Hat Fashions for September 1880 that were Popular

Victorian women, such as feminist Hubertine Auclert, Esther Howland, and Consuleo Vanderbilt, were just some of the women who embraced popular hat fashions for September 1880. At the time, flower bonnets were all the rage in 1880, but a handsome feather was also “fashionable and stylish, and when gracefully and tastefully arranged, … always becoming.” Yet, feathers were not particularly cheap. The nineteenth century fashion magazine, The Delineator, noted:

“A handsome feather is a prize … More especially is the purchase of a black feather a measure of discretion. It may cost considerable … but years of service, and its undiminished stylish appearance, will more than pay for the original cost.”

Ostrich feather. Author’s collection.

Of the feathers available, it was the ostrich feathers that were considered to be the most “novel.” They were long and curly and usually displayed in twos and of contrasting colors: “cardinal and sulphur, sage-green and cardinal, peacock-blue and mauve, or lavender and old-gold.” Additionally, much to the delight of hat wearer’s was the demise of “placing three funeral-looking black … [feathers] on the side of bonnet, each one waving a different way … for the sight of the nodding plumes was anything but agreeable or artistic.”

Feathers weren’t the only popular thing. Felt hats were also popular in 1880, and it didn’t matter if the felt hat was large or small, although large ones were preferred. Additionally, felt hats came in a wide range of colors: “garnet, claret, dark-green, sage-green, navy-blue, peacock-blue and black.” Demonstrative of the colorful styles of 1880 is the Ladies’ Hat shown below. It has a flared brim lined with ox-blood colored velvet, and, encircling the tall, sloping crown is a long, curved matching colored ostrich plume that emerges from beneath a cluster of blood-red, pansy-like flowers and green foliage.

Hat Fashions for September 1880

Ladies’ Hat. Author’s collection.

Another of the popular hat fashions for September 1880 was a Ladies’ Bonnet created from felt but trimmed with “ostrich tips and a broad satin ribbon.” Its classic appearance is shown in its wide brim and the flaring front. Additionally, it was lined with velvet to within two inches of the edge where a band of decorative passementerie has been applied. To wear this bonnet properly, it was advised that “the hair should be dressed in braids at the back, and in puffs and waves or fizzes in [the] front.”

hat fashions for September 1880 - Ladies' Bonnet

Ladies’ Bonnet. Author’s collection.

Small hats, generally intended for small-headed people, were also popular. An example of one of the more popular small hats, is the Ladies’ Hat below. It has a tall, sloping crown with a close brim. The crown is created from gray felt and the brim is covered with a soft twist of red velvet, in either an ox-blood or a garnet shade. A matching knot of velvet is also located on the left side, and, at the back, one gray and one red tipped ostrich feather are attached to fall forward on the right side and created what was termed a “jaunty look.”

Ladies' Hat, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Hat. Author’s Collection.

The Ladies’ Mourning Bonnet below is a coronet-shaped bonnet with grosgrain ribbon used to tie the bonnet under the chin and one of the hat fashions for September 1880. The crown was smoothly covered with crape — now more frequently spelled crepe, which was a stiff, scratching silk fabric particularly associated with mourning that also had an unusual crimped appearance produced from heat. The sides and coronet of the hat were overlaid with folded pieces of crape. A plaited lisse ruching surrounds the face, and there is the added detail of a buckle pinned in the middle of the bow at the top of the bonnet. Because there were very strict rules for mourning in the Victorian Era, different stages of mourning required different garments. However, this bonnet offered its wearer an advantage in that it could be adjusted to fit all the different mourning stages. For instance, the deepest level of mourning (a widow for her husband) required black to be worn as it was symbolic of spiritual darkness, and, if a woman was undergoing the deepest mourning, this bonnet could be easily “made of dress material and worn with a long crape vail [sic].”

hat fashions for September 1880 - Ladies' Mourning Bonnet

Ladies’ Mourning Bonnet, Author’s Collection

Another of the hat fashions for September 1880 was the felt Ladies’ Bonnet shown below. This particular bonnet, said to be “dainty” and “very simply trimmed” has a cluster of autumn leaves attached on the left side. Similar to the Ladies’ Mourning Bonnet above, it also ties under the chin but uses a broad satin ribbon that could be knotted under the chin or, if desired, on the left side. Additionally, the ties pass over the back of the crown, with a bow on the left side and a fancy beetle pin attached on the right. There were also several other ways a wearer could trim this hat: a crushed knot of plush — a soft napped, rich fabric created from silk, cotton, or wool, or a combination of these fabrics — could replace the autumn leaves, or, if desired, “a fancy [bird] breast or a large Alsacian [sic] bow of ribbon [could also be substituted].”

Ladies' Bonnet, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Bonnet. Author’s Collection.

As mentioned flower bonnets were all the rage in 1880, and supposedly one of the prettiest bonnets was the Ladies’ Flower Bonnet. It was a sort of Fanchon shape, created from a foundation of lace and wire and covered with hundreds of fresh violet blooms. Violets are known for their “flirty” fragrance, which is attributed to chemical substances that  turn off a human’s ability to smell the fragrance and makes the violet’s scent come and go. In the midst of these flirty blooms is an ox-blood ribbon bow secured on the left side. Fortunately, this bonnet was not the only flower bonnet created. Bonnets of buttercups, pansies, crushed roses, and hollyhocks were sometimes created for evening wear and came complete with ornate “ties of silk, illusion, or Spanish lace.” When ties were omitted it was suggested a woman’s “hair … be prettily dressed.”

Ladies' Flower Bonnet, Author's Collection

Ladies’ Flower Bonnet. Author’s collection.


  • “Autumn Millinery,” Vol. XVI, No. 3, The Delineator, September 1880.
  • “Illustrated Miscellany,” Vol. XVI, No. 3, The Delineator, September 1880.

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