The Edwardian fashion era is often remembered by large over-sized hats stacked with plumes of feathers, bows, flowers, birds, lace, and tulle. The “bird nests,” as Coco Chanel called them, were held on with large hat pins stuck through piles of hair on the crown. They were called Gainsborough or Picture hats for how they framed a lady’s face.
In 1907, The Merry Widow hat took the world by storm after appearing in a show with the same name. This hat was even wider and the crown taller than in the previous decade. Some people complained these hats were too big and obtrusive in public places like the theater or picture shows. Nonetheless, high society women loved them and wore them for daytime events.
If a hat wasn’t just excessively wide, it was obnoxiously tall and wide! Think of them as huge pot or bell shaped hats that sat perched on the large pompadour hairstyle and covered the forehead almost down to the eyes. In the summer, these hats featured huge dried flowers or lace sewn flowers and sometimes real leaves and twigs! No doubt the “Garden” hat was a fitting name.
The popularity of large feathers and stuffed birds on the hats caused concern for the welfare and population of birds. Many protective laws took effect and milliners (hat makers) used more ribbon and tulle and only the largest of feathers to decorate a hat. The largest plumes came from ostriches, which were farm raised and their feathers collected as they fell naturally.
Edwardian Small Hats
Moving pictures had the greatest influence on Edwardian hat fashion. After the release of The Three Musketeers, all ladies wanted to wear tricorn and bicorn shaped hats. They were still very large, but now had shape other than just “round.” Hat brims were folded up to the side, at an angle, or all around to create drama. Veils disappeared in the early 1900s only to come back again as a long scarf that wrapped over the hat and under the chin for the new sport of driving, aka motoring.
For evening affairs, the influence of the Orient was seen in brightly colored turbans. These often had just one feather or bow or perhaps a family brooch clasped to one side. They strongly resembled the cloche hat of the 1920s, although not as tight because they were still worn around mounds of thick puffy hair. The Tudor beret was another favorite evening hat. It was inspired by men’s Renaissance hats made of velvet and plush. A single tall wispy feather attached at the front and stood straight up, adding height to the already elongated dresses.
The movement towards smaller hats began around 1913, when hats still had high crowns but smaller brims. Straw boaters, small top hats, and mini versions of picture hats were very common.
Just like the Titanic, the era of opulent hats came to end.
The time of day and class you want to dress as will determine the type of hat. Hats that were worn on the Titanic by first class women would have been the very large picture hats for day wear. They would match or compliment the outfit in color. Eveningwear didn’t normally include hats. However, a nightly stroll around the deck would require a warm fur hat or wool scarf wrapped around your head.
Where to buy Edwardian / Titanic Hats
There are many hats on the Edwardian style hat shop page that are inspired by the era. Most are modern, but could look Edwardian by adding a bit more decoration. Others are reproduction Titanic era hats ready to wear now.
Here are some milliners that can make you a custom Edwardian hat:
- Rue de la Paix – Has two very nice Edwardian Turban and Torque hats.
- Emily Way – Many varieties of hats. I just bought a small French hat for my wedding.
- Victorian Trading Co – A large variety of Victorian/Edwardian hats in a range of prices.
How to Make an Edwardian Picture Hat
The hardest part about making a picture hat is finding a wide-brimmed hat to use as a base. It took me two countries, several cities, and many hat shops before I found one for $5 at a local craft fair. The straw hat varieties will hold their shape better than fabric ones, which tend to be too floppy to begin with and droopy once you add the “stuff.”
As for the stuff, I have had enormous fun picking up fake flowers, ribbon, birds, and lace at Dollar Tree Stores and craft stores*. Look for the most exotic colored ribbon and flowers and use those in large amounts or small doses depending on how dramatic you want to look. You can choose to cover your hat in a solid colored fabric or leave the straw open for a summer hat. Next, heat up your glue gun and start covering the hat in as many decorations as you can fit on. Place one to three large feathers in front or on the side, either sticking straight up or listing over the crown. A great place to find exotic feathers is the fly fishing section of a sporting goods store. To curl the ends, use a tiny 1/4 inch curling iron on low heat.
* For an antique look, soak your flowers and trim in heavy black tea overnight and air dry. This will give them an aged look.
If you want to use your base hat again for another design, you can always lightly sew a fabric base over the hat, then glue and decorate on the fabric. For the next hat, simply cut off the loosely sewn threads and start again.
It is entirely up to up if you choose to wear an evening hat. They were not very common, as most women just styled their hair nicely for dinner or the theater. If you have very short hair and refuse to wear a wig, then an evening Turban or Beret is a great option.
Patterns for making a turban are a bit tricky to find. Other eras such as the Regency or the 1920s had similar turbans and could be used for Edwardian era dress as well.
More Edwardian Titanic Costume help
- Edwardian Dresses – Tea gowns in the style of the early 1900-1912 Edwardian years.
- Titanic Dresses – Modern dresses with a 1910-1920 inspired formal look.
- Quick Titanic Costumes – Make a Titanic-style dress with clothes already in your closet.
- Edwardian Titanic Shoes – Women’s new shoes inspired by the styles of the 1900-1920s.
- Edwardian Jewelry – Pretty day and evening necklaces, earrings, brooch pins, and hair combs.
- Edwardian Accessories – Gloves, wigs, fans, purses, and more.
- ALL Edwardian style clothing – click here to view all women’s and men’s Edwardian style clothing links.