Hat Types: The Turban

Turban | Royal Hats

When Queen Máxima began her reign this year with a series of voluminous hats worn back on the crown of her head (see here, here, here, and here), confusion ensued. Was it a pillbox? Was it a turban? Was it a hybrid of the two? The answer starts with understanding the turban. In coming weeks we will look at a a few more hat types (including the pillbox and calot) and determine what type of hat Máxima’s new hats really are.

History: Turbans have been around for thousands of years as a religious head covering for men in several faith traditions (primarily in the Islamic and Seikh religions). Because the history of this head wear is so old, it’s true origin is unknown. Turbans first showed up in recorded history in the fourteenth century at the end of the Moorish occupation in Spain; they became a popular fashion item for women during the 1920s and  hit the height of their popularity during the 1960s and 1970s.

Characteristics: Turbans are based on cloth winding- they look like they are made of many layers wrapped around the wearer’s head. In most of the hats we see here, the layers are sewn onto a foundation cloth for easier wearing but they still look “wound up”. A full turban is wrapped in an oval shape around the head, covering the top half of the wearer’s ears and leaving little or no hair showing at the forehead.

Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Queen Elizabeth, Princess Grace of Monaco.  Currently, the royal we see most in turbans is Sheikha Mozah of Qatar who Iseems to have adopted the style as a fashionable way to meet religious head covering requirements.

Princess Grace of Monaco, 1962;  Infanta Pilar of Spain, 1990;
Tatiana Santo Domingo Casiraghi, 2011Queen; Elizabeth,1975

Queen Silvia of Sweden, 1975;  Princess Marilène of Orange-Nassau, 2005;  
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, 1947; Queen Máxima, 2011

Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images
Sheikha Moza of Qatar

Princess Diana, 1989; Princess Grace, 1961; Quen Sonja 1973; Princess Margaret, 1982

 Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, 1982;Princess Grace of Monaco, 1967;
Queen Elizabeth, 1970 Princess Alexandra of Kent, 1962;

 Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images  Embed from Getty Images
Princess Michael of Kent, 2011; Queen Elizabeth, 1979; Empress Farah Pahlavi, 2011; Queen Máxima, 2012

I will admit- the turban is not my favourite type of hat. I am, however, blown away by the two black turbans worn by Princess Grace. Don’t they look fabulous on her? I’m curious- what do you think about the royal turban? And, having seen this hat type defined, do you think Queen Máxima’s new hat style could be classified as a turban?

Photos from Getty as indicated; G. Lukomski; unknown;Stella Pictures; Reginald Davis/Rex USA; Hulton-Deutsch Collection via Corbis; Michel Porro via Getty; British Pathe; ,Patrick van Katwijk via Corbis; Tim Graham/AP; Corbis; Reuters via VG.no;  Tim Graham via Getty;  Francis Apesteguy and Popperfoto via Getty; and Corbis

32 thoughts on “Hat Types: The Turban

  1. You don’t think a turbans gonna look very good but these are all real nice ones! LOL! Princess Caroline also wore turbans for a few years when she got that disease and her hair all fell out. I always thought she looked a lot like her mama when she wore one.

    • Princess Caroline did wear turbans quite a bit during the mid 1990s. Because that was probably for medical reasons rather than fashion ones, I chose not to include them in this post.

  2. Hmmm, these are the ones I like:
    Princess Grace of course, very elegant, and highlights her face by getting the hair out of the way
    QE II in 1970 – the striped one – it goes very well with the solid blue coat
    Silvia in 1975 – again, highlights her face a la Princess Grace – she is beautiful. Hers looks a little folkloric but in a nice way.
    Tatiana Santo Domingo – complements her overall gypsy boho look with her long hair. I just like it on her.
    Farah – looks very nice with what she is wearing and again, highlights her face in a flattering way.
    I see turbans as being a headgear style that highlights the face by getting the hair out of the way (except Tatiana).

  3. I am just loving your posts on the different hat types. It’s so interesting to see how the same style of hat can have such small but notiseable differences. I can’t wait for most posts on the other hat types!

  4. There is an air of old Hollywood glamor associated with the more sleek turbans. That might be beacuse Princeess Grace wore them so much. The sleek ones cut close to the head are marvelous
    The large, voluminous ones look costumey and some of the others (Maxima’s black on and Marilene’s) look like they would be worn by some futuristic alien creature on Star Trek.

  5. I am generally not a fan of the turban. I do like the one Princess Grace is wearing in the 1962 photo, but she could look elegant wearing just about anything! I researched the white turban worn by the Queen Mother in 1947. She was Queen then and she and her family were on a royal tour of South Africa. She wore this turban on the ship as they traveled. She and the King and Princesses Margaret and Elizabeth (now the Queen) looked as if they were having fun. Leave it to the Queen Mother to take the turban up a notch! I think it was a wise way to wear a hat on a ship during her leisure time. While I am still not a fan of the turban I give the QM points for “rocking the look” when she wore hers!

