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.
It might seem that the above words could have been written today, but actually the year was 1943. The world was embroiled in a horrible conflict that required the citizens of the world to be brave, and to present a brave face even in the midst of fear. Teacher and writer Grace Margaret Morton wrote the words in her book, The Arts of Costume and Personal Appearance. They sum up perfectly the view many women both in the US and Canada, and in Europe took in response to fear and grave danger.
I’ve spent a lot of time the past several days looking at fashions from the 1940s, with a focus on the top and the bottom – the hats and the shoes. By 1943 women’s shoes were terribly practical, with oxford styles and mid to low heel heights prevailing in the fashion magazines. Colors were very limited, with most styles available only in black and brown.
Hats, on the opposite end of the scale, were fanciful and they varied widely in style. Most prevalent was a modified form of the fedora, but women could buy hats in almost every shape and form imaginable. Berets and turbans, tiny tilt hats that hovered over the eyes, and towering toques that had to be shaped on a stiffened form were available.
The difference in shoes and hats was based somewhat on the materials used to make them. The leather for shoes was in short supply, but hats could be made in many different fabrics, most of which were not rationed.
As a sportswear collector, I do not seek out fancy and elaborate hats and accessories, but when I run across something really great, that I feel helps tell a story, then I can’t resist adding it to my horde. Such is the case with this hat.
It has a little bit of everything. The general shape is that of a Juliet cap, a form that was popular with young American women and teens. But the creator didn’t stop with the addition of sequins and ribbon. To the lower back of the cap, a looping fringe was added, perhaps simulating longer hair.
But what really sold me on this hat was the cut-out heart on the back of the cap. This hat was a real attention-getter!
My new hat has three labels – the size, the store, Scherman Fifth Avenue, and a New York Creations label. I could not find any concrete information about Scherman, but most of the hats I found for sale with the label were from the 1940s and early 1950s. There was also a hat label for Eugene Scherman from the same era. In addition, I located a reference to a E.H. Scherman hat shop located on West 37th Street in 1922.
I have no way of knowing at present if the three different references are related, but the search continues. I would appreciate any information any reader might know or run across about Scherman.
The most extreme hats of WWII were those worn by French women. To learn more about how the French used hats as a protest against German occupation, listen to this Missed in History podcast with fashion historian April Calahan.