There was a time when people wore hats whenever they were out of the house. In fact, before that, they often wore them inside the house too, especially if they were women. Married women wore little frilly caps on their heads, as a mark of their status, or perhaps to show they were ‘off-limits’? You’ll have seen those in the period dramas we often enjoy on TV.
In addition, for centuries, there was a biblical requirement for women to cover their heads in church. This is still true today of various religions, both for males and females, but in everyday life hats are pretty rare. The first man to wear a top hat in London was fined for a breach of the peace, when a woman fainted from the shock of seeing this new head-wear. I’d have loved to be a fly on the wall when she was carried home in an ambulance or the arms of some burly cab-driver. What did she say when her hubster, returning from his office in the city, said, ‘So dearest, how was your day?’
This is why I felt the impact of the headline about Agatha Christie’s disappearance, when I wrote about it in a blog post a few months ago. (If you missed it, you can read that post here.) One of the bylines carried by The Surrey Times on December 4th 1926 ran, ‘Hatless and Coatless at 6am’. That said it all, because in those days, a respectable woman would no more leave the house without a hat, than without her underwear.
I mourn the passing of the hat. These days, most of us only wear a hat on a very specific kind of occasion. We can still obtain hats, but they aren’t as much fun as they once were. Department stores offer in the main, ‘Mother-of-the-bride’ type fascinators and picture hats. We have sun hats, beanies or bobble hats, we have baseball caps, and…? It’s not a big range. This is why I love writing about glamorous people living in the past. I think the 1930s would have suited me. Apart from not being able to text my nearest and dearest with such comments as ‘OMG that pill-box hat with veil and feathers is totes the biz. #needitnow’.
It’s also another reason why I love the internet – there is so much hat-porn to browse, it’s just not true. If you are interested in vintage costume and accessories, (I’m looking at you, Lin) try the sites below for a trip through what we used to wear. I’ve never possessed a toque. Or a picture hat. Or… *sigh* …so many hats, so little time. If anyone in the fashion industry is reading this, please bring back mandatory hat-wearing, I’m begging you. Meanwhile, here are a few notable hat-wearing events from my own family:
A few sites of interest regarding costume and accessories, great for research, or just passing the time: