Hat etiquette for women


Sure, women wear hats in this time period, but not anything like they wore hats 60 years ago or more. Today, modern hats are chosen more for their function than appearance. Shading the eyes, keeping warm, shielding hair from rain.

So what about when you wear a vintage hat, one purely for decoration? 

First I would like to clear one thing up:

A woman wearing a decorative hat, does not take it off once inside. It's often a misconception that since men take off their hats once inside, women should as well. 

{The hat matches the dress, and is pinned on, not something I grabbed and slapped on}

A woman's hat is a part of her outfit as a whole, not an afterthought as a mans is. Also, your hair is probably styled around the hat, pinned on at various places, so if you take off your hat you may as well take off your belt and petticoat too. 

Now, here's when we get into the slightly more complicated areas:

{This hat is mostly functional, and would be removed once inside}

If your hat is functional (but pretty as well!) it's probably best to remove it when you step inside. A soggy wool cap isn't exactly adding anything to an outfit when you're in the presence of dryness, and if you take it off and set it somewhere, it gives it a chance to dry off. 

{A hat this wide is great for sunny days, but can be a nuisance inside}

A sunhat is generally wide brimmed, and an inside environment is quite a bit more constricted than outside.  

Removing it will avoid any awkward "Sorry I turned my head and my giant hat knocked over your heirloom vase..." situations. Although I personally thing keeping a bonnet style on inside is ok, as it's only wide at the top, but do use your best judgment in the situation. 

{This hat has a slight brim, but will not constrict movement in a small space (antique expo)}

A big, wide, or tall hat is not something for say, a theater performance, or anything where you may be in a crowd of people (church, funerals, concerts), as this will block their view of what's going on. 

{Appropriate for tea, but not for the theater}

But tea is a different story. A wide brimmed hat (but not excessive) is fine, in fact it's the norm, since you won't be going around mingling, you're stationary. 

{Out to lunch, a simple topper or cap is the best way to go}

A hat with a veil that covers the entire face isn't entirely appropriate for going out to eat or drinks, but if you must, the veil can simply be lifted and rest on top of the hat during the meal and replaced to it's intended place after. 

{At a baseball game either wear an easily removable hat, or none at all}

But what about those times when everyone is supposed to remove their hats? In America that time is usually when something patriotic is in effect, like the pledge of allegiance, or while the national anthem is being sung. If you are wearing a hat, remove it. Wearing a complicated hat, that's pinned on and styled around, is not the best idea in these situations. Though if for some reason you're caught unexpectedly in this situation and can't take off your hat in under five seconds, leave it. It'll take you longer to fumble with pins and bands than it's worth, but be ready to apologize for your faux pas. 

Hat's and formal wear usually don't mix. Cocktail hats are an exception, but when it comes to wearing a gown, or a formal dress to a dance, leave the hat at home and wear a pretty barrette instead. 

{Casual family picnic needs no hat at all, but scarves and barrettes are a good alternative hair decor}

Before wearing that fabulous hat you just bought and can't wait to wear, stop and think "Is this really an appropriate hat for this particular event?" 

As much as you love the pink floral topper that matches your silk rose garden dress, it's probably better suited for a wedding than a bbq. 

These are all what I think, from experience and opinion, but sometimes I break my own rules! As long as you are being courteous towards others, it's fun to experiment with hats. But I hope this clears up some questions and concerns when it comes to wearing vintage hats in this era. 

{First photo by Lara Blair, others are my own}


Malayka said...

I LOVE this post! I have an outrageously large vintage hat collection myself but most of the time the hats stay hidden away in a cupboard and I just pull them out every now and then to look at them! I big reason for this is that I just don't know where and how to wear them. SO thank you for enlightening me!

Unknown said...

My goodness, this is a brilliant, brilliant post!

It bugs me when people tell me to take my hats off once I'm inside - especially when they're not particularly large.

I can't imagine not wearing hats though, but I do agree about wide-brimmed hats. They can be a menace.

Hats are apart of the outfit - I don't think I have a hat that wouldn't suit all my outfits! :P
And even then, Circle Hats are easy enough to make.

Paris of Juno Barrington Vintage

Erin Goodman said...

Thank you so much for doing a post on this! I was only just saying to my partner a few days ago that I wasn't quite sure of women's hat etiquette. I was going to do a bit of research but you've done most of it for me :) a beautifully written and presented post as always :)


Unknown said...

Greaat post Solanah! I have a collection of hats, but only a few vintage. I dont wear them well, but my daughter wore one of them a while back and it look absolutely beautiful on her. As you also look beautiful in your hats. Thank you so much for sharing.

cara said...

love this post solanah. you have an enviable collection of hats, for certain!

art deco dame said...

