Hat Fashions for August 1898: Popular Victorian Millinery

Victorian women wore hats year round, which meant there were hat fashions for August 1898. These summer hats were “well-dressed in a wealth of blooms that, if reproduced by the florist, would ensure his fortune.”[1] Among the blooms were roses, violets, poppies, and other brilliant colored flowers. These were often placed high in the back, graduating to nothing in the front. In addition, transparent textiles were one of the most popular ornamentation for the hot summer months, although feathers still held a prominent role and were “adjusted with an air of lightness extremely pleasing to the artistic eye.”[2] Hat shapes did not have much variation in 1898 but two of the more fashionable shapes were the sailor and the English walking hat. As to how hats were worn, the wearing of hats up and off the face was just beginning to take hold, although the fashion did not supplant “the much-favored dipped shapes … [because they protected] the eyes from the glare of the sun.”[3]

Among the hat fashions for August 1898 was the Chiffon Hat below. It suggested the English walking hat in shape, but the roll of the brim was more modified than those of similar shaped straw hats. It also a frill at the edge and was decorated with narrow velvet ribbon rosettes composed of long loops held together by circular rhinestone ornaments. Lilies of the valley and its foliage, along with a Paradise aigrette, completed the hat. (One side note about the lily of the valley. Christian legends are associated with it and claim that it sprang up when the Virgin Mary wept at Jesus’s crucifixion. Moreover, the lily of the valley has long been considered a sign of Jesus’s second coming.)

Hat Fashions for August 1898: Chiffon Hat, Author's Collection

Chiffon Hat. Author’s Collection.

The Ladies’ Carriage Hat was described as a “large Leghorn bent to suit the face.”[4] It was trimmed with three large curling yellow plumes and bleeding hearts. These were an Asian plant first introduction to England in the 1840s by a Scottish botanist named Robert Fortune, who is best known for having introduced the tea plant from China to India and helping establish the tea industry there. Yellow silk muslin with a crisp finish was also used to trim the hat, and mousseline de soie was folded and caught near the front by a fancy unique-shaped rhinestone buckle. The underside of the hat was trimmed with flowers and tulle.

Ladies' Carriage Hat, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Carriage Hat. Author’s collection.

One of the most popular hat fashions for August 1898 was the sailor hat “because of its almost universal becomingness [sic] and variety of ways in which it [could] … be trimmed.”[5] Additionally, sailor hats were popular because it was claimed a woman could adapt sailor hats for any and all purposes. The Sailor Hat below was a fine straw narrow-back hat adorned with a twist of tinted velvet and a profusion of velvet-dotted tulle that draped artistically around the brim. A spray of fine flowers with foliage was also placed at the left side and provided “height … essential to a good effect.”[6]

Hat fashions for August 1898 - Sailor Hat, Author's Collection

Sailor Hat. Author’s collection.

Because of their intrinsic beauty, feathers and quills were added to hats almost as soon as women began wearing millinery. As feather and quills became more popular, complaints began to surface about the threat such usage caused to bird populations. W.H. Hudson, British author, naturalist, and ornithologist, summed up his thoughts on the subject in the late 1800s stating:

“[N]o man who has given any thought to the subject, who has any love of nature in his soul, can see a woman decorated with dead birds, or their wings, or nuptial plumes, without a feeling of repugnance for the wearer, however, beautiful or charming she may be.”[7]

However, Hudson’s statement did not deter or stop Victorian women from adorning their millinery with feathers. One example of how feathers were worn is illustrated in the Ladies’ Walking Hat below. It was created from black straw combined with taffeta silk. The brim had a deep roll, and decorating the hat were a pair of wings and two quills, which are of the curled variety. Additionally, the quills provided extra height rising behind the wings.

Ladies' Walking Hat, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Walking Hat. Author’s collection.

Popular hat fashions for August 1898 included another hat, shown below, with a profusion of feathers. This Ladies’ Hat had folds of rich black silk that helped to give it “a stylish shape” and an aggressively towering arrangement of coq or coque feathers of greenish-black were placed on the left side in a “decidedly novel [way].” A coque or coq was a tuft of rooster feathers combined together with glue or tape. Rooster feathers were used in the hope that milliners and consumers would stop the decimation of wild bird populations. These feathers also came in as many colors as roosters but could also be dyed thereby creating an endless variety of colors. Unfortunately, there was a problem when dying rooster feathers: They lost their natural iridescence. This hat fashion was finished off with a horizontal, gold and green buckle placed on a slant near the base of the coque feathers.

Hat fashions for August 1898 - Ladies' Hat, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Hat. Author’s collection.

Hat fashions for August 1898 included the most valuable of straw hats, the Leghorn, which began to be imported in the early 1700s. Part of the reason why these hats were so popular was that the straw was grown in Italy’s Tuscany region with “only the pipe of the upper joint … used for plaiting … [and] the plait … of the highest quality [taking] … from 6 to 9 months [to make].”[8] Whether the Leghorn Hat below was of the highest quality or not is unknown, but this particular hat was said to be best styled and suited for “youthful faces.” It was trimmed around its moderate height crown with ribbons that matched nosegays of forget-me-nots. These were five-lobed flowers that bloomed in spring and were worn by women as a sign of their faithfulness and enduring love. Additionally, a checked band of fancy straw was used to surround the crown and brim.

Hat fashions for August 1898 - Leghorn Hat, Author's Collection

Leghorn Hat. Author’s collection.

The last of the hat fashions for August 1898 is a Toque. These first became popular in thirteen century Europe. The modern toque is popularly believed to have originated with the French chef Marie-Antoine Carême. In 1898, many were made from “alternate rows of ribbons of different width and rows of straw upon a net foundation.”[9] Toque brims were also often underlined with rows of stitching or folds of tulle, straw, or crepe with the edges finished by ribbon. This particular Toque was designed for dressy wear and was a “Frenchy little toque … [of a] convoluted shape in fine fancy straw.”[10] Black chiffon ruching edged it and gave it a subdued look while “full-blown pink roses with a few leaves nestled in the folds of the silk [were placed] at the left.”[11] A black aigrette, which got its name from the tufted crest or head-plumes seen on the egret, rose from the center of the hat and a unique-shaped gold pin was secured at the base.

Toque, Author's Collection

Toque. Author’s collection.


  • [1] The Delineator, August 1898, p. 207.
  • [2] Ibid.
  • [3] Ibid.
  • [4] Ibid., p. 204.
  • [5] Ibid.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Nature Notes: The Selborne’s Society Magazine, Vol. 4, 1893, p. 213.
  • [8] Black, Charles Bertram, The Riviera, Or the Coast from Marseilles to Leghorn, 1898, p. 161.
  • [9] The Delineator, p. 207.
  • [10] Ibid., p. 204.
  • [11] Ibid., p. 207.

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