Flip the Lid (Part 1)
Hats and head gear provide protection from the elements, signify social status, or identify the wearer’s group affiliation or profession. Even in today’s hat-optional culture a crown is mentally placed on the head of a king or a beret on the head of an artist. Until the last third of the 20th century, hats were an essential component of most Americans’ wardrobes. From simple close-fitting caps to elaborations of folds, decorations, and fine materials, hats declared a person’s place in the world. Especially when worn by women, hats were used to imply wealth. Hat styles evolved as society and technology advanced.
At times, fashionable hats were so elaborate that they stretched beyond the shoulders and weighed as much as twenty pounds. For women in the 19th and early 20th century, ornamentation on hats gradually became extremely elaborate, with a cornucopia of flowers, birds, lace, ribbons, bows, feathers and artificial fruit regularly gracing heads in a display of conspicuous consumption. Even while the wealthy became absurd in their designs, in the second half of the 19th century, more affordable headgear became available to the growing middle class due to production innovations made during the Industrial Revolution. More people could own hats that were fairly elaborate in appearance for a relatively low price and not be limited to those designed for practical use.
This Summer, the lobby will feature a selection of hats and hat-related items that illustrate some of the diversity of form found in headgear during the 19th and 20th century in America.
Part 1 through July 2018,
Part 2 through October 2018.