Hats From the Past

Royal Hats to April 1944 and a wonderful snap caught at an 18th birthday celebration featuring a fascinating pair of hats. Queen Mary’s usual toque is replaced here by a jaunty design with upfolded brim trimmed with large flowers on the side. Princess Elizabeth’s pleated cap with visor brim has such a ‘military uniform’ vibe that one must look twice to see it’s not such. 

Embed from Getty Images

Thanks to reader MittenMary for suggesting this photo to share!

Image from Getty as indicated

22 thoughts on “Hats From the Past

  1. You’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it. Regarding imaginary friends, mine was the singer, Cliff Richard. I’m told that the friendship lasted for about 18 months and drove my parents and grandparents witless.

  2. Yes, my grandparents kept bits and pieces of anything and everything that might be useful. I remember my grandfather’s garden shed and the smell of lead paint (no longer produced), furniture oils etc and I can smell it as if it were yesterday.

    If you are in London a visit to the Imperial War Museum is really worth the time along with the Cabinet War Rooms.

  3. I get a strong fireman’s helmet vibe from that side view.
    Wish we could see QM’s from another angle too; those flowers disappear into the shrubbery.

  4. From the side, the hat looks more like a riding helmet, with the strange ruching on the brim. It seems a poor design. Both The Queen and Princess Margaret have hats with a halo effect. Was this a poor attempt to add this to a familiar shape?

  5. Hmm. Not one of Princess Elizabeth’s better early hats this one. I appreciate military inspirations were the thing, but I just find the shape over exaggerated and not all that flattering. And then the side view isn’t good.. it’s just a bit peculiar.

    Queen Mary looks fab though – dressed and behatted as only she would!

  6. This must have been one of HM’s favorite ensembles, as her 18th birthday celebration marked (at least) her 6th occasion wearing it! Surely due to the war, her wardrobe was not quite as extensive as it is now. HQ, you describe this hat as a “pleated cap with visor brim.” I found a wonderful side shot of it, taken a month earlier which really demonstrates its “cap” quality. I’m not sure now if I like it any better.

    March 25, 1944: Royal Albert Hall

    • This angle makes the hat look completely different! I thought from the original photo that the crown was pleated in front, then tapered down in the back. This makes it look like a cap with the pleated frill added between the crown and the visor.

    • I must admit that I liked it a lot better before I saw the side view. Like MittenMary, I thought it was a one-piece crown rather than the added frill.

      I suspect that during the war, it was incumbent upon the royal ladies to emulate the same thrift with regard to their wardrobes as the rest of the country did, and wouldn’t clothes also have been subjected to ration tickets? I’m not that familiar with what the ration rules were in England. My grandmother (in the U.S.) was a professional seamstress, and during the war years perfected her specialty of taking garments apart and putting them back together in a different style or for a different person to give the illusion of having more clothes.

      • Matthew

        You were given 48 clothing ration coupons during the war but it decreased as the war went on, children were given more coupons than adults – presumably because children grow at a rapid rate. A hat was two coupons. Rationing lasted into the 50s.

        Also, f you were bombed and lost everything you would still be given just 48 coupons to replace a lost wardrobe. I have heard my mother talk about my grandmother unravelling cardigans etc to re knit into something else. She wasted nothing, old clothes were cut down and made into dresses etc for my mother and scraps made into clothes for her dolls. To the end of her days, rain or shine, my grandmother never left the house without a hat – I see the Queen Mother’s hats and I see my grandmother.

        This article is from the Imperial War Museum which you might find interesting. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/8-facts-about-clothes-rationing-in-britain-during-the-second-world-war

        • Lesleyc19, thank you for sharing the bit of family history and the interesting link.. Ladies really had to be resourceful, didn’t they?

        • Lesleyc19, thanks for the fascinating article. Living in the 21st Century, it’s almost unimaginable living during the wartime 40s. Your comments today welled up a long forgotten childhood memory, for that I also thank you:
          I vividly remember visiting my German grandmother’s house in the early 60s. Her basement coal bin (a dark and dank 8ft X 8ft room) was filled with large glass jars. In these jars were buttons, clips, twist ties, corks, human hair, dry-rotted rubber bands – ANYTHING worth saving, including rock candy from the 40s. We spent hours down there, playing General Store. My friend would give me a piece of bubble gum in exchange for a piece of rock candy, and he’s still alive and kicking today! Then, we went out and drank water from the hose!

        • This was a fascinating article, lesleyc19, thanks for sharing it. I can’t say that the idea of women using boot polish for mascara sounds particularly appealing — that couldn’t have been safe to put next to one’s eyes!

          When I was a child, I had a group of girl cousins who were sized from large to small like steps, and sets of matching dresses made by my grandmother were altered and passed down from one to another until there were no smaller girls left, after which they went on my smallest cousin’s life-size doll, which I’m told was the size of a 2-year-old. One of our most memorable and oft-retold family stories is the time when we were having a family reunion in a restaurant, with all the children at one long table, and of course the doll also needed to have her own seat. The particular matching dresses worn at that event had been outgrown to the extent that the smallest one was on the doll, so the doll matched the other girls. The waitress put fruit cocktail down in front of each child, as well as the doll, and when she returned and saw that the doll’s bowl was untouched, said “Didn’t you like it, dear?”

          I always found Carol Burnett’s “Gone With the Wind” satire especially funny with the dress that she saw “in the window” because my grandmother actually did make clothing from old draperies — though unlike Carol’s character, she removed the rods first.

    • Well… that changes things! Proof again that one view of a hat is never enough! It’s like a pleated Kokoshnik headpiece was placed on the brim of a cap. I can’t say I’m a fan.

      I posted this in error this morning (I thought I had it set for the Queen’s birthday next week) but the discussion has been fascinating- all’s well that ends well!

      • Describing the hat in this way (one thing placed on top of another) makes me wonder if the pleated piece was possibly removeable, enabling the hat to serve double duty. Have any of you ever seen a hat of that era that looks like this one might look sans pleated piece?

      • I like your Kokoshnik image better than mine — a triceratops! I’m interested in Matthew’s theory that this was a removable element.

        Ah well, it’s not the first time we’ve seen that all royal hats are not fabulous.

  7. This is a great find. I love these photos of a bygone era. Princess Elizabeth’s hat does give a military vibe and Queen Mary’s is an unusual design for her. Lovely portrait.

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