Through the Decades: Women’s Hats

This week we will be kicking off a month long series that will illustrate the various types of women’s fashion through the decades. This week, we are focusing on the different styles of women’s hats.


Hats became essential as far back as the Middle Ages when the catholic church declared that hair must be covered. Women started to create hats in their very own homes with what they had and, near the 18th century, hat-making became considered as a type of art. The term milliner, meaning “hat maker” and originating in the city of Milan, was soon spoken of and referenced to. Milan was known to be the city where the best quality hat forms were created.


1700s: During this time period, parasols were considered unfashionable and huge wigs were high fashion! That being said, “shepherdess” and “calash” hats became quite popular for keeping the sun away from fair skin and protecting high hairstyles from harsh weather. A boost of creativity and clever thinking introduced the collapsible bonnets which were made of strips of wood or whalebone sewn into channels of a silk hood. A ribbon in the front helped to hold the bonnet in place in windy weather. Cotton was then introduced in the 1780s as a fashion fabric. It soon became stylish and associated with the upper class to wear cotton bonnets with tall crowns and wide silk ribbon bows.

1800s: In 1810 straw bonnets (pictured below) were increasingly popular and clear to the 1830s, the popularity of bonnets continued to rise. Large brims were a type of style that began and framed the face while hiding the profile. A veil was typically added to protect identity and, once again, skin from the sunlight. Brim size then again drastically decreased by the 1840s and 50s, exposing more of the face and hair.


By 1860s, styles of hats were becoming smaller. The ‘Spoon’ bonnet (pictured below) was created and named for its shallow shape. It had a peaked crown that could be decorated with flowers.


The “Fanchon” (pictured below) then became popular around the 1860s, framing the chin.


On the opposite side of the spectrum, very tall hats were created in the mid 1880’s and were known as ‘3-story’ or ‘flowerpot’ hats (pictured below), for clear reason.


“Boaters” and “Trilbys” were considered the perfect hat for any occasion in the middle of the 1890s.


1900s: 1908 the hats became larger to counteract the more slender figure. Brims began to expand past the wearer’s shoulders. To secure these huge creations to the head, 18 inch long hat pins were used.


During the First World War, large and ornate decorations became frowned upon because they suggested the wearer was more concerned with her own appearance than with the war effort.

By the end of the war, a more youthful look was fashionable.  Hats began to slip down the head and the deeper crown kept the hat in place when traveling in an open car.

1900s: “cloche” style emerged. Brims became optional in terms of style. 1930s wide brimmed hats were popular, acting like parasols. “Fedoras” were worn with tailored suits. The 40’s emerged a huge variety of hats that were suitable for any face shape or style preference. Feathers, veiling and artificial flowers were popular again. By the late 1950’s turbans became fashionable. As hairstyles grew in size in the early 1960’s, pillbox hats lightly perched on the back of the head.

In 1967, churches dropped their dress code. As a result, with the exception of cold weather wear, the fashion hat all but disappeared by the 1970’s. Thankfully, Princess Diana’s influence in the 1980’s brought increased success in bringing hats back into popularity.


Today, hats aren’t considered as so much of a necessity than a perfect accessory. There have been multiple attempts to bring back the hat in multiple ways in relation to the fashion world and beyond. Many styles of hats from the past are sported today.

Here, at Most Everything, we have a wide selection of woman’s vintage hats, pictured below. We also have a beautiful selection of hats made by our local milliner, Barbara Creager of Babette’s Hatworks. Stop by today and see them for yourself!

2016-03-04 16.33.42.jpg

Thanks for reading!


*All research from:




Categories: Features by Sarah, UncategorizedTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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