Parisian Millinery Fashions of 1802 in English Newspapers

Parisian millinery fashions in 1802 were something that English newspapers always remarked about because the most fashionable of women, such as Madame Récamier, Madame de Staël, or Eliza de Feuillide, knew that they could not be seen without the proper hat when they hit the streets. Newspapers loved to provide all the details related to the last fashions, and millinery was no exception. However, because fashions were constantly change, one London newspaper poked fun at them stating:

“The Parisian Fashions become of more consequence every day, and are likely to drive other matters out of thought. The last bulletin respecting the Gentlemen gives us seven buttons on the lapel of the coat instead of six, and it is hoped the importance of this information will not be lost in any considerations of the Definitive Treaty, the Civil List, & c.”[1]

One of the most famous turban wearers, Madame de Staël. Author’s collection.

Among the most popular piece of Parisian millinery that newspapers reported on in 1802 were turbans. That was despite the Lady’s Magazine exclaiming in 1801 that turbans were out dated. In fact, in January 1802 one newspaper described them as “full-dress head-dresses” and noted that they sported “Asiatic” characteristics. Turbans at this time were also gathered, placed “far back” on the head, and were said to “come down upon the neck and leave only the hair on the right temple; and a few twisted locks, visible.”[2]

Another slightly different description of the 1802 turban stated:

“The full head-dress of our élégantes has assumed a character completely Asiatic. It is principally composed of a turban, placed very backward. The hair separated in front, is concealed behind the turban, over which either a string of pearls or a cluster of brilliant chefs d’argents passes.”[3]

When a woman intended to adorn her turban with diamonds, it was supposed to be either black or white. However, turbans were available in all sorts of fabric from crepe, muslin, and tulle to silk or lace and they came in a wide variety of styles and colors as noted by London Courier and Evening Gazette in late January of 1802:

“The milliners have made within these few days several turbans for full dress. They were of white satin, more oblong than those made by the coeffeurs, with a white crape drapery. Three feathers in a bunch, the end inclining forward upon a white satin hat, or a long, esprit in the front of a turban, are, for the moment, the ordinary ornaments. We see few black hats. Several coeffeurs have resumed the custom of leaving visible behind, or at the side, and sometimes on the forehead, the scarlet poppy colour cap, upon which they establish a white turban. As the turbans are made of shawls, and as the colours of the shawls, particularly square ones, are of infinite variety, we see turbans of all shades and colours.”[4]

Parisian millinery - Turbans.

Turbans fashions. Public domain.

Velvet ribbons with gold borders remained fashionable, and veils, which had been popular in 1801 and worn flat upon headdresses, were now accompanying velvet hats. In fact, they covered them, “except on the front where a red, poppy or feather is generally placed.”[5]

Turbans continued to remain in fashion in February, and, according to the last fashion reports from Paris, they could still be seen on the heads of three-fourths of the women on the streets. When turbans were worn, the prevailing colors for the crowns were black, scarlet, or sky-blue, with white drapery. However, one newspaper also claimed that the two-color turbans were either crimson and white or black and white.

Black velvet turbans were also popular during the winter months. They were decorated with “a bandeau … collar of meshes of gold, square and intermixed with cameos, and others with a golden pin or arrow up on the front, inclining from the right to left.”[6] In addition, these turbans had no plumes or aigrettes.

By March, turbans continued to be the most popular item worn with full-dress, although London Courier and Evening Gazette noted that their shaped had been shortened. In addition, extravagance was the key word when decorating them:

“[A] great deal of tinsel is used in ornamenting them. We have seen some of them black and white, of which, the black part was carpe, embroidered in silver; and the white part, soufflée gauze. Those of cherry, scarlet, poppy, or sky-blue colours, admit also of tinsel. The sky-blue seems to be on the point of being the prevailing colour in full-dress, both head-dresses and robes.”[7]

Near the end of March the Morning Post announced that turbans were no longer the exclusive fashion for full dress.

