still viable today: elegantly simple dresses with matching coats, pearls, a chignon for evening, turtle necks over white slacks, a Gucci bag, Chanel-esque suits, oversized sunglasses…
The hippie sixties brought in hats that were worn over long, flowing hair. These tight-fitting knitted hats, or wide-brimmed straw or fabric hats were identified with the counter-culture movement. No longer did women wear hats as an everyday element of their attire. They were now more a statement of youthful fashion.
Hats continue to be worn today, of course, but still as a choice women make for a particular occasion or event. African American women wear hats to church. Ladies who lunch wear hats to garden parties and luncheons. British women wear them at Royal Ascot as a matter of course. And, of course, actresses sometimes don a hat for effect.
I make the case that every woman can wear a hat. It’s just a matter of finding the style that suits your face and figure. Hats are fun to wear; they can be camouflage; they keep the sun’s rays out, and they’re sexy.
'Til next time.