August 5, 2015

Closet Histories no. 4.11: 18th Century Hats

As evidenced by my habit of waxing poetically about them, hats are one of my passions! Today I thought we would take a look at a few of the more prominent hat styles of the later half of the 18th century. Firstly a note about caps!

Cap, Mid 18th century, European, Cotton, MET
 The cap was an important part of an 18th century woman's wardrobe. A cap, of fine linen or lace for the upper classes, and of the best linen one could afford for the middling and lower classes, was an essential basic hair covering for propriety. Worn alone, or topped with a hat, the cap had many variations. As I am more interested in hats rather than caps, I have collected a few other fantastic posts about caps from other historic costume enthusiasts:

- A Most Beguiling Accomplishment: Earlier 18th Century Caps
- Isis' Wardrobe: Extant 18th Century Caps
- Isis' Wardrobe: 18th Century Wired Caps
- The Margret Hunter Millinery Shop of Colonial Williamsburg makes wonderful froofy caps!
- Some more excellent cap reproductions here!

Portrait of a lady said to be Mrs Godwin, neé Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) , 1792
I did want to include this one portrait portraying a super ginormous late 18th century cap! Caps became more and more elaborate and larger and larger as the century drew closer to a close. So did hats, but lets not get ahead of ourselves...

To begin, we will take a look at one of the most popular styles of hat in the 18th century, the bergère! The bergère was a rather flat, round, low crowed had, usually made of straw whether covered with silk on top or not. Decorated with a simple ribbon or a profusion of trimmings, the bergère could be worn curved over the hair, tied onto the front at a rather precarious angle, or simply tied over one's cap flat on the head. Lets take a look at a few bergère...

The White Hat, about 1780, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, MFA
 A lovely example of a trimmed bergère! The low crowned (possibly even no crown, aka flat)
hat is covered in white silk, then trimmed with pleated sheer fabric, an ostrich feather and ribbon.

Margaret Woffington, ca. 1760, Nathaniel Hone, The Tansey Miniatures Foundation
 An earlier black silk bergère with lace trim around the brim with a collection of trimmings covering the crown.

Hat (bergère), French, 18th Century, MFA
Underside of the same hat, Hat (bergère), French, 18th Century, MFA
A crown doesn't get lower than this, this is essentially flat! The MFA describes the underside as "Green silk gauze brim bottom and crown lining decorated with green and pink silk cording and lavender silk artificial flowers to one side. Blue-green grosgrain ribbon chin tie"

Detail lining, bergère, Netherlands, c.1725-1775. Straw hat with green and red striped silk ribbons, fully lined with cotton (indienne fabric).
Underside of the hat above!
So simple on the top and so colorful and busy on the bottom!

Provenance/Rights: Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart (Photo: P. Frankenstein; H. Zwietsch)
 A lovely little bergère with multicolored silk fly fringe!

Bergère, The Netherlands, 1750-1800. Straw, with a flat crown, grey silk ribbon with woven flowers in pink and purple, underside with a flowered satin lining.
 I find these extant examples with dramatic silk or patterned undersides so interesting! I never would have guessed these lovely straw hats would have such loud linings!

Hat, 1720-50, Italian, Silk, MET
A sleeker example in ivory silk with long ribbon ties. You can really tell the hat itself is straw underneath the silk.

Colonial Williamsburg Bergere Hat 1760-1785 English, silk over straw, replaced ties
 So lovely! I want one!

Bergère, Great Britain, 1750-1780. Straw, covered in cream silk, outer edge trimmed with cream lace, decorated with cream silk ribbons.
Those puffy loops of ribbon around the crown! Swoon!

Then we have another variety of hat, that I don't have a name for, in a similar shape to the bergère only with a taller crown. When I say taller, I don't mean by much. I am tempted to just call these hats picture hats, as the huge brims certainly do frame the face!

The Honourable Elizabeth Ingram (1762–1817)(later Mrs Hugo Meynell), 1787, Leeds Museum
Mrs. Downey by Sir Henry Raeburn, 1788
Woman's Straw Hat, 1750-75, England or France, MFA
 Look at that detailed straw work embroidery! Superb!

