A hat, of course, is a head covering. It was originally developed to protect the head from the sun and/or cold, with the earliest known hats dating back to 3200 B.C., worn by ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians. Throughout much of history, hats were used to denote status. Most societies had rules regarding who could wear what type of hat. Men and women wore different types of hats, and some hats were associated with certain professions or activities. Hats fell out of favor during the 1960s, but they began to make a comeback in the 1980s.
Victorian hats, as might be guessed, are inspired by the kinds of hats that were popular during the reign of Queen Victoria (ruled 1837 – 1901). There were many styles of hats during her 60+ year reign, but the large, flower- and feather-laden hats stereotypically associated with the era were actually late Victorian. In that era, hats were considered part of a respectable woman’s (and man’s) attire, and Victorian fashion designers and clothiers took them into account. No respectable woman would leave the house without a hat. These days, Victorian hats are worn for special occasions and/or with vintage clothing. Since middle-class and upper-class women were required to wear hats whenever they went out, they soon had hats for every imaginable occasion. That included riding horses. Victorian riding hats should not be confused with riding helmets which are worn to protect the head. They are strictly decorative and tended to look more masculine than other women’s hats. They were still embellished with decorations like feathers and lace.
The cloche is a snug fitted hat that became very popular in the 1920s. It was frequently considered to be part of the attire of the flappers who were young, fashionable women with little patience for the conventions of the day. Cloches were designed to go with the bobbed or short hair women in the 20s often had.
A cartwheel hat has a wide brim and is saucer-shaped. It is usually worn at an angle in order to show off the brim. Cartwheel hats first appeared in the early 20th century and became extremely popular during the 1930s. It has had a number of revivals since then. Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, has sometimes worn cartwheel hats.
The pillbox hat is a small, brimless hat with stiff upright sides and a flat crown. The modern version first became popular in the 1960s when Jackie Kennedy wore it – but its ancestors were military headgear worn by men. Roman soldiers in the later days of the Empire wore the “Pannonian cap” which resembled the pillbox hat. The modern women’s pillbox hat was first made in the 1930s.
Fascinators are large decorative headpieces that are generally attached to a clip or band. Some fascinators have a base that make them resemble miniature hats, and these are sometimes called “hatinators.” Although the word fascinator has been used to describe headgear since the 19th century, modern fascinators appeared only in the 1990s. They are believed to have been inspired by the small cocktail hats of the 1960s.