THE SEWING DIVAS sewing, design, fashion

March 30, 2008

The Lost Acessory

Filed under: Accessories,Fashion,Musings,Vintage Sewing — phyllisc @ 7:07 pm



Georgene’s post made me think of them, because I adore that cute little trilby on the right.  When I was younger, I loved nothing more than playing with my grandmother’s collection of hats on a rainy afternoon, and every time I see a vintage pattern I long for the chance to wear one. 

What happened to our relationship with hats?

My theory as to why woman no longer wear them boils down to this:  we no longer wear hairstyles that accommodate a hat, that is, a style smooth at the back of the head with curls around the face.  Bangs do not work with hats (ask me how I know this.) These days our hairstyle is our “head ornament” and I think our increasingly casual lives jsut don’t give us that many opportunities to wear them, and so we don’t know how to wear them anymore.  These days when I see a woman in a hat she is just SO selfconscious and aware of what’s on her head.  It reminds of me seeing my Episcopal dad in a Yarmulke at my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah.

So where can we wear hats these days? Well…

Church. Our African-American sisters in particular really know  how to rock this and I salute them for keeping the flame burning, but for the most part hats at church are a thing of the past where I live.

The Kentucky Derby.  Not an event I’m likely to attend in the near future.

Weddings.  Well, many of them are evening events now, and hats are kind of a daytime thing if you ask me.

Meeting Queen Elizabeth or the Pope.  Same as the Kentucky Derby.

Not a long list.  Plus, a hat is meant to seen, and since most of us drive everywhere, where would we wear hats on a daily basis?  The mall?  Costco? I can’t envision it.


Great hats do exist….. like here….and here…and here.  First Lady of France Carla Bruni needs to work on her hat wardrobe a bit; it’s hard to believe she looks more matronly than the Queen, who is twice her age and still wore a better hat.  Carla should be channeling Jackie Kennedy.

Maybe when my daughters get married I’ll have a chance to wear one.  Hopefully they will have day weddings.



  1. I know a lot of women(and men, too for that matter) will say, “I can’t wear hats,” or ” I don’t know what looks good on me,” but as someone who collects and makes hats I can say that anyone who even thinks they might want to wear one(if you need a good reason, how about, “I’d like to prevent aging skin and skin cancer”)just needs to remember two rules: The brim has to be no wider than your shoulders, AND, if the hat has a brim, wear it forward on your head and tilted a bit to one side. If the hat has no brim, you can still wear it off to one side, but not too far forward. Mme. Sarkozy’s mistake was putting a rather small, uninteresting hat on the back of her head, making it look as if it had been an afterthought(“Oh, Madame, you must wear something on your head; HRH will be wearing one!”). Between the flat hat and the flat shoes, she appeared to be sending the message that she was trying her best to look as short as she possibly could. As someone who is very tall, even if she has a short husband(shoot, the man is the president of France, for heaven’s sake; the country has a history of powerful, short men), she really owed it to herself to look as glamorous as possible; that hat did not do her good service at all. As for the rest of us, I’d like to make the fashion case, as well as the health case, for wearing hats – any time you leave the house. No matter how casual the hat, it will smarten up any outfit you are wearing, and if it has a brim, do double duty to protect your skin and your eyes.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — March 30, 2008 @ 8:58 pm

  2. I absolutely love hats and have all my life. Of course, I wear them to weddings, but also in the garden or doing anything in the sun. Living in a really harsh winter climate makes hats an absolute necessity and there is lots of creative opportunity there as well. I think with a slight bit of effort the hatless could find lots of hat ops. The only thing more fun than wearing a hat is making one!

    Comment by Bunny — March 30, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

  3. Just wanted to add that the 1923-25 era hats are right up my alley. I was born too late!

    Comment by Bunny — March 30, 2008 @ 9:36 pm

  4. I love hats, and wear them whenever possible, but especially in the summer, as the sun is a great “excuse” to wear a hat. Also, you’d be surprised how many people will thank you for wearing a hat, and say how much they miss them. By the end of the summer, if I’m not wearing a hat, my head feels somewhat naked. 🙂 I just bought a new hat on Friday.

    Comment by Liana — March 30, 2008 @ 11:23 pm

  5. Oh, Phyllis, you have touched on a subject that I love, too! I do love a good hat. It is a shame that they’ve gone out of style. It does take a bit of confidence to pull one off these days and not look out of place or too costumey. I had a conversation with some older friends of mine (one of them in their 80’s) and one said the last time she bought a fashion hat was in the 1960’s and the other said that she remembered wearing a hat to go on her honeymoon, which I’m guessing by the age of her children (my age) was in the 1960’s, too.

