NYA heritage society presents a history of hats

Do you ever wonder where all the hats that your mother or grandmother wore disappeared to? You don’t need to look far. A beautiful variety of them are on display at the Willkommen Heritage Center.

Why do we wear hats? Humans have covered their heads forever. Initially headwear was a form of protection from the elements and falling rocks, etc. Later head coverings were symbols of status of authority. Think back to some of portraits of George Washington.

Although women from an early age were always expected to have their heads covered by veils, kerchiefs, hood or caps, it wasn’t until the end of the 16th Century that women’s structured hats began to be seen.

The word ”Milliner,” a maker of women’s hats, was first recorded in 1529. Millinery has existed in Britain since the 1700s. By the mid-1800s, Swiss and Italian straws, imitation straw made from paper cardboard and horsehair were available to women.

Also, velvet and tulle were introduced at that time. Plumassiers were feather workshops, where feathers were dyed and added to hats. Plumes have always been a status symbol and a sign of economic stability.

During the first half of the 10th Century, the bonnet dominated women’s fashion, large hats adorned with many ribbons, flowers, feathers and gauze trim.

Both World War I and World War II had an effect on the decline of hats. The first war brought a change in women’s apparel due to joining the work force. The 1920s and ’30s brought shorter hair styles and tight fitting hats. Then, in World War II, hats became less practical as people rushed to air raid shelters.

The 1950s brought ready-to-wear clothes, more women in the work force and less time and energy to spend on being fashionable.

In the 1960s, the hat was replaced by wigs and hairdressers who colored, back-combed and sprayed women’s hair into exotic “sculptures.”

However, in the 1980s and ’90s there was a small revival of interest, instigated, to a large extent by people such as the late Princess of Wales.

The Willkommen Heritage Center is located at 102 E Main St. in NYA. It is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Call (952) 952-467-4227 to set up a private tour.

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