Friday, February 15, 2013

Fashion Friday--The Woman's Fedora and the winner is...

Fun fact--the fedora started out as the height of women's fashion. Famous--and rather infamous--actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) wore a new style of hat in her play Fedora (1882 by Victorien Sardou) that became the rage of fashion.


Of course, Oscar Wilde and his wonderful fashion sense couldn't stay away. Look how sharp he looks in a fedora! source

The fedora, in a variety of iterations, really has remained a style that adapts to the times, and suits men and women. It's a flattering style that remains a timeless, classic and classy topper that can go casual (just Google photos of current actors and actresses in their fedoras and shorts!), and quite formal (although probably more dressy on a man than a woman, for some reason...). The Metropolitan Museum of art has these three women's fedoras in their collection. The brown one, above, is described as:
The treatment of felt in this hat from French milliner Rose Valois shows the extreme refinement of French millinery. While the overall scale and crown shape follows the fashion of 1938-1940, the designer cleverly employs different techniques of shirring and braiding to adapt a men's hat style, the fedora, for a sophisticated female client. The asymmetry of the design and the different treatments of the felt, including the leather-like tassel, make any additional trim superfluous. The exaggerated and arched curving lines of the brim give the hat panache, without overshadowing the face of the woman who wore it. source

This one:
The sobriety and frugality of the 1930s made the suit an essential element of female dress. Feminized fedoras and other masculine-derived styles provided a tailored look that worked well with suits. This well-made hat illustrates a typical incarnation of the type, and embodies the jauntiness of late 1930s styles. Feminized versions of mannish hats in this period frequently featured rich colors, tipped brims, and a somewhat high, close-fitting, tapered crown which was often finished at an angle.source

This one:
During the 1930s, '40s and the early '50s, when hats were considered required accessories for well-dressed women, Sally Victor was among the foremost American milliners. Creative and very successful for almost 40 years, Victor began her prolific millinery career in 1927. She was one of the original members of the Edward C. Blum Design Laboratory, and often used the Brooklyn Museum's varied collections to draw inspiration for her designs. She was so connected with the Design Lab that she participated in several collaborative exhibitions and the museum often used her designs in publicity materials to exemplify how the Lab could benefit designers by providing inspiration. Her work is characterized by a special quirkiness that could often be traced back to interesting sources such as Native American tribes, the artist Henri Matisse or Japanese armor. She also combined traditional hat-making materials such as felt and silk with new synthetic materials in unique ways. According to her May 16, 1977 obituary in the "New York Times," Victor described her mission simply as "designing pretty hats that make women look prettier."

A perfect accompaniment for the man-tailored architectural suits favored by the 1930s woman, this architectural hat combines geometry and asymmetry in one fashionable design. The non-conventional construction, particularly of the crown, is demonstrative of Victor's innovative and whimsical aesthetic. Victor has taken the masculine fedora form and wittily executed it in bankers gray felt, commonly seen in men's suits. Many women’s hats of the period were sweetly feminine, incorporating flowers, veiling and bright colors, and, with this design, Victor offers an alternative to the ultra feminine styles. source

No one rocked a fedora quite like Ingrid Bergman. Here she shows an example of that 1930s menswear look. Yet there is nothing "manly" about her...she so feminine in this look, and so beautiful. source

And, of course, Casablanca... source

If you'd like to rock this look yourself, I have the perfect one in my Etsy shop. If it fit my giant head, it'd be mine, but, alas... someone with a more normal size head will benifit! This fedora is available here. Sadly...
The give-away has come to an end... Since I only had a couple of comments (shrugs shoulders...), everyone's a winner! Bo Peep already has something in the mail. So, Miss Fairchild, I will contact you for a mailing address so I can send you a couple of flowers for your hair (or hat or scarf, or label, or children or lampshades!).
All the best, folks, until Monday!


  1. I loved this post. I just started my millinery course this week and I love that fedoras started out on ladies. You are so right though, on a man it looks formal on a woman it looks casual/playful.

    YAY! I won :D I will email you now. Thanks so much.

  2. Thank you for the lovely flower clip! It also will be perfect with my Easter dress! And now I must say that you are after my own heart...starting out a post with Sarah Bernhardt! When I was little, my mother called me Sarah Bernhardt when I would throw my melodramatic tantrums. And when my great grandmother thought something simply too excessive she would say, "That's so Sarah Bernhardt." I feel a blog post of my own coming on... :)

  3. Great post! I really love how the milliners of the 30s and 40s took the basic shape of the men's hat and played with it so the it looked more feminine. And you are right - nobody wore the fedora as well as Bergman.