Hat Fashions for February 1898: A Victorian Variety

Hat fashions for February 1898 saw all sorts of millinery styles with few flowers as they had been replaced by feathers. Relegated to second place for a time, ostrich tips had begun to assert their supremacy once again and many midwinter hats began to sport them. The Paradise aigrette was also still busy waving over dressy hats, but it was slowly being replaced by quill-like osprey feathers and acquiring many new admirers. Many of the late winter Victorian hats were also glittering with jet pailettes. These were used to impart brilliancy and placed on brims, crowns, or both.

Milliners continued to cling to jeweled ornaments, such as rhinestones, steel decorations, and buckles, all of which were ubiquitous and regularly seen on millinery during this period. Brilliant colors distinguished evening millinery from day wear. For example, shiny ornaments and mock jewels were added for the artificial lights of evening so that they would glitter and sparkle as if they were chandeliers. Demonstrative of this is the sparkly steel ornament that crowns the front of the pale blue ladies’ evening bonnet below. Note that tulle forms the main part of this evening bonnet and that it is decorated with an ostrich plume and an aigrette, in addition to the sparkly steel ornament.

Hat Fashions for February 1898: Ladies' Evening Bonnet, Author's Collection

Ladies’ evening Bonnet. Author’s collection.

Another of the hat fashion for February 1898 is the bonnet shown below. According to women’s fashion magazine The Delineator, “it is in good taste for either day or evening wear.”[1] It sports a high crown and its soft velvet brim drapes in toque style. Additionally, the shirred velvet crown is trimmed with tiny upright ruffles of lace edging above narrow velvet ribbon, and black ostrich plumes and an aigrette offer added height and character to the hat.

Hat Fashions for February 1898 - Ladies' Bonnet, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Bonnet. Author’s collection.

Small birds, animals, or reptiles often adorned hats in the late 1800s and were most popular with middle-class women. An example of one of the hat fashions for February 1898 that embraced this idea was the ladies’ toque shown below. Although it was made primarily from a brilliant colored green velvet, it had a tiny otter head with glistening jeweled eyes and a sweeping tail. Another tail was placed upright and prominently centered on the hat with a white aigrette strategically placed at the top of the hat, left of the upright tail.

Hat Fashions for February 1898 - Ladies' Toque, Author's Collection

Ladies’ toque. Author’s collection.

Black remained a popular color for bonnets and hats in mid-winter 1897. Velvet, which had been used for years, was also one of the most popular fabrics to cover them as shown in the young ladies bonnet made from black velvet. It was worn on a tilt, had a moderately high crown, and a soft rolled brim. Graceful ostrich plumes were added to offset the overall heaviness of the hat. In addition, velvet and velvet flowers were placed under the brim as decorations.

Young Ladies' Hat, Author's Collection

Young ladies’ hat. Author’s collection.

The following ladies’ toque shows a variety of the mid-winter season’s most popular ornaments. This particular hat was deemed “suitable for street, concert, church, or theatre wear,” which meant people like Emilie Charlotte Langtry, better known as Lily Langtry, or Mark Twain‘s daughters, Clara or Jean, might have worn this type of stylish hat. The one shown here is a combination of embroidered chiffon, velvet, feathers, and a beautiful oval rhinestone ornament placed inside a velvet chou. The chiffon also has a narrow velvet ribbon along its frilled edge.

Ladies' Toque, Author's Collection

Ladies’ toque. Author’s collection.

Bonnets appeared to be a particularly popular among the hat fashion for February 1898. One is illustrated below and is another ladies’ bonnet. Once again there is a profusion of ornaments. It has what was termed “a dainty chapeau” of pansy velvet trimmed with plumage, an aigrette, iridescent gimp, and other ornaments that created a stylish bonnet for the fashionable Victorian lady out for an evening on the town.

Ladies' Bonnet, Author's Collection

Ladies’ bonnet. Author’s collection.


  • “Millinery,” The Delineator, February 1898.

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