“We observe any head-dresses ornamented with a bandeau of black velvet, or crape, and other distinguished by diadems of pearls. We also perceive posies of violets in front of the hat. … The hats a la Pamela have suddenly descended to the class of demi-elegantes; however, Ladies of Fashion have not altogether lain them aside, but wear them in a stile different from those in an inferior sphere of life. In general they only wear on the Pamela Hat a plain white ribbon; the ends of this ribbon, as well as of the others, which are used as articles of dress are scolloped, and form a kind of fringe.”[8]

Despite the turban waning in popularity, it was exclaimed in April that such headdresses were pleasing to the eye whereas the latest headdress fashions produced a “very bad effect.” The Pamela (a small bonnet that was tied under the chin with large ribbons) had also lost popularity, but other straw hats were beginning to take center on the Parisian millinery stage as noted:

“They are round, of yellow straw, with a high flat crown, and narrow leaf. They are placed very far back upon the head, and have upon the forehead a turn up, so as to shew a tuft of hair a l’Anglaise. These hats are worn without a chignon. The ends of the ribbons are still unrevelled into a fringe; they are generally lilac, or jonquil, mixed with black.”[9]

By the end of April there was not a mention of turbans. Instead the Morning Chronicle noted the other popular Parisian millinery items were now being seen on the heads of the most fashionable women in Paris.

“Veils of lace bordered with flowers, or only with a poppy or white ribbon, have lately been very much in vogue. The hair is generally worn combed smooth, and presents a new oddity in its dress. The comb which has hitherto been generally worn near the top of the head, is not placed to the left near the root of the hair, which gives a very irregularly appearance to the head-dress. Plumes and tufts of feathers have almost entirely vanished, and the reign of flowers has succeeded. — Among the most favourite are double hyacinths lilac leaves, and flower of poppy. The latter, both flower and leaves, are made of straw, and are worn on straw hats with high crowns and narrow borders, turned up before.”[10]

In May, it was once again noted turbans were scarce, but there were also reports of women in full dress now wearing their own hair. Veils were the popular fashion for half dress and the flowers that had been so popular in April were losing some ground. When it came to undress, straw hats were common, which then resulted in the London Courier and Evening Gazette mentioning that there were 20 varieties to pick from, although, supposedly, yellow straw hats and bonnets of green, dark blue, or rose were the stars.

“The straw hats with a narrow leaf are now turned up at the sides looped, and tied under the chin with a ribbon which passes round the crown. Those with a broad leaf are not in the least turned up, and are worn with a very broad plain white ribbon. Some bonnets are trimmed with two ribbons of a striking colour sewn together, so as that the one forms the middle of the other; orange, for example, or amaranthus, upon a dark green or a dark blue.”[11]  

Parisian millinery for 1802

Various Parisian millinery fashions 1802. Public domain.

June and July saw veils continuing their popularity with Parisian fashion leaders. These veils were almost entirely of lace and were situated so at to be flat on the hair. They then fell over a woman’s back and shoulders. Because a woman’s hair was now be worn naturally, it was frequently embellished with an engraved shell or cornelian comb or some sort of pin with an oval head that often contained a cameo.

The months of June and July found that the most popular Parisian millinery were round yellow straw hats with high crowns. These hats were made more “novel” or unique “by binding the part turned up … with a party coloured ribbon, the ends of which [were tied] … under the chin.”[12] However, in July, the Evening Mail remarked on what the Elégantes were embracing in way of millinery fashions:

“[T]he headdress en marmotte, tied at the side and extending over the cheek. White, black, and yellow hats, of straw, have each numerous votaries. The first are ornamented with jonquil or rose ribband, the second with violet, and the third are decorated with floating stripes of variegated hue, or rich fringe.”[13]  

Parisian millinery - How to Pluck a Goose

Millinery fashions shown in engraving titled “How to Pluck a Goose,” by Thomas Rowlandson dated 10 June 1802. Courtesy of Met Museum.

By August, black straw hats had gained popularity and were sometimes jauntily placed on the side of a woman’s head. They were also ornamented with either rose-colored ribbons or with poppy-colored ones stripped with black. However, despite the apparent popularity for black straw hats, Bell’s Weekly Messenger noted that at the Opera there seemed to be no common Parisian millinery fashions at the time:

“There were seen head-dresses in smooth hair, a la Titus; bandeaus of diamonds; diadems of diamonds; veils thrown backwards and fastened on the forehead by a bandeau; crowns of flowers, turbans, &c. &c but a very few hats. … The predominant colour for ribbons is rose, jonquil, and black; they are much worn in black straw hats, and indeed in such profusion, that at whatever distance little can be discovered but the colour of the ribbon.”[14]  

By the end of September black hats were still in vogue, although overall straw hats were less common. Newspapers were also reporting that lace handkerchiefs worn en marmotte were now a preferred fashion in Paris.

