As far back as the Middle Ages, the females of society wore hats not as an accessory to the perfect outfit or as a visual statement of her station it was a necessity as any well respected woman of the times could tell you. A woman would not think of leaving her house without a head covering it just wasn’t done. A woman wore a hat to let the observer know that she was a decent woman with a strong moral character. A hat was the first thing a woman reached for whenever she was ready to leave the house no matter what mundane errands she was running.
When Changes Began to Occur
It was during the First World War that women’s hat fashions began to change. It was no longer considered patriotic to be wearing an elaborate hat with embellishments and decorations. The materials could be better used for those who were fighting for freedom instead of a frilly woman’s hat.
Hat Fashions of the 20s
The role of women began to be seen differently not only by the women themselves, but by society as well. It was in August of 1920 that the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, finally giving the women of the United States the vote. The hat that can be said to signify this monumental occasion was the cloche. The cloche was a hat that had never been seen before. It lay low on a woman’s forehead, allowing her to peek coquettishly from beneath the material. It was a close fitting hat that hugged the head of the wearer.
Hat fashions focused on framing the face of the woman underneath. Big hats were out and a more tailored look became more popular. Hats with face framing brims and crushed crown felt hats were the stylish trend during these heady years for women.
Woman’s HatsHats in the 1930s
With their confidence gaining ground, women wore hats during this time with soft brims and pill box hats that sat low over the forehead. The beanie was popular during this time too, though it was worn more towards the back of the head. Hairstyles too were changing and the rolled pompadour as well as the bob of the page boy do was the perfect accompaniments to these styles. Also seen on women’s heads during this time were the turban and the halo hat.
The War Years and Beyond of the 1940s
Once again women’s fashions were hindered by the outbreak of war across Europe that had reached the shores of the United States by the early 1940s. The snood and the fedora were popular hat styles as were military cut hats. Once the end of the war came, the fashion of the day once again became elaborate hats with ribbons, buttons, bows, flowers and feathers from the milliner’s of Paris. These hats were often referred to as “Liberation Hats.”
Women’s Hats of the 1950s Reflected Home and Hearth
With the war a distant memory and more families buying into the American Dream, there was a mass exodus of young marrieds to the newly formed suburbia were the wearing of a hat was the badge of the “club woman” of this era. Hairstyles were becoming important once again and hat fashions had to reflect this trend. Popular styles during the 50s were the half-hat and the whimsy. Hats were being fashioned to set off a hair style instead of wreak havoc with it. Garden parties made big brimmed hats popular once more, but there was still one cute trick left to make her debut.
The Rebellious 60s
Not only were women’s fashions becoming more casual and revealing, but the social need for a hat was diminishing. Hats made a big comeback debut when JFK took office and his young, sophisticated, and very fashionable wife made wearing the pill box hat almost a requirement for well dressed women who did not buy into the women’s liberation movement. Wearing these hats made the statement that many women were content to stay at home and play their traditional role of taking care of the house and the children.
Hats had the door cruelly shut on them in 1965 when the famous Beehive hairdo made its appearance on women’s head. It was impossible to wear a hat with one’s hair teased into a huge mass. Hats lost their traditional place in women’s fashion, but they still couldn’t be considered completely erased from the scene.
Hats in Modern Times
Hats are now used to accessorize outfits and to be worn for such occasions as Derby Days and holiday wear. There have been some famous fashion icons that have been known for wearing hats. One of those was Diana, Princess of Wales. She made wearing a hat seem a natural accompaniment for the style conscious woman. All the royals are known for wearing hats for not only important occasions, but casually and socially as well.
It is nice to reflect back on the hat fashions of the past. They are an indicator to where women stood in society as well as a fashion statement for most. Wearing hats today, to complement one’s outfit is almost an afterthought, if ever thought about at all.