Hats and my dirty little secret…

So I have to admit to a dirty little secret. I have harboured a lifelong obsession that can no longer be repressed… millinery!  And not just any ‘vieux chapeaux mes amis’ but the really expensive and eccentric tiles as sported on the runways of Paris, Milan and New York (don’t you just love rolling those names around the tongue).   So how do I start to expand my modest collection of designer hats to feed my habit? Well a blog seemed like a good place to begin, until my teenage daughter pointed out that you need to have about a million followers before you start to be given tons of cool designer stuff. With this in mind I decided to research some of the contemporary fashion gurus and style mavens whilst looking at options for designing and making my own couture millinery.

So first up I guess that I have to acknowledge the origins of ‘hat couture’ and why we started covering our heads with increasingly exotic style statements.  The term  “millinery” was first used in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when Hatters in Milan started to make fine felt, fabric and straw hats known as ‘Milayne bonnets’.  When the fashion spread to London, the makers of these haut couture hats became known as ‘Millianers’.   The Anglo-Saxon word for hat, Haet or haett appears to have signified the shape resembling the petasus; meaning, with crown, wide brim and easily removed from the head. Until the sixteenth century, any hat other than the ‘hood’ was a ‘cap’ in English, or a ‘bonnet’ in French.

A brief look at hats through the ages reveals that they don’t always consist of a crown and brim. In the second half of the fifteenth century, feathers appeared for the first time as an ornament on European headgear. First fashion dictated a single, long, upstanding feather secured in a golden socket or held by a jeweled brooch. Feathers were expensive and by the end of the fifteenth century, a dazzling display of plumage was considered ‘des rigueure’ to demonstrate wealth and status. The plumage of rare Oriental birds were imported and ostrich and peacock were considered the high of good taste and elegance.

Even the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Romans included metallic headdresses and also ribbon entwined in elaborate wigs and coiffures, so over the centuries, it is apparent that there has not been much in the line of head wear that hasn’t already been fashionable at some stage.

As you work through the centuries of the history of millinery, many different hat styles appear, and in many cases the places in which they originated, or prominent people, such as kings and noblemen started trends, thus the introduction of named styles such as the ‘Homburg’ or the ‘Monte Cristi’.

The large felt cocked hat worn be Colonel Theodore Roosevelt’s troop of Rough Riders was named the ‘rough rider’ hat, and the ‘Buffalo Bill’ was named after the famous American guide, scout and showman William J Cody (1846-1917) who was always photographed wearing the wide-brimmed hat.

Stay tuned for featured designers, ‘hats up’ reports from the fashion capitals of the world and progress on my own hat projects and featured hats from both my own modest collection and those of (equally obsessed) friends… you know who you are!

Domenicio1616An evolution of the “Ghirlanda” in a beautiful portrait of Saint Cecilia in the mannerist style by Domenichino (1581-1641) . The Ghirlanda was a kind of headdress decorated with silk, trims (here in gold threads), pearls.


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