Whilst watching an amateur film from 1930 recently, I was inspired to investigate our archive footage of hats. This particular film was just a children’s garden party, but some of the ladies’ head attire was very distinctive. The period moving from the late 1920s into the 1930s is an interesting chapter in the history of women’s fashion, as there was a move away from the shorter skirts and compact cloche hats synonymous with that decade, waist bands moved up to their rightful place and hats started to explore wider horizons.
Of course, fashion’s don’t change overnight; come midnight on the 31st December 1929, charcoal eyeliner didn’t become a taboo item and skirt lengths didn’t just suddenly drop a few inches. That’s why amateur films like this are so wonderful, because they document the hotchpotch of different styles that came with the reality of people’s circumstances, job and age. I bet you’ve got garments in your wardrobe which are over 10 years old, well I dare say men and women throughout the years have had too. So when you view a film like this, that is what you are seeing. This film from 1930 could show middle aged women wearing blouses and their best occasion hats dating from as early as World War I. This explains the motley array of hats on show, which swing between more recognisably 1930s, and the much more dated looking, thigh crowned, numbers that the nannies are wearing.
The absolute zenith of highfalutin hats HAS to be the turn of the century. It seems buckram and straw were merely a vehicle to transport the contents of the local natural history museum around on one’s head. C. 1900 it’s remarkable the ladies of high fashion managed to get out of their front doors, let alone stroll down the Champs Elysees. We have several films documenting the contemporary attire of the French elite, and one of my favourites is a rare, colour fragment showing four women walking up a flight of garden steps.
In addition to the fashions on location style of advertising the latest looks, we have a couple of films which have beautiful close up details of women’s head wear too. These films of rotating living heads also include elaborate hair styles, achieved with fake hair extensions pinned in elaborate arrangements, which are in their own way just as extraordinary as the millinery. (Note the same model used in both of these films below!)
Written by TC Summerford
Sometimes, one feather just isn’t enough…Have a look at our curated collection of films documenting highfalutin hats of the early 20th century here. Just click on the pic!