Great post!I also hate being asked to remove my hat when inside.if it's not intrusive to anyone or thing it's part of the outfit. :)

alittlevintagestory said...

Lovely post, full of some great details (plus lovely accompanying pictures). I will now feel more confident keeping my matching hat on, whilst indoors (as long as its the right occasion!). x Fran

Sophie said...

LOVE this post! Thank you for clarifying all of that! I am soon getting a care package with vintage hats from my grandmother, from the mid 1950s... Can't wait!

kaylabanana? said...

Darling, what blush do you use? It is amazing on you!!

Sabrina said...

Thank you! This was just what I needed. I love my hats, but I'm often too nervous about etiquette to break them out. From here on out, no more! I'll be unafraid of wearing them. ;)

kaylabanana? said...

Also, I really love the fact you added the part about anthems, national salutes,etc. Many women believe they are immune to this rule,but it is always rude and disrespectful to wear a hat during a national anthem or salute. Awesome post!!

Bell's Belles Vintage said...

Love this post...l want to start wearing more hats this winter and you have provided the inspiration...thank-you gorgeous as always...

Miss Tallulah Porkchop said...

Honestly, your blog gives me a vintage education.

That little fur pom pom topper is now on my wish list.

Purrfect Kat said...

My favourite post EVER!!!! thanks+++

delightw said...

as a milliner I thank you!

Lilacism said...

You are the best for doing this post!! Love it!! Definitely cleared up concerns and queries, while also serving as inspiration. Perfect!!!


Lady in black said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing all this rules.

In The Heyday said...

Fabulous post! I love seeing pictures of you in different outfits. You have a lustful hat collection.

Laurence said...

I think that we had about the same experience about hats.... My mother in law always aks me to remove my hats inside and I really don't like that!!!!
I was surprised to know that you must remove your hat for "God bless America"... you american peple are so patriotic... I'm proud to be french but there is no need here to remove a hat for "La Marseillaise"... Do you think 50's ladies remove their hats?


Vintagehadhead said...

I am crazy about hats ,thanks for your ideas

Love <3

Vintage Virgin said...

This so makes me just want to go and and buy hats galore!

Kristian said...

My first day of school a little boy was tattle-telling to the teacher that I still had on my hat inside (one of those little matching white hats popular with five years' dresses and lace socks). I still remember her pivoting and swopping down to lean, towering, over him, and saying, "A woman may wear a hat inside if its part of her ensemble!" and pivoting right back around again.

This delightful post has added naunces to my understanding of hats in the best way :)

Emily Isabelle said...

Yay! I wear hats quite often, but unfortunately don't own many, but I get quite upset when I'm told to take it off when I'm inside :( people don't understand -sigh-

Sarah said...

Ok, this kills me...women removing their hats during the national anthem? I grew up in a "rules-strictly-followed" family and was taught again and again that the only time a woman removes her hat is in her own home. Singing the anthem or honoring the flag is on par with prayer and in many western religions, a woman traditionally had her head covered for these activities. After the 1960's the Catholic church's attitude toward hats and such changed. Now only a few religions continue the traditions of hats in church. That coupled with the fight for women's equality changed the rules of the game (pun intended). Now if men and women are wearing ball caps at a game, they should both remove them? I cringe when I see women doing so. But new generation, new rules. All the more reason to wear a traditional hat that is a part of your outfit. Sigh...oh the nostaglic aching for another time. Now it seems the rules are much too complicated.

seannaapproved said...

I have a question: If you are going out for a formal occasion and you have a hat/headband with a veil, would that be considered appropriate? I've seen it done, but what I am more interested in is it's the correct way to do things?

Anyway, I love hats. I have so few of them. Mostly casual cloches because that matches my wardrobe more.

VintageDanielle said...

winderful post, I really learned a lot. You're photos are so cute

Solanah said...

paisleyapron, it may have been the case decades ago, but now it is considered very rude for anyone to wear a hat during those particular times. Of course you can choose to behave however you want, but I wanted to clear up that instance, so no one would be embarrassed if they were berated for not taking of their hat.

Sean, pretty much if you're wearing a gown, a hat doesn't go with it. A cocktail dress, with a cocktail hat is the norm though. Like when I go out to dinner, I wear a little hat with a cocktail dress sometimes :)

Ms.Tips said...

Great post!! I wish more women wore hats.

Miss Marie said...

