Hat Fashions for August 1899: A Variety of Styles

Hat fashions for August 1899 demonstrated that hats had always varied with the fashions, but even more than that, at least according to The Delineator:

“[M]odes in millinery run by no known law or rule, but come and go without rhyme or reason … so that no rule can be given by which the latest style of hat may be identified; that the hat be becoming is the only absolute requirement.”

With no rules, the hat fashions of August 1899 were large and excessively ornamented with chiffon, feathers, and gigantic unnatural-looking flowers. Tulle hats were particularly large and had a profusion of elaborate trimming, but it was the lavishly trimmed Leghorn hats that continued to remain the most popular, being “twisted, dented, and variously fashioned to produce such essentially different results that their identity [was] almost lost.”

Hat Fashions for August 1899: Leghorn Hat, Author's Collection

Leghorn Hat. Author’s collection.

The Leghorn Hat got its name because supposedly the best straw hats were shipped from the Port of Leghorn in Italy. These hats came in two of the season’s most popular colors, cream and butter, with a cream version shown above. Due to the straw’s pliability this particular Leghorn was twisted and fashioned into shape — bent at the back and at the front — so that it presented a style similar to a shepherdess shape, a hat that was known in French as the bergère and shown in the portrait by François Boucher of Madame Bergeret being held by her but was also worn by Marie Antoinette and the Princesse de Lamballe in the 1700s. The one shown here is a soft choux of chiffon and a profusion of yellow primroses were used to trim it and to give it a summer bent.

It has been suggested that the bergère hat was named after Madame Bergeret, who is shown here holding a shepherdess-style hat in artist François Boucher’s portrait of her in 1766. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Black hats were always popular in the Victorian Era no matter the season, and no matter the year. Large black ones, similar to the one shown, were considered fashionable for any and every dressy occasion. This particular black hat was made from coarse, dull straw with a brim that flared away from the face. It was ornamented with rich broad black plumes and a half wreath of pink roses extended from under the brim to the crown. Additionally, roses were crushed under the brim at the back and then nestled into the wearer’s hair.

Large Black Hat, Author's Collection

Large Black Hat. Author’s collection.

The first pictorial depiction of a hat appeared in a Thebes tomb, and, by the Middle Ages hats were worn primarily for social status or to single out a particular group. It was near the same time that structured hats for women were introduced. In the eighteenth century the best hats came from Milan, Italy, which is also where the term milliner originated. By the mid 1800s, women’s hats became larger and a variety of items were used to decorate them, and, by the end of the century, many hat styles were introduced, among them hats with large, unnatural flowers, which were particularly popular during the summer of 1899.

An example of this is another of the hat fashions for August 1899, which is the large blue hat shown below. It has an enormous matching blue silk poppies highlighted by masses of green foliage. The poppies are placed towards the left side of the hat and tacked under the brim at the rear of the hat. This fancy straw hat also has a broad flaring brim and a high crown, which was also extremely fashionable at this time. This hat was also a popular style for hot summer days because it had an ability to shade the wearer’s face and eyes from the hot sun.

Large Blue Hat, Author's Collection

Large Blue Hat. Author’s collection.

The last of the hat fashions for August 1899 is a toque. These type of hats tended to have narrow brims or no brims at all, and they first became popular in Europe — and particularly in France — between the thirteenth and sixteenth century. After they fell out of fashion, they were reintroduced towards the end of the 1800s, and, today, toques are primarily worn by chefs. In the late nineteenth century, when they became fashionable again, women often wore them pushed back off their faces. The toque illustrated below was made from deep-heliotrope satin straw and was fashioned with a low crown and a small rolling brim. To the left of the toque’s center two graceful heliotrope plumes are situated and a soft crush of roses was added under and just above the brim at the front.

Hat fashions for August 1899 - Toque, Author's Collection

Toque. Author’s collection.


  • “Millinery,” The Delineator, August, 1899.

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