• Caroline Martin

Hats at the Heritage Village Textile Archive Part 1

The Corning-Painted Post Historical Society textile archive houses a marvelous collection of 19th and 20th century women’s hats. Hats used to be an essential piece of a woman’s outfit and were used to convey wealth and status. They were made in numerous different materials and styles for all different occasions and are reflections of the lives of the women who wore them.

The oldest hat in our collection is this natural straw crochet bonnet with red satin ribbons dating back to 1800. Bonnets were very popular throughout the 1800’s as they were seen as a sign of femininity and modesty, both seen as admirable traits for women in this time period.

The collection holds a few Civil War era hats, including this flat lace natural straw hat with brown satin ribbon. Wide-brimmed hats were popular during this time as it was considered proper for a lady to have pale skin, so larger hats could protect the neck and face from the sun. Hats like this one would have only been worn in the summer months and would have been exchanged for bonnets in the colder months.

This hat from 1900 is made of green velvet and features a mink head and green pheasant feathers. It was fashionable in a time when the larger one’s hat was the higher their status was. From around 1900 to 1910 upper class women would try to outdo each other by having larger and larger hats with more and more decoration. The hair would be piled in the crown of the hat with large pins stuck through it to keep the hat from falling off. This particular one is on the smaller side as it was made before the trend became too extreme.

A prime example of the ostentatious nature of headwear in the early twentieth century is this hat which is actually a full taxidermy pheasant worn in 1915. Wearing feathers and birds as hats was so popular that many bird species became endangered at the cost of this fashion trend. This spurred on the creation of the National Audubon Society, an organization that works for the preservation of birds to this day.

As a kickback to the overly elaborate Edwardian style hats, the hats of the twenties were generally smaller with less decoration. The most popular hat style of the time being cloche hats which originally fit so closely to the head they could only be worn by women with a short bobbed hairstyle. The hats also sat very low on the head causing women to walk with their head slightly tilted up and eyes cast down to see under the brim.

If you would like to learn more, materials in the archive at the Corning-Painted Post Historical Society can be made available by appointment. If you wish to see or donate to our archival collections please call 607-937-5281.

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