As I mentioned in an earlier post I love hats. The history, the artistry , the design of these creations not only evoke the past but the feminine mystique . Hats are the confections of fashion and can make or break the perfect outfit.
I appreciate all eras of millinery but the 1930s is a particular favorite for me. I have always felt that these hats were “forgotten” or “passed by” for the more notable, and recognizable, styles like the extravagant brims of the Edwardian era or the form fitted cloche’ of the 20s.
From 1930 to 1939 fashion, and especially hats, evolved from almost whimsical and outrageous, still portraying women as objects, to sophisticated and chic, showcasing women’s new roles as educated with career opportunities.
At the start of the decade women were still wearing the cloche’ with their deep crowned, form fitted, low brow and lightly decorated some with summer brims and others brimless in winter . With her hair still in a Bob Cut she looked the part of a “Doll” wearing shapeless frocks in delicate fabrics and pastel colors . This soon started to transform and change as the country was entrenched in the Great Depression and lost it’s fun loving, lively party attitude. Women were now looking to support themselves and their families and so emerged tailored suits and practical , easy to wear, hats and accessories.
The hats started to change with a shallow crown and smaller structure that complimented the fuller and more curled hairstyles . These hats usually had a bit larger brim for sun protection as the use of parasols had run their course and were no longer in fashion. As the decade progressed the hat bodies shrunk for a while to tiny “Beanies” that were decorated in flowers, feathers and bright ribbon . These hats were pinned on and often wore on an angle at the back of the head. I have had some wonderful examples of these hats some with a Dutchboy theme and others with a Robin Hood feather and inspired design. I have found that many of these earlier hats were hand made, in the home, often with instructions and design ideas available in the leading ladies magazines of the time.
As the 1930s wore on women’s hats took on a masculine silhouette with the crown getting taller and the decorations bolder . Long feathers, large flower clusters, face covering netting and wider brims kept pace while women’s suits started mirroring men’s fashions . Figure fitted blazers and skirts, in darker colors, paired well with brighter hats and matching handbags and shoes .
With the use of new fabrics, like Rayon, clothing took on new designs and so did hats . We start to see sharp angles, exaggerated pleating and asymmetrical draping. New milliners were springing up and the designers were as individual and artistic as this new style. Elsa Schiaparelli, Lily Dache’ and Coco Chanel jumped right in and were leaders in this new era of design freedom.
If you really want to see why this subject holds me fascinated just watch a great old 1930s movie. The hats, the fashion, the room settings , the automobiles and the times .. it’s a great way to pass a lazy afternoon.