Hats are generally acknowledged to have been around for a long time. A very long time. In fact the Greek at called the “petasos” which looked something like a modern day sombrero is considered the mother of All brimmed hats. In ancient times hats denoted status. In fact in ancient Rome slaves were not allowed to wear hats at all, but if they were freed they were granted a hat in celebration. For centuries hats were considered a mostly male garb. While in many places women did cover their hair in public as a matter of refinement, they did so with various headscarvesand shawls as well as hoods, while men wore hats.
This began to change in the late 1500’s when women’s’ hats began to be made. Through the 1600’s hats began to be designed exclusively for women. Gradually, makers of male hats and ladies hats were separated and the term hat maker came to be used exclusively for makers of male hats while the term milliner came to be used for makers of female hats. The term Milliner comes from the traveling salesmen from Milan, Italy who used to circulate selling hats.
As women’s hats grew in popularity, they began to be decorated elaborately with feathers. Lots of feathers. Sometimes whole birds worth of feathers – and in America the Audubon society registered a formal complaint against it! Slowly womens hat wearing reached its peak around WW1 and then began to decline rapidly after WW2. However when Princess Diana came around she revived the concept of the Dress Hat, wearing hats during formal occasions to add a touch of style to her outfits.
While it is no longer considered scandalous for a woman to walk outside without her hat, still women’s hats continue to be popular. Why? The uses for a hat are so varied that it’s one item that just can’t go away! Religious women who cover their hair for modesty purposes wear hats; women suffering from hair loss wear hats; Women wear hats on windy days to protest their hair style; Women wear sun hats to protect them from the sun; Women wear winter hats in the winter for warmth.
And in true Princess Di style hats for ladies are something of a fashion statement at formal occasion.
by: B. Levi
(Sources include: Fashion Era, E How, Wise Geek, Hat History)