    Comment by Summerset — March 31, 2008 @ 4:23 am

  6. I lust after hats and have a small collection gathering dust at the top of my wardrobe, as we in Australia have the annual Melbourne Cup horse race to celebrate. I have spent a fortune on these fripperies, but oh, how I long for the resurrection of hats as de rigeur accessories. I remember my Mum always wearing a hat to the shops, to the doctors, to church , to “town”, etc. My eldest daughter is getting married on April 26 and I have modestly whipped up a little number that I hope to have a photo for my blog after the whole frenzy dies down and if I ever finish the blasted 4 BM dresses I am currently wrestling.

    Comment by Midge — March 31, 2008 @ 5:27 am

  7. Growing up in Mississippi, I knew one woman who constantly wore hats. Every time she left her house! She was very dramatic and tall and skinny and had plenty of attitude to match. I adored her style. Of course, I did, being short, stocky and devoid of any sort of confidence or style of my own.

    All the men over 50 wore hats to town, too. I rarely recall my grandfather leaving his house, but when he did, he always wore his hat.

    I have a couple of very dramatic stylish hats in my closet that I can’t bring myself to throw out but cannot imagine wearing, either. HOWEVER, I can see myself wearing a lovely black wide-rimmed straw hat in the summertime. Oh, I know, my head would be hot as Georgia asphalt, but wouldn’t it be worth it?

    Comment by Meg — March 31, 2008 @ 6:56 am

  8. I ADORE hats and buy just about every Vogue hat pattern that comes out. I used to work at a Jewish organization with many Orthodox women so I would wear a hat at least once a week. Now that I’m back in a conservative work environment, no more hats. So sad! My mom wears a great many hats and always asks me to make them for her. I do like that I can still wear them to church though and no one looks twice!

    Comment by Cidell — March 31, 2008 @ 7:00 am

  9. The first poster is correct that hats are a very useful choice for blocking harmful sun. So beachside lounging or strolling, or outside sporting events are an excellent place to be able to wear them. Many people default to the baseball cap, but how about the classic… a wide brim panama straw hat?
    And winter time… you needn’t wear only knit caps. I often wear a men’s felt fedora in the winter, as well as a red felt bwoler style hat and a largish beret.

    Comment by Kathleen C. — March 31, 2008 @ 11:01 am

  10. I have always worn hats because my face can’t take the sun at all. I wear a beautiful wool cloche in the winter, crocheted or canvas wide-brimmed hats in the summer. Quite frankly, I don’t care if they are “out of style.” I don’t have a choice if I want to keep the skin on my face. And you don’t have to have bangs and curls to pull it off. It does help to have hair that you can fit under a hat, or tie up at the nape of the neck.

    Historically speaking, I think that hats went the wayside in the sixties when the Catholic Church decided that women no longer needed to wear head coverings to church. However, I have seen quite a few women not wearing them to church or a wedding, but out and about, dressed to the nines. There are a few of us!

    Comment by Sarah — March 31, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  11. I absolutely adore hats and thanks for bringing this wonderful accessory out of the hat box. I come from a family of women who wear hats and that’s for every occasion. My great Aunt was a Milliner in her day so growing up we couldn’t wait to wear our first adult hat. I got mine as a graduation present at 18. It was a white pillbox hat with red grosgrain ribbon and a bit of red netting. I loved that hat and purchased suits and dresses just to wear it. I feel a hat is the topper to any outfit. It’s all in the way you wear it. Great post!!!

    Comment by Phyllis T. — March 31, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  12. I love hats too, and saw some beautiful examples at a hat store in Galway City when I was on vacation there last year. They had every kind you could imagine, and so many colors! I grew up in Foxboro MA, and we had a hat store (left over from the hat mill days) until the mid eighties. That was a fun place to visit!

    Comment by Martina — March 31, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  13. Phyllis .- excellent article for publication in any newspaper …. The answer is uncertain. Now too many young people carrying caps and berets, I guess it is a matter of fashion. ….. But where are these wonderful hats designed and presented in the fashion catwalks ?…. In England there are many heads by wearing hats, it is perhaps the only country where they still snap of a good suit is a good “hat”. Thank you and greetings to you. Paco

    Comment by pacoperalta — April 1, 2008 @ 10:25 am

  14. You should come to Australia – hats are a compulsory item for all junior school children to wear (no hat, no play policy). With the increasing risk of skin cancer from years exposed in the harsh sun, hats are a necessary item here, although they are of the more practical variety. They are fashionable in a more simplistic way as well, and most new designs are portable (you can fold them up in luggage and bags) as well as being light weight, comfortable and practical. Also if you can avoid “hat hair” indentations from wearing one, all the better since hairstyles do not revolve around a daily sun hat! ( I prefer to use an umbrella than wear a hat any day).
    The only time where all the fashionable, avant garde headwear comes out to play is in November at the Melbourne Cup (world wide prestigious horse race) which heralds the start of the Spring racing season carnival. By the way, my husband’s family business is headwear where the market is definitely in sun protection rather than ‘fashion hats”.

