Tuesday, 12 January 2016

"Selling Millinery" August 12, 1942

Even now, when hats are not the necessary addition to an outfit that they once were, hat styles go in and out of fashion. Back in 1942, the change was more rapid and the options for hats - the style, the materials, the trims - were more numerous.

Having trawled through so many issues of the Australian Women's Weekly, I suppose I assumed (if I thought about it at all) that magazines and their brief fashion reports were the place to go to keep up with the changing fashions. For most women, it probably was.

Until I saw this newspaper section (and more like it) for sale on Instagram (via adelinesattic), it hadn't occurred to me that there might be a trade publication to distribute this knowledge directly to the sales girls who would have been working in so many hat shops and department stores, and needing to seem up-to-date on all the latest modes.

I bought two sections on millinery, one on gloves (for my sister as a Christmas present) and one on Christmas selling. So far I have only read this one, here and there as I eat my breakfast and my husband laughs at me.

Reading this was a really fascinating way to get a thorough look at the fashions of the times, not just in images but in detailed descriptions of the styles, materials, colours and trims, along with when and where they might be worn and with what. Add to that some entertaining ads and commentary along the way, and you've got a good read, in my opinion!

Here are some of the exciting new features on the season's hats. Brilliant colours includes such combinations as green and orange, which I think I personally could live without. This hat is one example of such, and I think I'm happier enjoying it in black and white. (I'm sure some of you could make green and orange work, and good for you, but I'm not in that camp!)

The war is frequently mentioned, not just in relation to "priority-free trims" and so on, but also in discussing the needs of your customer.

"These "after five" hats will achieve the purpose for which they were created. They will lift the spirits of the wearer and of those who see her, for a few precious hours, into a mood of gaiety and relaxation not to be forgotten by the men when they return to duty."

They also influence the styles in fashion, with patriotic loyalties leading to style being influenced by "our Allies in the present conflict", leading to Chinese and Russian styles, for example, and peasant motifs from Norway and France, and military colours are also popular.

The section on Customer Types is fabulous, with not only figure and face shapes, but also a "general style type" based on her personality and lifestyle. Which of these do you think you are? I can't decide, or perhaps I'm just in denial.

Following this are thorough pages on felt, woven and knitted materials and those "Priority-free Trimmings", though in general the season is apparently bringing fewer trims as the style lines of the hat take centre stage.

As is often commented on by those who sew their own vintage reproduction garments, the range of fabric types available to us is so reduced from what it was in previous decades, with many materials described that you would be unlikely to find anywhere today, and certainly not easily.

I'm torn on this turban. It's kind of stunning, but it also makes me think she has put a bowl on her head and then wrapped it up.

I think my life has been missing matching accessories for my hats. Another 2016 goal!

Thank goodness. Apparently the obsession with elaborate hairstyles led to small hats and snoods, which then degenerated into nothing more than bows attached to clips! But remember...

"Fashion leaders always turn there backs on a fashion before the point of saturation is reached. And when little bows and wisps of flowers are seen perched on the heads of women and girls of all ages and interests, you may be sure that bareheadedness is on its way out. This epidemic which has swept the country has affected not only juniors and girls of college age, but their mothers as well...Outdoor living, casual clothes, slacks suits all had their effect on the acceptance of this fad."

For shame, women of America!!

I, of course, love little frippery things as much as large hats, but I feel the writers of the above were due to be disappointed in the 50s and 60s as heads were adorned with whimsies and things like the Butterfly Cap.  And even more so if they saw in the later decades.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed these snippets and insights into selling millinery. If you like, I'll catch up with the other two sections in later posts.

To all those who sell hats, remember, "You sell more by being gracious", "You sell more by being enthusiastic", and "It is better to lose a sale than sell the wrong hat, because the customer's friends will criticize it, and she will not admit it was her choice".


  1. That looks wonderful! My glove supplement has some interesting snippets but also many in depth pages on leather production which are to be honest not as exciting. A great article on types of seam and some advice on fitting gloves.

    1. There was a lot here on the making of fur felt from the pelt onwards that I could have done without!

  2. Love all the snippets of design and description; it's just really great look at millinery in the past. I was giggling over the "bareheaded trend" thing... :P ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  3. Replies
    1. I love finding new unusual hat images like this! Glad you enjoyed them too.

  4. Such an interesting read! I definitely hope that I'm a smartly dressed young business woman - or at least could be taken for one. I wouldn't mind being a tweedy type either, though...
    But man, that turban seriously does look like there's a bowl involved. Maybe it was for smuggling food out of parties. Gotta make do when you're on the ration, right?

    1. I think you are definitely a smartly dressed young business woman!

      I could have used a food-smuggling hat on my holiday, to make the most of the buffet breakfast. Something to remember for next time.

  5. Thanks to this ongoing sickness and life being "nice", I've been the 'careless ungroomed' type. Oopsie. Oh how will I ever be helped~?
    But this was a very interesting read, thank you for sharing it!
    I'm hoping with upcoming year, I can wear more hats, and look amazing.

    Carla, TinyAngryCrafts

    1. That's the category I'm rather afraid that I fall into as well! I'm sure we all do at times :) Wearing more hats may indeed be the answer :P

  6. I love finding things like this, so fascinating. I think I would rather have enjoyed being a hat selling shop girl and having a read of this. What a great way to really get into the fashions of the day. Except for when I try very hard, I think, sadly, that I would count as a careless ungroomed customer!

    1. I liked to imagine being a stylish young hat shop girl too while reading this - but that is so far from reality!! Perhaps we are all judging ourselves too harshly with the careless ungroomed type - but I blame society!

  7. Too cool for words! I lapped up every line and image here. Thank you very, very much for sharing this awesome slice of millinery history with us, sweet Tanith.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. You are welcome Jessica and I'm glad you enjoyed it!


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