Hats during the Edwardian period were not as universally wide as is sometimes
thought. The new century began with a continuation of art nouveau
influence in fashion and as skirts swirled around the feet of women forming
in fans like bell flowers, so did the hats swirl and swoop around the head.
Lavish brims swept around the face creating an illusion of a hat suspended as
if by magic on the head. The hat was often an amorphous mass swathed in
tulle and smothered in flora, ribbon rosettes or plumage. After 1903
large lace veils gave an impression of the hat being a frothy mass.
The shapeless nebulous appearance of the hat in part existed because of the
work of hairdressers, who created a mass of supports for women to build
their own hair-over. Women or their maids collected the combings of
hair from their hairbrush and stored it for future use.
By 1902 supports called pompadour frames were easy to buy
and these were used as a base for the style and a woman’s own hair was built
up and smoothed over the base. The combings were added when extra
matching hair was needed to get just the right effect. The volume these
contraptions enabled meant that the hats had a great support to rest on and
so they gave an impression of often appearing to be hovering when in fact
they rest on a substantial and fairly firm structure.
Even so hatpins were essential. With the pompadour frame in place hatpins
could be threaded through and find a safe anchor.
After 1904 the width
of hats decreased, but concentrated instead on the height until 1907.
These smaller hats had trimmings that highlighted the important fashion
feature of height. So between 1905 to 1906 height in elegant occasion
hats with a somewhat narrower width can be an important aspect of dating a
Edwardian Hat 1907
After 1907-8 wider hairstyles with central partings and side hair that fanned
out over the ears meant that wider brimmed hats were introduced to balance
the fuller hair silhouette.
1907-8 saw the start of a new body silhouette called the
Empire or Directoire where the long columnar outline that tapers to the feet
is contrasted with the big Merry Widow picture hat. The fashion
designer Lucile had designed the original widow hat for an operetta in 1907,
but it influenced hat fashions for 3 more years. It was always black
and encased in filmy chiffon or organdie and festooned in feathers.
On May 6, 1910 King Edward VII died and a few weeks later
there was a scheduled race meeting at Ascot. So 1910 saw the famous and
memorable black Ascot meeting where all participants wore black and large
wide picture hats.
Lingerie hats made from muslin or froths of lace appeared about 1904 and were
ideal for those able to idle away time in a perpetual summer whether abroad
or at home. They were perfect with lingerie dresses in fine white lawns
and linens in white, ivory, cream or ecru. If we call to mind women
wearing these dresses and hats they seem to be a vision from another planet,
another time another world.
What we need to remember is that in the
Edwardian era wearing white was a symbol of wealth, as whites needed
laundering and laundry needed the efforts of maids who spent hours scrubbing
out grass stains on soiled hems wear ladies had strolled lawns. Lingerie dresses were in effect
status symbols that made a statement. It visually told the onlooker that the
wearer could afford to pay someone to launder their clothes.
However for more modest day wear and often in winter, the toque was a
favourite choice for many women. It was more and more acceptable
to participate in sports, particularly bicycle riding. For these activities panamas, boaters, felt homburgs and sectioned
pancake berets resting on a flat brim were all used for golf, motor cars and
Wider period hats in general became fashionable and were bedecked with an
abundance of large cabbage rose, poppies or gerberas all overwhelming the
crowns. Hat purchasing amid the Edwardian wealthy was a statement of
conspicuous consumption. Every type of trim possible was used
throughout the Edwardian era, from lace, to whole birds to bunches of
cherries, blackberries to rosettes and ribbon streamers.
We cannot ignore Poiret’s completely new famous maharaja
turban design. In 1907 Poiret was instrumental in setting a trend that
would begin the concealment of hair when he dressed his models in Directoire
columnar styles and turbans. By 1910 for evening turbans were all the
rage and gave an exotic eastern influence which had originated in the
oriental fashion movements as a style depicted by Poiret after the Ballets
By 1911 hats became much smaller, although large wide
picture hats were still worn for dressy functions.
These smaller hats
of 1911-12 were adorned with stiff spiky hussar plumes and fan effects of
ostrich feather. By 1913 two long narrow plumes called Mephisto
feathers gave many hats a curious military quality.
From 1914 the toques developed into tall toques and these were worn with the
fashionable high collars of the day. More feminine styles included
wider styles with deep crowns worn low on the head to hide all hair. Right -
1910 Toque Hat
Once the war started other hats developed military
tendencies and by the end of the war tricornes and postillion hats were
popular having first been adopted by war widows who added black veiling.
Soon sophisticated women adopted them so variations on the veiled styles became the height
of chic. Left -
1918 Veil Hat
The cloche hat was fashionable from 1908 to 1933 was one of
the most extreme forms of millinery ever with an appearance that resembled a
helmet. As early as 1908 close
fitting hats with deep crowns that clung over the brow had emerged and as
the war years progressed. At both the start and end of World War 1 the
close head fit became even snugger. From 1916 the cloche was
firmly established as a style women wore a great deal.
Read more detail about the cloche hat in the
1920s hats section.
Fashion communication and export dried up between Paris and New York in the
1914-18 war. Necessity meant that America sought out its own talent and a
flurry of young designers emerged with new fresh and innovative designs that
had style and chic that Manhattan women embraced. This was the real start of
original American fashion produced on home ground and covered everything from
clothes to hats.
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