    Comment by Suzanne W. — April 2, 2008 @ 5:39 am

  15. I agree completely. The lack of hats in today’s world saddens me so as I have a great love for head accessories. People underestimate greatly what a great fashion accessory it is, it can turn a totally drab outfit into something exciting. I tend to wear hats on the weekends, but it seems so out of place to wear one at work – why oh why did they fall out of fashion? I also find it frustrating that bangs and hats don’t make nice together, so I find I have to sacrifice one over the other for a day.

    Comment by Cristina G. — April 2, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  16. I now so love hats! I am just old enough to remember when we had to wear hats and gloves downtown in San Francisco. How my ten year old self hated the white cotton gloves and the navy blue velvet beret my aunt made me wear on excursions. Even more the brown soup plate with the pheasant feather that came later at twelve.
    My mom had a cerise feather cocktail hat which I adored, but alas, it was discarded after one of my dad’s closet cleaning forays. I did rescue the French pale blue feather cloche that my mom wore to my first wedding. It’s mine, now!

    Comment by kathi s — April 2, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

  17. I to love a beautiful hat and I have many. But I to don’t wear them enough. I always have to chose hat over hair for that day and few of my days are so dedicated to hat occassions. I have worn hats at my childrens weddings but not my own second marriage. I too remember growing up in the 60’s and visiting The City, San Francisco, wearing a hat and gloves. My Grandparents never left the house without a hat on. My son is getting married in October and I will be looking for a little something to wear on my head for the ocassion.

    Comment by Linda T. — April 5, 2008 @ 1:38 pm

  18. Phyllis, I love hats, berets, etc and I wear them often, in spite of being almost alone on this fashion, here where I live. Congratulations on this great post!

    Comment by Tany — April 6, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  19. I developed a serious obesssion with Argentine Tango a few years ago, which necessitated a correspondingly serious investment in wardrobe items I’d never previously owned (fishnet stockings, 3″ heels, etc.) In the early flush of this obsession I went to a vintage-themed milonga–tango party–that required some extra effort, so I dressed up a small black straw hat from the 1950s (it has an I. Magnin tag on the inside, my San Francisco sisters!) with a yard or so of black tulle. I perched it forward on my head and pinned it firmly in place with the hatpin that had come with the hat.


    I have never in my life enjoyed so much male attention. Even in a crowd of very, very sexily and elegantly dressed women, I was–for the first time in my life–a belle, a siren, an international woman of mystery.

    A year or so later, when I decided to venture into online dating, I used a photo of myself in That Hat. I got about 150 responses, some from men on the opposite coast and 20 years younger than I. It was intoxicating.

    Now, a veil is admittedly a bit, shall we say, over the top for most occasions. (But may I add that it’s *fabulous* for blurring crow’s feet!) However, I own and frequently wear another hat, an amusing summer chapeau made of corrugated brown paper (!) that collapses into an hourglass shape when not on one’s head. I have been stopped on the street countless times and complimented while wearing that hat. Men and women alike will smile, greet me, and say something pleasant. It’s truly magical.

    So here is my advice, ladies: If you want to be admired and flattered in the nicest of ways, wear a hat. Wear it proudly and saucily and wittily. And let the attention go to your head.

    Comment by Nancy — April 7, 2008 @ 12:16 am

  20. I just discovered fashion blogs today but i’m already deeply in love with them 🙂 I totally agree. Hats should totally be brought back. LORD im just starting to get scared that people my age (im 17) are to boring to get into it.

    Comment by Reina — April 9, 2008 @ 7:25 am

  21. Oh my, I. Magnin. Ah the wonderful memories of shopping there and Macy’s and the City of Paris. I loved looking at hats with my Grandma at those fairyland stores.

    Comment by Linda T. — April 9, 2008 @ 10:23 pm

  22. Hello Phyllis and other sewing divas!

    I found your blog through Linda Grant’s thoughtful dresser blog, and am pleased to learn you are in Boston, which is not so far away from Montréal!

    I love hats, but I have a big head and a lot of thick, curly hair (I know, at 50 I must not complain about that) so most of them look ludicrous on me. Alas, few WOMEN’S hats I see in shops or websites come in sizes, and while Tilleys are practical, I don’t find them pretty enough for their price.

