Hat Fashions for September 1898: Victorian Pleasures

Hat fashions for September 1898 were “variable and whimsical” and included all types of hats such as toques, carriage hats, and leghorns. One of the latest millinery fashions in 1898 was the forward tilting hat with a drooped effect over the eyes. Trimmings at this time were often “elaborate, and the long spangled quill and spangled wing [vied] … with the ostrich feather and sweeping aigrette. Massed upon the brim and about the crown [were also] nets, laces, and mousseline de soie,”[1] a fine, lightweight crisp fabric created from silk.

Among the hat fashions of September 1898 was the dressy toque that follows. It was designed for the theatre or for other dressy events. It was created from black puffed chiffon, and in order to give it height, “a pair of handsomely jetted curled quills [were] placed at the left side.”[2] In addition, brilliant red silk roses were placed low so that they touched the hair giving it “a stylish completion.”

Hat Fashions for September 1898: Dressy Toque, Author's Collection

Dressy toque. Author’s collection.

Traveling and carriage toilettes were worn by ladies when outdoors or when traveling by coach or train. However, such toilettes were not considered complete until a hat was added. One such fashion was the ladies’ carriage hat. It was said to be created from “stylish velvet” and is shown below. The black upon black hat was trimmed under the lightly upturned brim with two circular frills of black lace that were strategically positioned. The hat was also worn tilted to one side so that the full-blown red silk roses tucked underneath on the left side were prominently displayed. To complete the look and preserve the appearance of height, a profusions of curled and dyed ostrich feathers rose on top of the brim and crown.

Such hat fashions for September 1898 were secured in place by hatpins because they were not only functional but also highly decorative. Hatpins were also usually worn in pairs, decorated with ivory, rhinestones, amber, tortoise shell, or jet ornaments and made from some sort of metal — steel, silver, gold, brass, or copper. They remained a standard millinery accessory into the 1910s.

Hat fashions for September 1898 - Ladies' Carriage Hat, Author's Collection

Ladies’ carriage hat. Author’s collection.

The leghorn hat got its name from the place where the hats shipped from, the Port of Leghorn in Italy. Leghorns, which were supposedly the highest quality straw hats because they were created from superfine straw that was “of the same size and color, and without spots or stains.”[3] Several Italian villages produced the ever popular leghorn hats with all village inhabitants, “from the oldest men and women down to children of three and four years,”[4] employed in the production of them.

In 1898, the Italian leghorn hats were as popular for autumn as they had been for summer, spring, or winter. One leghorn produced at this time and was one of the popular hat fashions for September 1898 is shown below. It is an example of a young ladies’ leghorn hat specifically created for “a fair young face.”[5] It was “slashed and bent at the back and … made with a double brim … oddly but artistically bent.”[6] Between the double brim, Liberty Silk (which was the name of the London firm that printed the silk) was inserted. Then on the right side of the top brim, a large silk chou was tacked in place. For additional height, a large ostrich plume curved backwards over the crown. As was fashionable at the time, the hat was worn slightly tilted forward.

Young Ladies' Leghorn Hat, Author's Collection

Young ladies’ leghorn hat. Author’s collection.

A fancy straw hat is shown below, and it was claimed to have an “air of good style … [and] a small shape.”[7] The green and yellow checked straw was artistically trimmed, and at the front, a large golden taffeta silk bow was positioned for added height. At the rear of the hat, the brim was pinched and bent upwards to meet the crown. Small delicate flowers were also added to cover the brim. Additionally, this fancy straw hat was considered highly versatile because it was said to be “suitable for wear with dressy or severely designed gowns and could [also] be reproduced in any color [desired].”[8]

Hat fashions for September 1898 - Fancy Straw Hat, Author's Collection

Fancy straw hat. Author’s collection.

Although color was highly popular, many hats worn in the late Victorian Era were made entirely of black, a color acceptable almost anywhere, anytime. This was because many women found black hats were the “most becoming,” partly because the color seemed to go well with any woman’s complexion. Among the popular black hat fashions for September 1898 was the stylish all-black hat shown below. It was a simple hat with a brim bent towards the back. It was trimmed at the front with a heavy satin ribbon and completed with numerous loops and bows. In addition, a profusion of ostrich plumes rose above the crown and curl forward from the rear.

Stylish All-Black Hat, Author's Collection

Stylish all-black hat. Author’s collection.

Felt was a highly popular non-woven fabric or textile created in ancient times. It was initially used to create garments and cloaks but eventually became popular in the creation of hats. Beginning in the 1600s, a process called “carroting” occurred. This process involved dipping animal skins into an orange solution of mercuric nitrate. The skins were then dried, stretched, and the fleece removed before being dyed and felted. The mercury solutions and its resultant vapors resulted in widespread cases of mercury poisoning among hatters. Eventually, laws were passed (first in France, then England, and finally in the U.S.) to prevent this poisoning. An example of a felt hat from 1898 is the “charming” stylish white felt fat below. This moderate-sized hat was noted to be “appropriate for late Summer and early Autumn.”[9] It was trimmed with “blue taffeta silk shirred on wires to form a puff about the crown,”[10] and to give it height, two jetted and slightly curved blue quills were positioned inside the puff next to the crown on the left side.

Stylish White Felt Hat, Author's Collection

Stylish white felt hat. Author’s collection.

Toques were also popular in the 1890s. Part of the reason for their popularity was they were compact hats that could be worn year round in cold or hot weather. Moreover, they were often designed to be worn in a variety of situations from casual to dressy social events. The word toque is Breton for “hat” and the word was borrowed by the French to describe both a chef’s uniform and knit cap. One of the toque hat fashions for September 1898 was the turquoise ladies’ toque shown below. It was described as “smart” and designed to be worn to a concert, to the theater, or some other evening event. Created from straw, it was trimmed with various ribbons of silk or satin that matched in color and created a one-color look. Several ribbon loops were placed slightly to the right and also added at the front of the hat to give it height. Additionally, numerous jet ornaments were used to trim the hat, and because jet was extremely brittle, it required great “delicacy and tact on the part of the workman [to create the ornaments].”[11]

Hat fashions for September 1898 - Ladies Toque, Author's Collection

Ladies toque. Author’s collection.


  • [1] The Delineator, Vol. LII, September 1898, p. 335.
  • [2] Ibid., p. 332.
  • [3] Fessenden, Thomas Greene, The New England Farmer, Vol. 1, 1823, p. 212.
  • [4] Ibid.
  • [5] The Delineator, p. 332.
  • [6] Ibid.
  • [7] Ibid.
  • [8] Ibid.
  • [9] Ibid.
  • [10] Ibid.
  • [11] Chambers, William, etal., Chambers’s Journal, Vol. 42, 1865, p. 24.

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