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Short story of Lady’s hat – Victorian hats

The lady’s hat, item of clothing not so common nowadays, was an essential element for lady’s clothing, together with the bonnet.

Less popular during the eighteenth century, due to the French Revolution, the nineteenth century brings back the hat to the top. In fact between the Regency Age  and the Victorian Age the hats enjoy a period of resplendence. It changes its shape year after year, season after season, becoming a small architectural  masterpiece.

Let’s see the origin of these headgears:


The history of the hat is in parallel to the history of the bonnet: the main purpose was to protect the head from the cold and from bad weather. For women it was also a way of protecting the hair from dirt and hide it from male glances.

The first hat appears by the middle of the fifteenth century: it was just a felt headgear with a sort of visor. Carlo VIII worn it during a visit to Rome.

Only starting from the eighteenth century, the hat becomes an indispensable item of clothing. Especially with the cocked hat that Louis XV imposed for his troops and used for his personal usage. It was worn on wigs, very popular at that time.

The feminine hat, instead, does not arise from the cocked hat, but places next to bonnets and veils. In the eighteenth century it is very big, in fabric or straw and its main purpose is to protect the skin from sun. The suntan caused an … unhealthy  skin tone. The hats should also cover  a body part considered too erotic: the neck.

Only during the nineteenth century the fashion changes and the hat becomes more similar to the one used now.


The shape of this period is very bucolic : “shepherdess”. Large straw hats, simple or with feathers, ribbons.


The hats are often blocked under the chin with ribbons.

BONNET – middle of nineteenth century 

By 1810 the hat used during the day was the bonnet: often made in twisted straw and decorated with ribbons and trimmings, sometimes very precious.

During the Regency Era, the large brim made to hide the face, decreases little by little. In 1840 the brim almost disappears.

Starting from 1860 all ladies have a nice parasol: so the hat becomes just an ornament.

The most famous model is Fanchon: silks, ribbons, embroideries all mixed together in a delicate composition. We can see it in a scene on “Gone with the wind”: it is a gift of Rhett to Rosela.

Always trendy and timeless, the straw hat, with a large brim and ribbon around the head.

A STRAW HAT. During the 19th century the brim will become or very large or just a small wing.

But from now on lady’s fashion acts up: many more different shapes, trimmings, designs. Hats for all occasions. For the afternoon tea,  for sailing, for a dancing evening, for a religious function.

A discrete small hat, not too flashy.

In this period hats are made using linen, silk, felt, wool, straw, feathers, embroideries, dried flowers.

The voile is used again, but this time not to hide the face, but to create a seduction effect.

In the Victorian age also during the mourning ladies must wear a hat. All black.

Around 1880 we find the “3-story” hats and the “Flowerpots”: basically impressive  jardinieres.

In this period lady’s fashion also draws from the man’s hat. Some shapes remind the cylinder structure.

Sailor hats: in straw, fashionable for men and women

This is the end of our journey at the end of the 19th century. With the Edwardian Era and in the years after, the hat will continue to change, becoming more “human”. Only after the second World War the hat will not have its daily use anymore. After the years 60’s it will be a prerogative of the upper-class, synonymous of elegance.

If you  want to be really chic, remember that the hat shall not be of the same color as your dress. Avoid black hats at marriages. Did anybody say that to the Queen?

At the table no hat