Hat Styles for Men and Women Research Paper

Hats have been worn both by men and women for centuries as a head covering, sometimes for protection, religious reasons or simple as a piece of fashion accessory. The differences in the styles of hats that have been seen during the first 2 decades of the 20th century are mainly in the styles relating to the crown, brim or peak of the hats worn. The crown is that portion of the hat which covers the top part of its wearers head. The brim is usually made of a stiff material and is sort of a projection horizontally covering the circumference of a hat. The peak is a projection that is placed in front of the hat.1

Women and hats
The turn of the century contributed the influence of the art nouveau to the womens fashion world. Just like the skirts of the women whirled around their feet forming flower and fan like patterns, so did their hats which swept on their faces. Most of the hats had lavishly decorated brims which created the illusion that the hats were magically suspended on their heads. Apart from the enormous mass of the largely decorated hats, some even had long lacy veils which gave the onlookers the impression that the hat had a bubbly mass. Although worn by men and women alike, hats were more common and widespread among the women than the men and thus, came in a greater variety too. Of all the accessories that women used between 1900 and 1920, hats were the most diverse and spectacular ones. Throughout history we have seen that women have had to cover their heads with wimples, hoods and veils but they started to wear hats only towards the end of the 16th century.

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In the beginning of the 20th century, i.e. the Early Edwardian Period during 1901-1907, a hat became an indispensable element for a woman since fashion at that time demanded that the silhouette of a woman be like the S shape. Hats during this time were enormous in size and were usually decorated with lots of tulle, feathers, flowers and ribbons. Women used to wear them on the top of their stacked up hair and it was positioned in such a way that it cantilevered right over their faces. These enormous hats complimented their curvaceous form of the body which was a little pouched around the waist ending in a .

These heavily ornamented and large hats were matched with the dresses the women wore. Another popular form of the hat during this era was the toque and it became fashionable during the second decade on the 20th century. It was a brimless hat and became a favourite modest day wear for the women. It allowed women to participate in sports, like riding bicycle, playing golf and driving cars. Later in 1914, just before the First World War started, the toque hats were made very tall so that women could wear it with high collared dresses. Other favourable hats of this era were section pancake berets with flat brims, boaters, panamas and felt homburgs.2

In 1904 lingerie hats were also used which were usually ivory, white or cream in colour. The materials used to make them were either lace or muslin and were mainly used by those enjoying the warm summers. The colour of the hats that were worn by the men and women of this time also had significance since white mainly symbolized the wealthy people who had lines of maids. Similarly these lingerie hats symbolized status and literally conveyed the message that the woman wearing it had enough wealth to afford another person to do her laundry. Between 1904 and 1907 a lot of attention was also given to the height of the hats worn by both men and women since their width decreased and height increased. These relatively small hats came with trimmings which were used to highlight height as an important feature of fashion in those days. These tall hats had a too. As a womens figure became more and more slender, the size of their hats started increasing.

After 1908 the Gainsborough chapeau became a widely used hat among the women. It had an extremely wide brim and was placed high on the hair. Its round brim extended even beyond the wearers shoulders and since it had a lot of feathers and ribbons, the hat looked wide and very tall. Another prominent womens hat of this era was the Merry Widow hat and it was almost 18 inches tall and 3 feet wide with feathers and ribbons covering every bit of it. These hats were used for almost 3 years since they complimented the long columnar outfits worn by women those days. The hats were always black in colour and consisted of an organdie or chiffon encasing along with a lot of feathers. But as women started to use this style of hat while going to theatres, they started to block the view of others and thus, were ultimately banned in theatres. But after the First World War big hats like these totally vanished. 3

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After 1908 it was seen that women wore close fitting dresses with huge hats that were even more ornamented than before. Women were very careful about the hats they wore and ensured that theirs was one of a kind. Felt was used as the fabric for making the modest hats which were stiff and had brims. Feathers and huge ribbons were used as ornamentations and they even continued beyond the wearers head. As women started to favour wider hairstyles, wide brimmed hats became fashionable since they were able to balance their hairstyles. After the death of King Edward in 1910, large and wide black picture hats were also worn in order to mourn his death. 4

By 1911 it was seen that the hats had attained their largest form. Most of the time, the brim of the hats was extended, such that they reached further than the breadth of the shoulders of the wearer. The women thus, had to use hat pins in order to securely place the huge hats on their heads. Somewhere between 1911 and 1912, larger hats lost their favouritism. Women reserved the large picture hats only for certain occasions which required them to dress a lot. The smaller hats during this time consisted of spiky hussar plumes that were stiff and ostrich feathers. In 1913 the hats were then ornamented using 2 narrow feathers, known as Mephisto plumes, which were long, giving the hats a certain military value.5

During World War I, the size of the hats started to gradually decease as did the size of womens hairstyles and they began to wear their hats low. As the hats became plainer and plainer, people started to frown on hat decorations and feathers which earlier were considered to be fashionable. Even peoples character was judged by the hats they wore. Due to the onset of the war, if a woman wore a highly decorated large hat then people considered it to be unpatriotic since it was thought that they were more worried about their appearance rather than the effects of the war.6 Since 1916 women started to wear the cloche and soon it became their sole fashion. At the end of World War I the hat became a fashionable ideal for honouring a soldiers widow or girlfriend. Women started to wear the hats down their head such that it seemed that they had dressed in their mothers hats. Hats worn during this time also had a deeper crown which continued to get deeper till about the late 1920s after which the entire head was covered by the hat in a cloche manner. Brims of the hats became an optional entity as only summer hats were fitted with them. The cloche hat as first worn in 1908 and remained to be a fashionable hat till the 1930s.7

After the First World War started, the hats worn by women stared to show a military influence. Also, after the war the hats which gained popularity included the postillion and the tricornes hats that were mainly worn by the war widows along with a black veil. A lot of sophisticated women also wore veils along with their hats and thus, veiled hats became a symbol of chic during this period. Those women who were adventurous preferred to wear hats which had wire frames and around them there used to be weaved strips of ribbons, lace, flowers, feather and various types of ornaments. Most women faced problems in wearing large hats as it cut short their activities. They were not able to make quick movements since the size of the hats became a hindrance. Automobiles were also widely used at this time and had open tops. Thus, women started to use hats with special coverings and veils so that their hair and faces could be protected from dust and wind.8

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