Dating vintage hats

During the 18th century, milliners took the hat-making art out of the home and established the millinery profession.Today, a ‘milliner’ defines a person associated with the profession of hat making.Collapsible bonnets, they were made of strips of wood or whalebone sewn into channels of a silk hood.

Its purpose was covering the neck, which was considered an erogenous zone in the mid 19th century. Once again, a brief foray into hats over bonnets occurred in the late 1850’s when the ‘wide-awake’ was introduced.

It was a revival of the 18th century shepherdess hat that sported a broad brim and shallow crown.

The term ‘milliner’ comes from the Italian city of Milan, where in the 1700’s, the finest straws were braided and the best quality hat forms were made.

18th century Pancake style ‘shepherdess’ hats were popular throughout most of the 18th century, in varying brim widths.

When looking into its history it quickly becomes apparent that it has been both.

Headwear for women began in earnest during the Middle Ages when the church decreed that their hair must be covered.

Turbans were introduced into English fashions in the 1790’s and remained fashionable until the 1820’s.

Style inspiration came from England’s increased trade with India for cotton.

A taste for simpler fabrics in the 1780’s, anticipated the more democratic styles that followed the French Revolution. Simple cotton house bonnets ornamented with a separate ribbon became fashionable for all echelons of society.

The elite still wore hats (sometimes atop the bonnet) with tall crowns adorned with wide silk ribbon bows. They were associated with the upper classes and it was considered stylish to be democratic.

A veil protected her identity and propriety as well as her delicate skin from the sun’s rays.