History and Fashion of Womens Titanic Hats (Edwardian Era)


The Edwardian fashion era is often remember by large over sized hats stacked with plums 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 ladies face.

edwardian hatIn 1907 The Merry Window hat took the world by storm after appearing in a show with the same name. This hat was even wider and the crown taller then in the previous decade. Some people complain these hats were to big and obtrusive in public places like at the theater or picture shows. None the less 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 belle shaped hats that sat perched on the large pompadour hairstyle¬† and covered the forehead and almost down to the eyes. In the summer these hats featured huge dried flowers or lace sewn flowers and sometimes leaves and twigs! No doubt the “Garden” hat was a fitting name.

The popularity of large feathers and stuffed birds in the hat 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 plums came from ostriches who were farm raised and their feathers collected as they fell naturally.

titanic hatMoving pictures had the greatest influence on Edwardian hat fashion. After the release of The Three Musketeers all ladies wanted to wear tricorne and bicorne shaped hats.They were still very large but now had shape other then just round. Hat brims were folded up to on side, at an angle, or all around to create drama. Veils disappeared in the early 1900’s 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.

titanic turban hat

For evening affairs¬† the influence of the orient were seen in brightly colored turbans. These often had just one feather or bower perhaps a family brooch clasped to one side. They strongly resembled the cloche hat of the 1920’s although not as tight as they were still worn around mounds of thick puffy hair. The Tudor beret was another favorite evening hat. It was inspired by mens Renaissance hats made of velvet and plush. A single tall wispy feather attached atvictorian titanic hat the front and stood straight up adding height to the already elongated dresses.

The movement toward smaller hats began around 1913 where 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.


Advice for Wearing Hats for a Titanic Themed Event

Depending on 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. Evening wear 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 several hats on the Edwardian Shop page which I found online. Most are modern but could look Edwardian by adding a bit more decoration.

Here are some milliners that can make you a custom Edwardian hat:

www.ruedelapaixhats.com Has two very nice Edwardian Turban and Torque hat.

www.hatsbynancee.com Many Picture hats to choose from

www.emilyway.com Many varieties of hats. I just bought a small french hat for my wedding.

eastangelharbor.com Picture hats and a few other Victorian designs.

www.ladydianehats.com Lovely mostly white picture hats.

www.victoriantradingco.com – A large variety of Victorian/Edwardian hats in a range of prices.

How to Make an Edwardian Picture Hat

wide brim edwardian hatThe hardest part about making a picture hats is finding a wide brimmed hat to use as the base. It took me two countries, several cities, and many hat shops before I found one for $5 at a local my 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-on 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.

* 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.

Evening Hats

It’s 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 1920’s had similar turbans and could be used for Edwardian as well.

More Edwardian Titanic Costume help

Titanic Dresses- Modern dresses with a 1910-1920 inspired look.

Quick Titanic Costumes– Make a Titanic Style dress with clothes already in your closet.

Titanic Shoes- Womens’ new shoes inspire by the styles of the 1900-1920’s.

More Info…

As I find more resources I will update this page. If you have any suggestion of where to buy to how to make an Edwardian/Titanic hat please leave them in the comments below.

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About Debbie Sessions

Debbie Sessions is passionate about wearing history through fashion. She and her husband, Oscar, have turned their hobby into a career by teaching others how to re-create vintage style with affordable new vintage inspired clothing and accessories. We connect shoppers to the best vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories and teach fashion history as it was worn by everyday people. Need more help? Contact us anytime.

4 thoughts on “History and Fashion of Womens Titanic Hats (Edwardian Era)

  1. Dana Reeser

    Lovely review of Edwardian Hats. One tiny correction – the Mary Window was actually The Merry Widow, taking its name from an operetta that premiered in Vienna in 1905. After going through many adaptations, it opened in London’s West End in June, 1907. The New York opening was October of the same year. The Merry Widow Waltz swept the country. There were three Hollywood film versions. The first was in 1925. The second film, released in 1934, starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette McDonald. A 1952 version starred Lana Turner and Fernando Lamas. I think it was the 1934 version that I watched on TV when I was about 12 and that’s why I smiled when I read about your Mary Window.

    1. admin Post author

      Ah yes, a typo. Fixed it now. It was the premier in London that got ladies excited about the hat according to my sources.

  2. Paula Moldenhauer

    Do you have any information on the sociologist reasons for such hats? Were women trying to make more than a fashion statement. Just curious as this era was concerned with women’s right to vote.

    1. Debbie Post author

      There isn’t a lot of social research on the subject but from what I can gather die hard women suffragists preferred hats worn by men: such as boaters and panama’s or overall just smaller hats. Many however continued to wear whatever was in fashion at the time. Up till the late teens and 20’s fashion designers directed hat styles and other clothing. Women started to have more say in fashion after WW1- out of necessity for clothes easier to move in. I think big hats died out because of a social move to conservatism after the war.


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