Hat etiquette for women

on Friday, February 3, 2012


Sure, women wear hats in this time period, but not anything like they wore hats 60 years ago or more. Today, modern hats are chosen more for their function than appearance. Shading the eyes, keeping warm, shielding hair from rain.

So what about when you wear a vintage hat, one purely for decoration? 

First I would like to clear one thing up:

A woman wearing a decorative hat, does not take it off once inside. It's often a misconception that since men take off their hats once inside, women should as well. 

{The hat matches the dress, and is pinned on, not something I grabbed and slapped on}

A woman's hat is a part of her outfit as a whole, not an afterthought as a mans is. Also, your hair is probably styled around the hat, pinned on at various places, so if you take off your hat you may as well take off your belt and petticoat too. 

Now, here's when we get into the slightly more complicated areas:

{This hat is mostly functional, and would be removed once inside}

If your hat is functional (but pretty as well!) it's probably best to remove it when you step inside. A soggy wool cap isn't exactly adding anything to an outfit when you're in the presence of dryness, and if you take it off and set it somewhere, it gives it a chance to dry off. 

{A hat this wide is great for sunny days, but can be a nuisance inside}

A sunhat is generally wide brimmed, and an inside environment is quite a bit more constricted than outside.  

Removing it will avoid any awkward "Sorry I turned my head and my giant hat knocked over your heirloom vase..." situations. Although I personally thing keeping a bonnet style on inside is ok, as it's only wide at the top, but do use your best judgment in the situation. 

{This hat has a slight brim, but will not constrict movement in a small space (antique expo)}

A big, wide, or tall hat is not something for say, a theater performance, or anything where you may be in a crowd of people (church, funerals, concerts), as this will block their view of what's going on. 

{Appropriate for tea, but not for the theater}

But tea is a different story. A wide brimmed hat (but not excessive) is fine, in fact it's the norm, since you won't be going around mingling, you're stationary. 

{Out to lunch, a simple topper or cap is the best way to go}

A hat with a veil that covers the entire face isn't entirely appropriate for going out to eat or drinks, but if you must, the veil can simply be lifted and rest on top of the hat during the meal and replaced to it's intended place after. 

{At a baseball game either wear an easily removable hat, or none at all}

But what about those times when everyone is supposed to remove their hats? In America that time is usually when something patriotic is in effect, like the pledge of allegiance, or while the national anthem is being sung. If you are wearing a hat, remove it. Wearing a complicated hat, that's pinned on and styled around, is not the best idea in these situations. Though if for some reason you're caught unexpectedly in this situation and can't take off your hat in under five seconds, leave it. It'll take you longer to fumble with pins and bands than it's worth, but be ready to apologize for your faux pas. 

Hat's and formal wear usually don't mix. Cocktail hats are an exception, but when it comes to wearing a gown, or a formal dress to a dance, leave the hat at home and wear a pretty barrette instead. 

{Casual family picnic needs no hat at all, but scarves and barrettes are a good alternative hair decor}

Before wearing that fabulous hat you just bought and can't wait to wear, stop and think "Is this really an appropriate hat for this particular event?" 

As much as you love the pink floral topper that matches your silk rose garden dress, it's probably better suited for a wedding than a bbq. 

These are all what I think, from experience and opinion, but sometimes I break my own rules! As long as you are being courteous towards others, it's fun to experiment with hats. But I hope this clears up some questions and concerns when it comes to wearing vintage hats in this era. 

{First photo by Lara Blair, others are my own}