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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Topping It Off - Late 18th Century Hats by Cynthia Howerter

Everyone wore hats during colonial times. No matter the style or the wearer, hats served a purpose. Please join me as we take a look at some hats I saw on a recent strolls through Williamsburg.

When I stopped at the tinsmith's shop, I noticed the proprietor was wearing a tradesman's knit cap. It's not fancy, but it serves to keep his head warm in his drafty shop during the cold months and stop perspiration from getting into his eyes during Virginia's hot summers.



This enterprising young tradesman was selling freshly baked ginger cakes on Duke of Gloucester Street on a very hot day.



His cap is made from a coarse linen fabric. Not only does this hat ensure the gentleman's head won't be sunburned, the reddish-colored band prevents perspiration from running down his face and neck.




The most popular hat for middling and gentry men was the tri-corn or cocked hat which was folded on three sides. Because it was the custom for a man to carry his hat under his arm, a folded hat made that easier. Men's hats could be cocked, that is, folded, on one, two, or three sides. The preferred material for tri-corn hats was beaver felt.




This gentleman's straw hat is cocked on one side. Rather dashing, don't you think? The hat, I mean.




The town blacksmith left the heat of his shop to take a brief break. He's wearing a brimmed hat that hasn't been cocked.



This lovely young lady is wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with green ribbon. Not only is it pretty, it protects her face from sunburn and keeps the sun out of her eyes. She's also wearing a white mob cap with a ruffled edge. Mob caps were an important part of a woman's daily attire. Indeed, women and girls were not considered fully dressed without a mob cap covering their hair.




Straw hats were usually secured with a ribbon tied at the nape of the neck rather than under the chin.




Because frequent bathing was thought to be unhealthy during the eighteenth century, colonial women did not wash their hair often. Mob caps served to hide the condition of a woman's hair. This accomplished woman is wearing a short-brimmed straw hat on top of a mob cap that hangs low behind her neck.




If you're in need of a hat, I recommend stopping at the Mary Dickinson Shop in Colonial Williamsburg. With so many beautiful hats to choose from, it's hard to make a decision ... perhaps you and I should each buy two. Or three.






Award winning author Cynthia Howerter loves using her training in education, research, writing, and speaking to teach and inspire others about a time in America that was anything but boring. A member of the Daughters of the American revolution (DAR), Cynthia believes history should be alive and personal.



Visit Cynthia's website: Cynthia Howerter - all things historical

Photographs by ©2015 Cynthia Howerter

14 comments:

  1. Great article Carrie. I like the picture of you and Cynthia, but were is your hat Carrie?
    I wonder when things changed that women and men don't wear hats like they did in the 18th century?
    Blessings,Tina

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    1. Thanks, Tina, I think CYNTHIA HOWERTER did a GREAT JOB on this article!!! Wow!!!! I am having her cut the picture of us from this post as I fear it may be confusing folks. This wonderful piece is pure Cynthia!!

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    2. I'm so glad you enjoyed my article, Mrs. Tina! I wish hats were still popular because I love wearing them!

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  2. Thanks Carrie-
    Who knew there was so much history with hats and exactly what they mean. Awesome job explain and sharing a little bit more of History with us! I enjoyed it very much.

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    1. Tina, we are SO BLESSED that we have AMAZING authors like CYNTHIA HOWERTER to write us such great posts on CQ!!!!!

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    2. Thank you, Tina Wilson! I really enjoyed learning about the different types of hats worn during the American colonial period, and am so glad that you enjoyed my article!

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  4. I wish hats were still in style for all-day wear. I hate messing with my hair!

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    1. I'm with you, Pegg Thomas! I adore hats! And aren't they especially wonderful when we're having a bad hair day!

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  5. Great post, Cynthia. I love hats also and wish we still wore them. My mom was a milliner and made beautiful hats.

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  6. Thank you, Janet! I never knew that your mother made hats! We need to get together soon to visit and then I'd love to hear all about your mother's creations.

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  7. I have a question. I know that some reasons that women wore hats in the earlier times because of heat and to protect their skin.What were some of the other reasons?

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  8. I forgot to mention that I really liked the article as well :)

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  9. Hi, Mamma G! I'm glad you enjoyed the article. In addition to protecting their skin from the sun's rays, woman also wore hats to protect their mob caps and/or hair from being exposed to dust and dirt. Additionally, hats provided the finishing touch to a person's outfit. A well-made hat completed one's clothing. Both men and women were not considered properly dressed when leaving a building without a hat during the colonial era. I hope this answers your question!

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