Hats of the past

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Vintage hats on display at Buffalo Island Museum in Monette.

Buffalo Island Museum is having a special exhibit of over sixty vintage hats from area residents. There are hats with feathers, flowers, netting, and fur. These hats are from an era when ladies always wore a hat to Church, and men always wore a hat when going to town.

While we do not know the exact date of the first hat, it was most likely when man sought protection from the elements. We know that women began wearing hats during the Middle Ages when the Church decreed that their hair must be covered.

Just as ladies dress styles have changed, hat styles have also changed.

In the late 1700's, huge wigs and hairstyles were fashionable. Bonnets were popular with a ribbon to tie them in place. In the early 1800's straw bonnets were popular. Later silk bonnets with feather plumes, lace, flowers, and silk bows became the fad. By the early 1900's hats were at their largest with very wide brims, secured with a hat pin. By the 1920's women wore their hair short and the cloche became popular which fit the head like a helmet.

During World War I, it was considered unpatriotic to wear the large fancy hats because it suggested that the wearer was more concerned with her appearance than the war effort. During the 1930's and 40's hats had a higher crown and a small brim.

Throughout World War II there was a variety of hats that were suitable for any woman. Fashions were dreary due to all the rationing. About the only thing not being rationed were hat materials so there was an explosion of feathers, veils, and flowers. After the war, there was a period where many women chose to not wear a hat. Those who did wore hats that fit close to the head as turbans and hats with tiny veils or pillbox hats. Remember Jackie Kennedy in her pillbox hat?

In 1967 the Catholic Church dropped its dress code for requiring head coverings for women. Once again, hats were worn sparingly or for cold weather wear.

The tradition of wearing hats to racing events began at the Royal Ascot in Britain. All guests in the Royal Enclosure must wear hats. The Kentucky Derby in the United States also adopted this tradition. The ladies wear the most unusual and perhaps the most outrageous hats imaginable. Wearing hats once again became popular in the 1980's due somewhat to Princess Diana's influence. Many new hat designers emerged and therefore, the 1990's were a very innovative period for hats.

Today we find hats in the finer department stores, and there are still women who wouldn't consider themselves fashionable dressed without their hat.

Visit the museum to see this special exhibit. Admission is free and the hours are Friday and Saturday 1-4 p.m.

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