"Lady Elizabeth Foster" (in a chemise a la reine), Angelica Kauffman, 1785; Ickworth House
 Undeniably a huge picture hat! The hat that was copied for Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire to wear in the film the Duchess (ironic if you know who Lady Elizabeth Foster is above), and then copied by me as seen earlier this week!

Duchess of Devonshire by Thomas Gainsborough, 1785–87
The Duchess herself, wearing an XXL picture hat in black!

Then after the shorter crowned picture hats, there are the taller crowed hats!

Mary Boteler (c.1763–1852)by John Hoppner, 1786
 Can you just imagine how large this hat actually would be in person? It's gorgeous, but huge!
Anna Maria and Thomas Jenkins, by Angelica Kauffman, 1790. National Portrait Gallery (London)
Catherine Clemens, George Romney, 1788
 That is a really tall crown! The direct opposite of a bergère!

Portrait of Marie Dauncey, 1789, by James Northcote
Sir Joshua Reynolds  (1723–1792) Elizabeth, Lady Taylor, ca. 1780
These taller hats also come in varying sizes from proportional to gargantuan! Another popular style was the bonnet, which has seen so many stylistic variations as the basic idea remained the same from the 18th century through the early 20th century.

Fashion plate of unknown origin, if you know, let me know!
 I mean, just look at the size of that thing! Bonnets could also be much smaller and much more practical. A slightly less crazy style was the Market Hat, which Lauren of American Duchess goes into more detail about in this post here.

Black silk bonnet "Market Hat" from the collections of Colonial Williamsburg.
 Seeing Lauren's photos from Williamsburg where she and a few other ladies are rocking their black Market Hats, I now have an intense desire to make one! They are so pretty!

"Portrait of Miss Palmer" by Sir Joshua Reynolds,  
 This hat/bonnet seems to be similar in style to the market hat, only is done in white.

A reproduction by the Mantua makers of Colonial Williamsburg
Are you still reading this? Congrats! This post is super long already and I'm not even done, almost though...

I haven't even touched on turbans...

Jean-Étienne Liotard, Portrait of a Young Woman, late 18th century
"Dorothy Walpole, Viscountess Townshend", Charles Jervas, ca. 1718; Dulwich Picture Gallery
 Two examples decades apart, and yet the basics of a turban style are relatively timeless. The waves of exoticism in 18th century fashion fueled the turban love.

"Portrait d'Aglaé de Gramont née de Polignac, duchesse de Guiche" by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Lebrun (1794)
 I feel I haven't even brushed the surface :( So many hats, so little time! I adore the chic streamlined bergère and the ginormous picture hats of the 18th century! Hopefully you have enjoyed this photo spam of just a few of the 18th century's most popular styles.

All of the information for this post has been gathered from the textbook Survey of Historic Costume (5th edition) by Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eurbank, from the links above or my own knowledge. I want to share the resources I come across with all of you as much as possible. The portraits used to illustrate today's post were sourced from Pinterest and can be accessed here.. Again I repeat my disclaimer that I am not a historian, and if you have corrections or additions for this post, please begin the discussion in comments as I would love to learn more!


  1. Thank you for sharing all this! I adore fashion history, but unfortunately things like this just isn't taught in schools. :( The paintings are gorgeous, and I especially love the third one where the lady is wearing black with pastel blue - what an interesting combination!

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it Ellie! I wish they taught historic fashion in regular school, sadly it is a bit of a niche interest! I was fortunate enough to take historic costume classes at university. though sometimes it seemed like after doing all the research I had through the years, I knew more about some era's than my professors :)

  2. Magnificent post! I would wear just about all of these right here, right now. It's breathtaking just how many of them could be blended seamlessly into mid-century looks.

    Thank you for another truly wonderful, detailed, richly imaged filled historical fashion post. They're always such an informative, inspiring joy!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you so much Jessica! The bergère definitely came back in a big way in the late 40's/50's, I have a velvet one I am looking forward to wearing with my 50's dresses this winter!


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