Headwear in some form or another has persisted throughout history. Hats are representative of both fashion and social changes during different periods of time. In honor of hat day, here are some photos from our collection of different styles of women’s hats from the 1880s to the 1960s.
Hats during this time generally had tall crowns, wide brims, and were larger than previous bonnet styles. The hat shown in the photo is tall with elaborate decorations. The ribbon tied under the chin is reminiscent of the bonnet styles of the 1860s.
Wide brimmed hats with elaborate decorations of feathers, flowers, ribbons, and bows were popular during this decade. Wires were used to hold the adornments atop the hat. This hat has an abundance of feathers with a large centered bow. The demand for feathers and even entire stuffed birds to adorn hats led to a decline in many avian populations around the turn of the century.
Hats continued to be fairly large during this decade to accommodate hairstyles. Feathers grew in popularity, especially ostrich feathers as the bird did not have to be killed. Brims could be large and upturned as seen in the above photo.
During the early part of this decade, large hats were still very much in style. This Merry Widow hat, which was popularized by the play it was featured in, resembles the bushel or basket style of hat and has a large hatpin to keep the hat in place. The hat in this photo is less elaborately decorated than other hats of this period. The later part of the decade began to feature smaller hats that were often made of lighter materials.
The most recognizable hat of the 1920s is the cloche hat. While other hats were worn, this style is iconic of the decade. These hats were worn low over the eyebrows and were very close fitting not allowing for elaborate hairstyles. Decorations were usually fairly minimal.
Berets were popular during the 1930s as can be seen in the above photo. Hats were often re-made or new trims added to economize during the depression. A 1920s style cloche can still be seen in the photo above while another woman wears a cloche in the 1930s style with an asymmetrical brim. Hollywood had a large influence on fashion and many people chose their hats to resemble their favorite star.
With many women working in factories during the war, kerchiefs and snoods were popular head coverings during the early part of the decade. As the war wrapped up, new hat styles emerged that evoked a sense of elegance. Hats tended to be very small, barely covering the head or very large in the cartwheel style with a large brim. The woman on the left wears a hat that has no crown, and is held on the head by a band. The woman on the right wears a hat that borrows elements from men’s hats such as the Homburg hat. Women’s fashion featuring masculine elements were common at the time. Both women have short veils, a common feature in hats from the 1930s into the 1950s.
Veils continued as a trend in hats in the 1950s as seen on a few women in the above photo. Juliette caps, which covered the back of the head while allowing hair to be seen at the front and bottom of the head, were also very popular. Berets and boater hats continued to make an appearance through the decade. While hats were still popular, they became less necessary to complete an outfit and women were more comfortable leaving the house without some form of head covering.
Due to First Lady Jackie Kennedy and her signature pillbox hat, hats continued in popularity in the early part of the 1960s. The pillbox hat, named after the cases pills came in, had a flat crown and straight upright sides. By the later end of the decade, hairstyles were full of volume and height and hats fell out of favor. Fashion in the 1960s began to be focused on youth and hats were seen as a thing of the past. Hats are still worn today but are no longer a necessity when it comes to fashion.
Happy National Hat Day!
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.