With the fall of the French monarchy in the late 18th century and the events of the French Revolution, there was no room for aristocratic attributes. Current political events were echoing fashion images and have embedded elements of political symbolism. Revolutionary heroes and heroines inspired milliners to create new, age-appropriate headgear. It was a time of extraordinary diversity. One of the bonnet's transformations was a canopy-like silk and lace creation with a metal frame, which was widely known since 1788 as the Charlotte Corde-style hat. This unusually romantic bonnet contrasted with "masculine" military style headgear - top hats and caps. Parisian women who wanted to be known as "free citizens" included in their outfits elements borrowed from men's fashion. They even began to wear military riding-coats and redesigned their hats to look like a soldiers helmets.
It was only in the 19th century that the ancient Greek soldier's helmet turned & styled into a romantic women's hat. The ancient visor of the headgear turned into a face shade, but the whole shape of the headgear with a feather or a horsehair cockscomb has undergone dramatic changes.
Unprecedented manifestations of extravagance were introduced during the post-revolution years. The rebels wore grotesque Top Hats (en bateau), but the Tricorne hats turned into Bicorn hats. The Incroyables (from French: "incredibles") and their female counterparts, the Merveilleuses (from French: "Marvelous Women") bravely mixed the romantic elements of the past with the refined, rational forms of the Enlightenment. Crossing a helmet with a frilled nightcap resulted in a 19th-century bonnet - a fashion label for women of the Romantic era.
The most versatile men's fashion sign of the 19th century was the Top Hat, the highest-profile hat still worn by all levels of society. In the 19th century, this Top Hat could be both worn out or sophisticated and expensive, reflecting its owner's financial position. Top Hat made the first impression of its wearer, but it still didn't say everything about him ...
Hat-makers, however, were constantly competing against each other in their quest for new and striking top hat shapes. During the Biedermeier period, the chapeau claque (folding top hat) appeared. It was first seen in 1835 in Paris, where it was often referred to as the Gibus hat by its inventor.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Top Hat's competitor - the bowler hat emerged (the derby hat in the American version). The tight felt hat with a dome-shaped crown was first made in 1849 by London hat-makers Thomas and William Bowler. Edward Coke, Earl of Leicester, is considered to be the first customer of this hat, who concluded that the high Top Hat was a nuisance for the rider. The use of the Top Hat was later reserved for ceremonial events, but the unpretentious bowler became an addition to the casual outfit, a hat typical of London gentlemen and officials.
In the late 19th century, early sportswear and matched hats were created. One of them was a boater's hat (boater - in English; canotier - in French), a low crowned straw-hat with and smooth, uneventful brims. Its crown part was always wrapped with a black ribbon. Women also wore such hats for sporting outdoor activities, yachting trips and open-air festivities during summertime.
An addition to the informal menswear of the late 19th century was also the Hamburg hat (better known as a Homburg hat), which was introduced by the Prince of Wales, the future King of England, Edward VII. He was an undisputed late 19th-century men's fashion trendsetter, who popularized a felt hat with a rolled rim and a recess in the middle of the crown part.
For the first time such hats were seen in Prussia and in the fashion lexicon, the Hamburg hat has a "relative" - a trilby hat, which was literally derived from the traditional Tyrolean hat. Hat was named after George du Maurier's popular gothic novel "Trilby" (1894). Trilby hats became popular in fashion scene of the 1930s and 1940s, when women's clothing components were once again derived from men's fashion.
To Be Continued...
The essay was based on the material from a previously published article by its author:
Parute E. Trako cepurnieku izdomas spēles./Māksla Plus #4/2010
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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