  6. Seems as though the turban is like the little girl with one little curl: when it’s good, it’s very very good, but when it’s bad, it’s horrid.

    I think the turbanette that Maxima wears provides some of the dramatic impact of a turban without as much out-of-the-shower risk.

    • After looking at these “traditional” turbans, I think Maxima’s new hats fit into this category. They are all made to have that look of wrapped fabric that you say is characteristic of a turban. It’s just the size that is different. I’m thinking Maxima’s hats really are “turbanettes”!

      • Fabienne Delvigne’s re-interpretation of the turban in this way really is brilliant. She has re-invented a hat that we all associated with the 1960s in a modern and fresh way that looks so contemporary. Yes, Maxima’s hat’s are turbans but the fact we don’t immediately see them and yell “TURBAN!” proves what a millinery genius Fabienne Delvigne really is.

  7. Really like turbans when worn for religious reasons but other then that, I think when designers try to pull them into the high end millinery world it’s always been a failure and i have been around since the late 40’s and seem them tried every decade. Would love to see Max ditch hers but I think we are seeing the trend peek out again like it does as I said pretty much every 10-15 yrs or so…QEII I thought never would let go of her turban phase…she was a real hold out for them…but then she always seemed to hold on to a look she felt comfortable in wearing for yrs and yrs.

  8. I might have to get out the mind bleach after that photo of QEQM. Yikes. I do agree with you that Princess Grace looks the best of anyone and QEII’s stripey number from 1970 is ok *for its time* – but all in all, to me turbans say “I just washed my hair and I can’t do a thing with it”

    • I could never see a turban as truly fashionable. For religious reasons they are great but for fashion? No thanks.
      Princess Grace’s 2 black turbans do look great but that white one? Eee gads. It looks like it is crawling with worms.

  9. Grace wore the turban by far the best of all, except for Diana’s blue turban. I have always loved that outfit and headgear Diana wore. That blue was a wonderful color on her and she looked so sleek and sophisticated in that hat at that time. However, Grace could wear a brown paper bag on her head and it would look marvelous.

  10. Yes, this is what I’ve always thought of as a turban – wrapped and worn so as to cover the ears and most of the hair (unless the hair is worn long behind). I’m really not a fan of this style of hat, as a general rule it doesn’t appeal to me. Having said that, there are just a few examples which look good, and I’ve come to the conclusion that this style works best at its simplest – Princess Grace’s two black ones are really simple, and Queen Elizabeth looks much better in the simple yellow example than in the other picture. That, of course, begs the question of whether the most flattering simple examples are formal / eye-catching enough for a royal person who needs to be seen. I think the answer is probably not really now, but probably yes back in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies when they were so fashionable. The fashionability would have given them an edge that they really don’t have any longer.

    • Nope – have to disagree with the part about them being OK in 60’s and 70’s – I was around then as 20 yr old by mid 60’s and I hated the looks then and now. They were only semi tolerable in the 50’s and only when worn as part of a chic bathing cover-up outfit and never for real dressing up IMO. There were a lot of women who wore them on bad hair days to hide their hair in a frumpy turban which of course the high end ones here were not doing. But for me there is been no really good turbans other than a very few back in the 30’s in extreme high fashion on movie stars and most that I like from that vintage went along with a flowing dressing gown in what they called ‘white telephone’ movies…coming from all the white used in decore – or what looked white because the movies were in B&W – it was an extreme showing of movie elegance to counter the deviation of real lifestyles during the depression is where the whole ‘white telephone’ movie thing came from…a form of escapism.

  11. Princess Diana wore a turban? I didn’t ever expect to see that unless it was a fancy dress party! I don’t like this hat atall but the colour makes her eyes look even more blue. Please show more of Princess Diana’s hats!

  12. The pillbox-turban mystery deepens! I’m not keen on the turbans but they are very amusing. As for Queen Max’s hats… they do look like wrapped fabric but she wears them back from her face. So are they turbans? Yes… and no! That’s quite a bit cheeky now isnt it! I can’t wait to solve the mystery!

  13. Funny enough turbans are not that easy to make, a lot of hours are put into the draping of the fabric. However I agree they look too casual for formal events. Only a very luxurious fabric and beeding can solve this issue. Overall I think this hat is more for a day out, holidays or even a bad hear day (if it covers the whole head).
    I do like the trend Queen Maxima is setting with the smaller turban. The turbans match her outfits which makes it more formal. Also the coiffure shows and makes it even more formal. So I say well done Maxima!

  14. Turban….I don’t like this style, it reminds me of a piece of cloth just wrapped around the head like a towel after the hair has been washed. I am just a traditionalist and I don’t mind stepping out side the box, yet this is way to far out of the box for me. Nothing chic about them!

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