Friday, 14 March 2014

The View from 1960

An article from the September 7th 1960 issue of The Australian Women's Weekly, pages four and five, next to an ad for feeding Heinz chicken broth to your baby, asks the question “Are Women Going To Wear Hats Again?”

This is followed up by two entertaining sub headings. “Milliners are keeping their hat pins crossed” and “Like a game but groggy boxer, hats are making a comeback.


I've long thought of the 1960s as the decade when everyday hat wearing stopped being the norm, and I think most people, looking back on it, would agree. There was still plenty of hat-wearing going on, and distinctly new styles appearing, but you also see a lot of photos of women without hats. That's real life photos and fashion photos alike.

So it was with surprise and curiosity that I read what the early 1960s thought about the situation. That women haven't been wearing hats for the last two decades! Business for milliners has been bleak and many of the little guys have been put out of business.

“ “The last time hats were universally worn was – oh, 1939. Just before the war,” said Mrs Joy Butler, public relations officer for the Millinery Manufacturer's Association.

“Then during the war women went without hats (they couldn't spare the coupons). And going hatless became a habit.” ”

The article touches on a few elements of the 1960 fashion situation that I feel the millinery world continued to wrestle with for the rest of the decade. The attitude of the 'youth' to hats, which they associated with formal occasions and church. The relationship and sometimes battle between hairstyles and hats. The value of convenience, and hats you can just pull on or put in your pocket.


The Australian situation is also highlighted. The writer still refers to what the European couturiers are doing and how the Australian milliners are following them. Referring to the previous season's fur 'Cossack' hats, Mrs. Butler comments on how inappropriately hot and heavy they were for Aussie conditions. But she has hopes for the nylon fur we'll see next winter, that will be lighter, and that you will be able to “wash out at night – and it's like new the next day.”

It was also interesting to note that the Melbourne Cup was already separating itself from the regular millinery fashions. Mrs Butler remarks that it is a place for “extreme” hat fashions, unsuitable to regular wear. From what I've seen of photos from the Cup in the 1950s newspapers and magazines, styles worn then were still very much in line with mainstream fashion. So it may be that this divide was just starting to begin in the late fifties and early sixties.


Yesterday I had some serious fun doing a photoshoot with Ruanne, who was able to pull together some amazing sixties looks, despite not considering that she had much sixties at all.


One of the main purposes of the shoot was for some hats I haven't shown you yet, for which longer hair was a requirement, but you'll have to wait until next week for those! We also had fun with the fur hats and pillboxes.


Get ready for some serious elegance from this lady in the next post!


This post is part of a series "Hats of the Past: A milliner explores history." Previous posts are my first impressions and changing ideas about sixties fashion, a look at sixties style of fur hat, and an exploration of pillboxes.

3 comments:

  1. That is thoroughly interesting indeed. Here in Canada, and thus by extension the US, hat use really started to decline in the 1950s, though some people (especially those middle aged or older) continued to wear them into the sixties and even the seventies (then of course there was the hat reassurance in the 80s). We had war rationing, but it was primarily focused on food, gas (petrol), nylon and rubber, so that may account for why more people kept wearing hats both during the war years and after. Though, that said, the widespread prevalence of female war workers and the causal fashions that they sported certainly further created a more relaxed form of dress for many ladies of all ages from the 40s onward. One has to wonder, had WW2 never taken place, would hats still be an everyday part of our wardrobes or would something else have caused them to all but go the way of the dinosaur at some point?

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. That's a very good question, and I can only imagine that a lot of things in the fashion world would have gone very differently. I was just reading about the affects that the war had on couture in Paris and the American-Paris fashion relationship (or reliance, really). In the long term though, I feel some of the evolution fashion went through would eventually happen no matter what. The regular wearing of hats was such an etiquette-centred issue, and that probably would have changed regardless. But who can say?

      I certainly see a lot of "everyday" photos from the 40s that are more relaxed and without hats, but they seem to appear quite reliably in fashion photos and on movie stars, where by the late 60s even that is becoming rare. It's so hard to judge from a lot of these sources, and even my own research is so skewed to look for hats, that I can't remove myself from my own bias!

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  2. I was sad when hats went out of fashion and so happy the narrow high heels came back in fashion. When wash and wear hair came into fashion that's when hats went out of fashion. I believe it was 1971 when my mother bought her last hat (at my insistance) when she went to the White House for tea. She said most of the women were hat free.

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