Friday, 29 August 2014

Millinery Trends of 1956-1957

I'm back with more 1950s millinery fashion research, courtesy of the pages of the Australian Women's Weekly. I do look at other digitised Australian publications, but, although they often have good written trend reports, the picture quality is usually too poor to share.

Also, this instalment should have been from 1955-1957, but apparently I didn't like anything much in the 1955 issues!

So we start on the 25th of January, 1956, with some advice on "When to wear a hat" from Betty Kemp, the AWW's fashion advice columnist.

"A Hat should be worn to the races, to a formal lunch, and to any afternoon or after-five function in a public place."


"It is much better to have several hats to suit changing moods than one expensive all-purpose model."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

In the previous instalment covering hat fashions 1952-1954, it was all about small hats. By 1956, the tables are turning. This poppy-red hat is representing the new "heavy" autumn look.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

This feathered cocktail hat from Madame Vernier is just too delicious not to share!

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

At this stage of the 1950s we are already starting to see hat shapes that I have long associated with the 1960s - flowerpot and "upside-down-basin" shapes. And also vibrant colours like yellows and oranges appearing a lot. The caption states: "New millinery note for next winter: Little hats have bigger proportions."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 29th Feb 1956

Is anyone else seeing a millinery Charlie's Angels here?

This photo accompanies an article about "The New Bulky Hat."

"Hats have reached a turning point in fashion. After years of shrinking, they have suddenly blossomed into bulky importance. The advantages are seen quickly. For one thing, a deep or wide brim makes the face beneath it look deliciously feminine or piquant. It also gives eyes an extra look of allure. And, finally, bulk is the logical counter-balance of a slender silhouette - and a real flatterer to bared or fur-covered shoulders."

So as our tiny half hats were paired with cocktail dresses with large flaring skirts, thinner lines of dress bring with them a trend for bigger hats to provide a contrast.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st August, 1956

"There is no disagreement on two fashion items: the slender super-elegant line and the bulky hat.", states the 1st of August edition.

In the same issue, Betty Kemp's Dress Sense column gives the following advice:

"I am planning a spring ensemble in a floral material consisting of a frock and jacket, and would like your advice about the hat to wear with it." 
"I suggest a hat of self fabric. This matching-hat-to-complete-the-costume look is very new in Paris spring fashions."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 24th October, 1956
Coming into the spring of 1956, hats are still large, but now are also "Laden with flowers and extravagant with color, the hats are designed to wear above an understated dark day dress, a late-day, or little dinner dress."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 27th February, 1957

I think we know by now that I love fur hats. This black fur hat and muff paired with a red plaid is by Jacques Fath, and is pretty much to die for!

Back in Autumn fashions in 1957, fur is everywhere and in every shape.

"The kind of fashion era coming up is full of clothes for the fashion adventuress, some startling enough to knock the sunglasses off your nose right now. It is also a romantic feminine season in which ethereal chiffon, white fur, black velvet all help to create the clinging-vine illusion."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 27th February, 1957

"Every woman will be fascinated, too, by autumn millinery. Hats this season are quite a power in fashion..."

As well as fur, turbans are mentioned, and we are told to expect a lot of jewels, feathers and veils in hat trimming.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 20th March, 1957

In March, 1957, we see evening headdresses from Paris (and they are quick to point out that this is not a "hat") that look to me like the classic whimsy, and may be the start of their fashion introduction. This one is just roses and veiling. I think that whimsy styles reached greater fashion heights (if not physical heights) later, based on the examples I've seen, but this is still an elegant look if you have the right outfit to match it with.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 20th March, 1957

I wanted to share this photo particularly because I feel this would be such an easy look to recreate. It is an "After 6 p.m." look, and described as simply a chignon up-do decorated with velvet ribbon and a drop-pearl-and-diamond ornament. Maybe something to try with some spare ribbon and a nice brooch or elaborate pendant?

The Australian Women's Weekly, 10th July, 1957

The July 10th issue of AWW is all about Turbans. Ok not really, but this stunner features on the cover, and the fashion feature article shows an immense range of turban shapes and styles, in all kinds of materials, including self-fabric to match the dress. Again, we're seeing the exaggerated heights that we go on to see in the 1960s begin their journey here.

I hope you enjoyed this continuation of our ramble through the hat fashion trends of the 1950s. Which styles are your favourites here? And do you prefer the bulky hats of 1956-57 or the small caps of earlier in the decade?

As we speak, I'm being kicked from the inside to remind me to tell you all that I'm starting to gear up for maternity leave. I'm working hard on preparing blog posts to continue throughout, but it does mean that some of my recent work will be shown to you in a very drawn-out manner, as I try to make it last until I start up making again next year (I hope). I'm still making things now, but I'll be slowing down, and probably stopping at the end of September, for a break of at least 4 months. Don't worry though, the Travelling Hat project should be out in the world by then, and I still have lots of other things to share!


  1. That last hat is so fantastic! Love the polka dots and the hanging doodads (which, on second look, might just be her earrings). For some reason, it makes me think of the 30s.
    I love these posts, they make me so excited to find some great hats.

    1. I think they are a part of the hat. Certainly you see a lot of shiny grapes/berries/fruit as millinery trims like that. Turbans seem to make a reappearance regularly, and I think the 30s was another peak time for them. Apparently they are coming back in now, for racewear, but with different style twists again.

  2. It's really interesting how you can see such a sharp shift towards some of the hat styles that would come to be iconic of the millinery scene in the early to mid-60s here already. I'm often struck by how true this is of nearly all types of clothing and accessories from the mid-50s onward. A lot of folks think things like pointy toe shoes, shift dresses, and bucket hats came about in the early 60s, but they were already gaining steam from about 1955/56 (if not earlier in some cases) onward.

    Great post, dear Tanith! I enjoy this series tremendously!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. It is fascinating stuff, and so educational for me! I make such assumptions about when trends occurred, and I have been slightly off each time!

      Glad you are enjoying it!


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