A short history of hat wearing

Mother of the Bride or Mother of the Groom

Special occasion headwear has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as women who enjoy fashion and dressing up for special occasions can testify.  Who doesn’t love a new outfit for a friend’s wedding, a mother of the bride or groom for their offspring’s special day, or a race day out with the girls?

But hat wearing and its traditions have a very long history, probably dating back as far as 300BC when Egyptians shaved their heads then covered them with fabric or hats to keep their head cool in the scorching weather. Cave paintings exist too, of ancient Greek women wearing cloth caps or turbans even earlier – many of which were decorated with rosettes and flowers.

In the Middle Ages, Knights covered their heads with chain mail and helmets as a mark of rank and prestige, while later, hats were worn by the nobility as a mark of social status, but they also had a very practical use.

For women, bonnets kept their hair in place and the dust out of their silky locks when outside – there was no washing their hair every day back then.

Those days were the start of headwear as a fashion statement, as women decorated their pretty bonnets with ribbons and lace.  The Edwardian era was the golden age of millinery when ladies wore their finest bonnets, decorated with ribbons, bows, lace, fruit and feathers.

Men too wore hats – again to denote status, but also too they had a very practical use for keeping their heads warm during the harsh winters before central heating.  Flat caps and baker boy hats were worn by the working class, while deerstalkers and top hats were won by the gentry.

Hats at Simply Devine
Men wore flat caps!

Society women in the 1920s loved the cloche cap, while the 30s and 40s were much more practical in design, probably due to the absence of raw materials during the second World War.  By the 1950s as couture fashion emerged, we can see how women’s hats became much more elaborate and creative.

I was lucky enough to visit the Dior Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum last year, and loved the fashionable and quirky designs in the couture collection. In the following photos, you will see some of the fabulous designs – but please forgive the quality of the prints as many of these were behind glass – including this cute paint palette number in silver grey to match the lovely silver grey full skirted dress.

The following pink hat is a profusion of silk tulle and feathers circa 1964 by Mark Bohan for Christian Dior and tones perfectly with the pink silk gabardine halter neck dress from 1966.

The statement red hat is much later and is a Christian Dior by John Galliano for Autumn/winter 2009, and is made from flocked velvet and feathers.

So, we move onto the modern hats of today.  Our wonderful Queen Elizabeth has always been a beacon for the fashion industry, and that hasn’t changed even as she has matured.  She always looks fabulous, wearing wonderfully bright colours so that everyone can see her as she makes public appearances where she is often dwarfed by men in suits.

The modern fascinator – love them or hate them – is de rigueur for the younger woman attending a wedding or a day out at the races.  Originally a 19th century scarf or hood which was “fastened”, the term was coined by milliners in the 60s/70s as a small headpiece on a band, and has become a popular choice for today’s special occasions – as has the hatinator – a headpiece also sitting on a band, but with much more decoration and as large as a hat, but can be worn for all day comfort.

The younger royals of course are a great advertisement for hat and fascinator wearing.  They set the trend for design, which is great news for us!

Whatever occasion you are attending, whatever style is your own, and whatever colour you want to wear, Simply Devine Hats has something for everyone.