Saturday, April 2, 2011


With the approaching royal marriage of Prince William and “Kate,” one can’t help but think about hats. Some of us remember the beautiful Princess Diana’s fabulous wardrobe and her very "necessary" accessory, the hat. Make that The Hat with a capital “T.”

Head coverings for women go way back to when the Church mandated that women's hair should be covered. Isn't that just like women? Give them a lemon, and they'll make lemonade.

Women's head coverings progressed into the once profitable millenary business - the word "milliner" coming from the Italian village of Milan. These first Milan hats were made of braided straw, fashioned for the purpose of protecting fine skin from the sun. No aristocratic lady would have been caught dead exposing her delicate skin to the elements. Did you know that the dainty parasol did not make an appearance until the 1800’s? With the advent of the parasol, the parasol itself became an accessory to compliment a smaller hat.

Who can forget Scarlett O’Hara at the Wilkes’s plantation barbeque, wearing her wide-brimmed straw hat with the green ribbon. Or . . . the adorable hat from Paris, presented to her by the roguishly handsome Rhett Butler.

Then, moving into the time line of the late eighteen hundreds and early twentieth century, women’s fashion took a more slenderizing form. Hats became notoriously wide-brimmed and sometimes humorously ornamental, using not only lace and simple trim, but imitation flowers and fruit, whatever it took to emphasize the splendor of “The Hat” as a necessity for the high class lady. Remember Kate Winslet’s magnificient courtier hat, as she stepped out of the car to board the Titantic?

The 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s, brought hats to a more simple design, worn closer to the head with shorter brims. These fetching hats seemed to have no particular purpose other than be worn as an accessory. Moving into the fifties and sixties, hats seemed to be relegated to being worn to church or some special event. The only fashionable hat I can remember from the sixties was the Jackie Kennedy pill box. The “sixties” brought on the sun worship era. No hats required. After all, we needed that overexposusre of sun. Everyone wanted a tan, the more foolish (I reluctantly confess) using baby oil and iodine mixed together to bring on the ultimate “burn.” Who knew?

Now, with the ozone layer disintegrating and skin cancers becoming rampant, we are learning to cover up again. Tanning beds that make skin look like porous, over-browned toast are becoming, hopefully, a thing of the past. The younger generation is fast learning to preserve their youthfulness, not exploit it.

The marriage of Prince William and “Kate” will no doubt bring the fashion world to its feet again. With Kate’s easy style and gorgeous hats, it can’t miss. But what intrigues us most about Kate is that, like Diana, she’s down to earth, and looks just as fetching in a ball cap as she does in a fancy hat. I admit it, I have “high hopes” for this couple. You see, just like any other romantic schmuck, I like happy endings.

For more information about the history of women's hats, see