Women's hats from the 1940s

Updated March 23, 2017

Even during World War ll in the 1940s, women continued to wear hats to complete their outfits. Fabrics and styling changed, but the look was still glamorous. Along with handbags and gloves, hats were a staple for a woman's wardrobe. Maybe the hat was remodelled from an older version to reflect current styles, like those with a military influence, but women in the 1940s continued to wear hats as a fashion statement.

Fashion in the War Years

People in the United States faced rationing during the 1940s, yet fashion in general and hats in particular continued to be an important part of a woman's daily life. The war brought shortages in materials used in clothing manufacturing, like silk, fur, rayon, wool and leather. When shortages affected the manufacturing of hats, old hats were reworked into new fashions. Some women may have seen it as their patriotic duty to refrain from buying new clothes during the war, but publications such as Vogue encouraged women to support the economy by shopping. Women's hats became a fanciful means of expression to counteract the glum events taking place in the world.

Choosing a Hat

Selecting a hat to go with an outfit was serious business in the 1940s. Women were advised to wear the coat and dress they planned to wear with the hat when shopping in order to pick the right one. They were told to coordinate hat materials and styles with the occasion. A flowered hat was considered too dressy to be worn with slacks, while a tweed hat with a sporty look was more appropriate for a casual wear. Buyers were asked to consider the shape of the face and the hairstyle when purchasing a hat, and to become aware of proportions. A small hat was deemed appropriate for a smaller person, and vice versa. But most of all, women were encouraged to choose a hat that expressed their personality.

Hat Materials

Women were expected to consider the weather and season when selecting a hat to complete an outfit. Many of these rules are followed today. Straw hats were deemed appropriate for the warmer weather of spring and summer, while fur was worn in the fall and winter. Velvet, a staple item in cooler months, might be used as trim on a summer hat. Dark hats with heavier weight were worn in winter, and felt hats were considered appropriate all year long.

Hat Styling

Gray wool felt hats were common in the 1940s. Some felt hats featured turned-up brims and were trimmed with fur, like Persian lamb. Birds and their tail feathers were also common decorative elements, as well as bows and rhinestone pins. Some felt hats were designed so they tipped forward and were held on with a strap at the back, while others fit snugly on the head. Straw hats trimmed with faille ribbon bands were popular, some in the Derby style. Pill box hats were also widespread, along with military-style berets. Full-face veils were prevalent in the 1940s.

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About the Author

Sharon Penn is a writer based in South Florida. A professional writer since 1981, she has created numerous materials for a Princeton advertising agency. Her articles have appeared in "Golf Journal" and on industry blogs. Penn has traveled extensively, is an avid golfer and is eager to share her interests with her readers. She holds a Master of Science in Education.