V89: Fashion Face-Off – Hats of the 1780s and 1910s

As we all know, history repeats itself, and fashion especially.  Nothing is ever “new” on the runway (well, maybe if it’s a suit made out of bubble wrap, etc.), and this was true of past designers as well.  Today in the Battle of Fashion we have headgear of the 1780s facing off against that of the c. 1910s (and a little earlier).

Fashion plate from Dames a La Mode; 1905 Hat from The Met

I noticed the similarities in these two periods while finding inspiration for a Titanic Day hat of my own.  The lampshade brims and the large “muffin top” crowns I was looking at for 1912 were so reminiscent of the monstro-bonnets of my favorite decade of dress, the 1780s.

Dames a la Mode; 1910 hat from The Met

Doesn’t it seem logical that one hat could do both jobs?  The black silk on the right, above, with the addition of some tall feathers, could surely time travel back to the 1780s, especially with that giant, snazzy buckle and bow.

Dames a la Mode; BartosCollection.com

It’s a well-known fact that the Edwardians took chapeau inspiration from the 18th century – the “Gainsborough,” for instance – but I didn’t realize the Merry Widow also derived from this period.

Dames a la Mode; 1910s hat by Hess

So what do you think?  Which period does it better?  It’s hard to trump the outlandishly awesome style of the 1780s, but the Edwardians were pretty sharply dressed, too.  Which one has your vote?

*Fashion plates were found at Dames a la Mode on Tumblr – great resource!


  • Cait

    March 29, 2012 at 6:47 PM

    Wow that site is a great reasource! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    Oh and count me in as a vote for the Edwardians, I'm just a sucker for ostrich feathers 🙂

  • Zach

    March 29, 2012 at 7:24 PM

    I'm an Edwardian lover through and through! Maybe it is simply because I have only ever seen fashion prints of the 1780s hats, but those seem a tad on the ridiculous side. I especially like the picture of the woman wearing the black hat!

  • Tarra Walker

    March 29, 2012 at 8:31 PM

    I've GOT to find my photos from an event in Puerto Rico 2 years ago. One of the ladies made a hat based on your first image listed… I'll dig and then send it to you via facebook.

  • Sam Miller

    March 29, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    I wonder if the drawings are deliberately more huge. Perhaps it was a kind of exaggerationin much the same way as designers draw those sweeping willowy ladies today. The Edwardian hats are real and so will actually fit a head.

  • Angela

    March 30, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    I like both. However, the 1910's versions are a little tidier and look to be a lot easier to wear without looking too silly. Yet, within the context of their contemporary times I like them both. Thanks for sharing. It is good to note that there was an 1th century revival that started in the early teens and lasted through the mid 1920's. If you look at domestic – household trends – you can see a lot of late 18th century influence. Cheers.

    • Lauren R

      April 1, 2012 at 11:10 PM

      I agree – I haven't figured out what's going on with the veil stuff at the backs of the 1780s. My experiment is to make one hat and wear it with both time periods. Pics on that soon 🙂

  • Unknown

    June 23, 2015 at 2:09 AM

    is there anyone who can give me information on the muffin/mop cap style of headgear seen in "reading a book, a tedious story, bad news, an interesting story" etc. by Tissot i have burned up house in research, and still do not have the needed information–even a start would be helpful–thanks

    • Lauren Stowell

      June 23, 2015 at 3:49 AM

      Hi Ang – what kind of information are you looking for? The cap in the painting is a very large "dormeuse" style cap that would have been worn in the late 18th century. They were made of light cotton, linen, silk organza, and could be very decorative and large, sometimes worn over a huge hairstyle and under a hat, or to cover the hair completely. These were for day only – they were not considered formal and would not have been worn in the evening.

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