"T-HATS All, Folks!" Ladies Hats

Hats have been worn probably since the beginning of time as either protection against the elements, or as a means of identification. Throughout history, soldiers, sailors, and laborers were easily recognized by their hats of different colors and styles.

Ladies hats in particular have made personal fashion statements as society developed and styles changed. Hat styles delineate a certain era based on composition, size, and style: elaborate head pieces which towered high and weighed many pounds came into fashion during the 1700's; large flowered hats were popular during Victorian times; cloche hats signified the flapper of the 1920's; unique shapes played well during World War 2; veiled cocktail hats reigned in the 1950's; and, the pillbox adorned sleek hair in the early 1960's. Function regulated hat wear as sun bonnets, ten gallon hats, sombreros, nor'westers, snoods, rats, fishing caps, visors, helmets, etc., protected the worker from wind, rain, work hazards, and sun. Ethnic identity also played a large part in the hat industry as many cultures donned particular styles. Often made from materials found in the surrounding environment, including fur, feather, flowers, grasses, and reeds, hats have always supplied whimsy, decoration, and beauty to men and women throughout history. The Audubon Society began primarily as a protectorate agency for the preservation of rare and endangered birds, which the millinery industry exploited. The extinction of the Passenger Pigeon was a result of demand for feathers decorating ladies hats during the 1800's, and thus, the Audubon Society began to end further exploitation of rare bird species. Fading from fashion for the last forty years, hats are still popular during The Kentucky Derby and Ascot Races. Contemporary collectors still avidly seek out unique styles from bygone eras that reflect the tenor of the time when hats were in vogue and all the rage.

(Sources available upon request) Hats from the collection of Suzanne Hines