    These days I’m wearing a black angora béret – it is large enough not to look silly, and soft and silky-looking enough not to look military, either in the leftwing sense (Che) or the rightwing sense (Green Berets, Paratroopers…). Or like the “Mohair Béret” extreme Catholic Polish ladies! (google that).

    Here in Montréal, I often see young men look dashing in latter-day trilby or fedora styles. And where I live, in La Piccola Italia, older men looking charming indeed in flat caps.

    Comment by Maria Gatti — April 12, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  23. Interesting that I should run across this now that I have developed a serious vintage hat addiction. And since I am rocking the vintage ‘do these days, I must feed my addiction!

    Actually in and around San Francisco you see quite a few hats but usually just newsie or fedoras on young women.

    Very cool post.

    Comment by Lorraine — April 14, 2008 @ 8:21 pm

  24. How wonderful to see so many comments, and from women who enjoy wearing hats. You can tell by my name, that hats are quite special to me too. Wear them and make them too.

    Hoping your great article will help to bring more hats out of the closet and onto heads.

    One hat wearing fashionista in Houston is hosting an on-line Kentucky Derby party – check it out at her blog

    Thanks for a fun read. Jane

    Comment by Glorious Hats — April 17, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  25. Here’s another plus why it’s wise to wear a hat – WEAR ONE AT JOB INTERVIEW – or at an important meeting (with only men), as I did. Not alone did I receive all the attention during my presentation (advertising), but I also got the contract!!!
    It really works, ladies! (I wore a wide rimed summer hat, on the sporty side. Because of the wide rim all the gentlemen – sitting in a circle around me- had to bend their heads to look into my eyes during our conversation….ha-ha-ha)
    Hats are not dead!
    Try it and be surprised!!!
    I raise my glass to hats- long shall/do they live!
    And besides that, long before Oprah did her summer-hat party I did mine, and a know of a group of ladies who come regularly together wearing red hats, and having a good time. Greetings from wintery Canada, Gundra

    Comment by Gundra — April 21, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

  26. I don’t write as much as some of u but I like certain hats and others look like they were pulled out of a dumpster. You need to be careful.

    Comment by Em — April 22, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

  27. If I step out of doors, I wear a hat. Casual, formal, daytime, evening – I wear a hat. I work in a very conservative profession (law) (not a lawyer myself!), and I have NEVER heard a negative about my hats from anyone who works there. Life is too short to forego something you love because “nobody else is doing it.” If you need moral support, I’M doing it! I’m wearing them! Cloches, fedoras, widebrims, all manner of hats, plain and embellished with flowers, feathers, and veiling. It DOES take trying on to find ones that flatter and that work with the rest of your clothes. I did find that I had to wear different hats when my hair was permed than I had before the perm; the hats for my non-permed hair didn’t fit properly, nor did they flatter, the fuller hair. My default hair style is a French braid, worn back and down, rather than up; it’s pulled completely off my face, and the braid trails down my spine, rather than being pinned or tucked up. I have three commercial hat racks overflowing with hats, and believe me, there’s nothing special about my face; it’s a matter of trying on, and learning to say “yes” or “no” when it’s appropriate – and I have said “no” to some hats I have LOVED. One suggestion for the ladies who don’t know how to combine their hairstyles with their hats: go through hat books and fashion books, and look for a hairstyle that approximates yours. A hat which is meant for a sleek hairstyle may not look its best on a head full of wild curls; the reverse is also true. Don’t reject a hat out of hand, without trying it on! – but knowing that certain hat styles were designed with certain hairstyles in mind may help. I would LOVE to have curly hair of my own – hair that I grew, instead of pulling it out of a bag! It wouldn’t stop me in the LEAST from wearing a hat! Look at all the hats that were worn throughout the 19th century – most of the periods had curlier hair, rather than flat or straight hair, and they certainly wore hats! Don’t plonk it on your head like a pancake and expect it to do you many favours; take the time to tilt it a bit (usually to the right, but wear it as you like), and see what looks best. I have a few hats I wear backwards because the trim is on the back, and I like it in the front; I have one hat that I wear sideways, because it fits me best that way! Don’t give up on finding and wearing your own, if you want one!

    Comment by La BellaDonna — March 5, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  28. Hi,
    I am going,In May, for a wedding in Australia. The first half will be held in church.It is an afternoon wedding(1:00 pm). Since I have never been to Australia, I am wondering if it is ok to wear a small hat to church? There will be some mingling outside aswell following the mass so I would just love the opportunity to wear one. Honestly, any excuse to wear a hat right???Since an ornamental hat is typically worn in the summer and not in the autumn, as is the case,will it be inappropriate?
    Please let me know.
    Thanks in advance

    Comment by Belinda — March 14, 2009 @ 7:57 am

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