From the Archive: Hats of the 1930s

Originally posted by Heather Vaughan, in 2009 . The essential article of the wardrobe I adore from the past is in fact the hat. Not only as a necessity for warmth but for its whimsical sartorial statements. The hats of yesteryear are particularly exciting to review, especially ones from the 1930’s.

A month or so ago, the cover of W magazine featured a lovely red straw hat that reminded me of days-gone-by, when ladies regularly wore hats. They were a necessity, and a regular part of your wardrobe. I myself, am particularly fond of hats from the 1930s, because they often utilized historical and artistic references. In particular, the hats of Lily Daché have always held a special place for me.

1937 Worth Hat (Corbis)
1937 Worth Hat (Corbis)

In the 1930s, hats revealed more of the head than in the previous decade and were influenced by fantasy and surrealist art movements.  Brims often draped low over one eye, adding drama. The fez, boaters, tricornes, pillboxes, flat straw hats, berets and hats based on professional headwear (tailors, sailors, and cowboys) were also popular. Just prior to the start of WWII, veils became popular. Film costume heavily influenced hat trends, especially those worn by Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.

Marlene Dietrich in Desire (1936)
Marlene Dietrich in Desire (1936)

Lily Daché (1898 – 1989) was one of the leading Milliners in New York City. She was born in France, and arrived in New York in 1924. She was to become the foremost celebrity hat designer in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. Her specialty was the turban, but she was also known for close fitting, brimmed cloche hats, snoods, and caps.

1936, Ginger Rogers in a Lily Dache Hat
Ginger Rogers in a Lily Dache hat in 1936

Dache often collaborated with Costume Designer Travis Banton and in the late 1950s she employed the future designer, Halston as an Assistant. In 2006, an exhibit at FIT, Lilly Daché : Glamour at the Drop of a Hat, focused on her work.

A selection of her work (from F.I.T. and the Met Costume Institute) is below.

For an extra bit of fun, here’s the designer as she appeared on the classic comedy show, “What’s My Line”

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