In the 1940s, as fashion became more utilitarian due to wartime shortages, the hat continued to play an important role in women’s fashion. It may have been even more important than usual, as many of the materials that went into the making of hats were not rationed. A woman might be wearing the same frock as last year (and the year before), but a new or totally refurbished hat was always a possibility. Maybe this is why today we find so many of these wonderful hats from the 1940s.
Even during the war years, hats were very fanciful. As author and professor Grace Margaret Morton put it in 1943, “So when the mood of today’s hats seem frivolous it may be a kind of singing in the dark, the expression of an effort to put a bit of gaity into a world burdened with problems.”
A great deal of thought was put into the selection of a hat, and fashion magazines and books often included advice on how to select the proper hat. Taken from four fashion books, all written in the 1940s, here are some words of wisdom, hat-wise.
Consider the “total effect” when selecting a hat. Look at yourself close up to make sure the hat is flattering to the face. You should also look at yourself in a full length mirror, as most people will see your figure standing. Make sure the hat works with your coat, and also without it. Be sure to wear the coat or suit you’ll be wearing with the hat while shopping for it.
Consider the mood of your ensemble when selecting a hat. A tweedy sports hat would not be appropriate to wear with a dressy afternoon frock. A dressy flowered hat would look odd with a slacks outfit. The hat should give a sense of completeness to the ensemble. A hat should capture the mood and character of both the wearer and the garment with which it is worn.
You should also think of the season. Straw hats are most appropriate for spring and summer. Fur is worn in the fall and winter. Velvet is generally worn in the cooler months, but it is nice to trim a summer hat with a touch of velvet. Felt hats are worn all year, with heavier weights and dark colors for fall, and lightweight felt in pastels for spring and summer.
It is important to remember that not all hats flatter every face. A hat should be chosen with care, making sure it works with your hairstyle and facial features. You should also keep your body size in mind. A huge hat can overpower a small framed wearer, just as a tiny doll hat might look silly on a queen-sized lady.
But probably most importantly, choosing a hat is a matter of personality. A hat can express many things – boldness or shyness, sophistication or femininity, drama or daintiness. A hat can do much for the wearer; it can transform a schoolgirl into a woman, or make a woman of a certain age seem timeless. Or as one writer put it, a hat is a psychological roof. The rest is up to the wearer.
I got help writing this post from:
Chambers, Bernice G.
Color and Design. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1942.
Fashion Fundamentals. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1947. (A must have book for every fashion history library)
Erwin, Mabel D.,Clothing for Moderns. New York: Macmillan, 1949.
Morton, Grace Margaret, The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1943.