“They are made up in a new fashion by spreading them more, and advancing them farther upon the cheeks. The lace veils laid flat upon the hair no longer come down upon the forehead; on the contrary they are thrown back so far, they would fall, if they were not fixed with a pin to the back of the head.”[15]

Another Evening Mail reported on the latest Parisian millinery fashions in September writing:

“The fichus, en marmotte, are more numerous than they have been yet. They are worn upon the hair, upon hats, upon little mace mobs. The black straw hats maintain their usual size and shape, but the other hats are broader in the leaf, hence it follows, that the fichu or ribbon, which brings them down at the sides, and the ends of which are knotted under the chin, gives them all a crushed appearance.”[16]

In October, turbans regained their previous popularity and were cited as one of the most fashionable headdresses. They were still being created from all sorts of shawls and fashion and newspapers noted that they tended to be oval-shaped rather than round. In addition, some had the ends hanging down, sometimes over the shoulder. Veils also remained popular for half dress and were frequently worn to cover about three-fourths of a woman’s hair and as usual descended onto a woman’s shoulder as if a shawl.

Besides turbans and veils, the other principal Parisian millinery fashion popular during the months of October and November was said to be the following:

“Florence hats with negligent drapery, are still worn. We also see some English capotes, which are round and flat behind, and have in the front a broad brim in the direction of the back part, and forming a sort of arch that overshadows the face. … In the morning lappets are worn with the ends tied under the chin, or caps of embroidered tulle, to which a long broad fringe is sometimes attached. For riding, rough beaver hats are used; they are of reddish grey, and are ornamented with one or two ostrich feathers of the same colour; the brim is sometimes turned up on the right, sometimes on the left, and sometimes in front.”[17]  

In November, the rage for tinsel was greater than ever in Parisian millinery, and, in fact, it was reported that it was not just worn on turbans but also on tulle gauze mob caps. Hats with only velvet were rare at this time as they were usually created from a combination of velvet and satin with bands of satin used in place of ribbon. In addition, black velvet was usually complimented by rose-colored satin, white satin by black amaranth, and jonquil satin was matched with black velvet.

By December Parisian millinery fashions were subtly changing again. Beaver hats were falling out of favor while turbans with gold combs and gold pins remained fashionable. Lace fichus continued in popularity and other millinery fashions were as indicated:

“Bands of orange velvet, upon black velvet hats, are very common. Hats of entire orange velvet are not rare; and the flies or spots now coming into fashion are generally black crape, upon an orange ground. A thing very uncommon for Paris, coloured feathers are worn with coloured hats. These feathers are flat. They seldom wear round feathers, except of black.”[18]


  • [1] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Paris, Feb. 20,” February 27, 1802, p. 3.
  • [2] Morning Post, “Parisian Fashion,” January 18, 1802, p. 2.
  • [3] Bury and Norwich Post, “Parisian Fashions,” January 13, 1802, p. 4.
  • [4] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” January 25, 1802, p. 3.
  • [5] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” January 5, 1802, p. 3.
  • [6] Morning Post, “Parisian Fashions,” February 26, 1802, p. 3.
  • [7] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” March 2, 1802, p. 3.
  • [8] Bell’s Weekly Messenger, “Fashions, Anecdotes, &c.,” March 28, 1802, p. 3.
  • [9] Morning Post, “Parisian Fashions,” April 2, 1802, p. 3.
  • [10] Morning Chronicle, “Parisian Fashions,” April 27, 1802, p. 3.
  • [11] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” May 18, 1802, p. 3.
  • [12] London Courier and Evening Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” June 1, 1802, p. 3.
  • [13] Evening Mail, “Parisian Fashions,” July 16, 1802, p. 2.
  • [14] Bell’s Weekly Messenger, “Parisian Fashions,” August 1, 1802, p. 2.
  • [15] Chester Courant, “Parisian Fashions,” September 14, 1802, p. 2.
  • [16] Evening Mail, “Parisian Fashions,” September 8, 1802, p. 3.
  • [17] Bell’s Weekly Messenger, “Parisian Fashions,” October 17, 1802, p. 2.
  • [18] Lancaster Gazette, “Parisian Fashions,” December 11, 1802, p. 4.


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