Sigh. I'm still riled by a hat-incident when I was younger and not entirely confident. I was on a tour of the Tower of London with a visiting girlfriend and her male friend. We went into the chapel and the guide asked all the men to remove their hats before going in (it was winter, so most people were wearing them). I was pretty sure that this didn't apply to me, as a girl, but the guy I was with chided me for not taking mine off so I meekly removed it... It's silly but it still irritates me because I was right, dammit, but I wasn't confident enough in my own hat etiquette knowledge. Because of him, I actually committed a faux pas! No-one else was bothered - most women took their hats off too - but I was mortified when I discovered my instinct had been right and I hadn't followed it!

Miss Marie said...

Oh, and how rude of me, should have commented that this was a lovely post - a wonderful compilation of hats and outfits.

Lily Bean said...

wow! thanks so much for clearing the air. i just recently became obsessed with hats (of the 40s era, not the recent "functonals") and this post was very educational. i hope to expand my collection

Unknown said...

Lovely post, I am a hat amateur but there are so lovely pointers on here! x

Dr. Bubbles said...

Re: national anthem and such

Wearing hats is "considered rude" by whom?

Certainly not the National Flag Foundation. Nor the U.S. Navy. Navy wives, such as my mother, are expected to know etiquette. Formal (in the sense of 'convention' rather than 'black tie') hats stay on.

The distinction is less clear but more important now that people wear what were work clothes back in the day, as everyday clothes. Doing so suggests a potential loophole to your otherwise useful "goes with the outfit" guideline, because a work hat might be specifically chosen to "go with the outfit." Better, would be something like work and casual-dress hats come off, business and society-dress hats stay on (although since it's fashionable to transgress those boundaries, even that isn't so clear as it might once have been).

Miss Manners held that, if it's the kind of hat a man could wear, the lady removes it in the same circumstances a man would. That is perfectly reasonable; conventionally speaking, it's still a man's hat even if worn by a woman. And as a practical matter that generally moots the question, because few women today wear ladylike hats to events where the national anthem is played (perhaps a whole 'nother topic itself).

For those who do, there's no reason the old rule shouldn't still apply. If it's a vintage outfit, why not comport with the etiquette appropriate to the time? Non-vintage outfits involving a ladylike hat are arguably in the spirit of, and the current descendants of, vintage sartorial convention, and as such legitimate heirs to the etiquette. After all, there is still an expectation of propriety during today's formal events (particularly weddings), much of it drawn from the 'vintage' era.

More to the point, the present attitude is a corruption of hat etiquette, by a society that is unpracticed in the wearing of hats but remembers the etiquette does exist. It is, in short, wrong. And two wrongs (the opinion, and the subsequent yielding to it by one who knows better) don't make a right. I'm not going to be lectured on etiquette by a guy in a ballcap, or a woman who interrupted her texting just to point out a latter-day faux pas.

Perhaps Duchess Kate will return the subject to greater prominence. I don't see fascinators coming off at parades, or during the national anthem.

Zoƫ Winters said...

What a lovely post! :) I love hats! I never used to, but this winter I have fallen in love with one in particular! You are so cute! ^..^ x

Solanah said...

Dr. Bubbles, I find that when I have something to say at length on a subject, I do a blog post about it. As much as I tried to take in your comment, I'm afraid a lot of your points got lost in the format. However I would like to point out that as I said, I am no expert, these are just MY experiences and opinions. If I am expected to take my hat off at a certain point in modern society because others find it rude, I want to respect that. While it'a lovely you seem to know everything about hat etiquette, I do find that being respectful to the masses expectations is more polite than arguing with the offended about hats. Times do change, and I want to combine past and present eras in a seamless way, not an imposing way.

Liz said...

Nice post! I love your hats! I thought you might be interested to check out my hat and headwear blog.

Solanah said...

kaylabanana?, my favorite blush is "Pink Swoon" by MAC. Best ever!

gi_janearng said...

I spent ten years in the military; women never remove their hats for the Pledge of Allegiance. This is ettiquette only required of the men. Women show their respect for the flag by placing their hand over their heart, unless they themselves are in uniform, then they salute.

T. Eliza said...

Thank you for this! This is wonderful, and all your hats are amazing! I love the first and last photos of you in particular, you really look like you've stepped out of another era. :)

SassySisterVintage said...

An interesting post for sure! That first pic is adorable ;-)

~ My Desire Vintage~ said...

So many things to think about when choosing the appropriate hat for the occasion! I would love to own some hats but I seem to have a terrible time getting my hands on one that fits! I have very thick hair...any suggestions? I enjoyed your post very much and your pictures are adorable might I add! :)

nana said...

great post

Heather said...

This is a great post! I just found your blog and I'm totally in love! Now I'm stalking you on Facebook and Tumbler as well. (Don't worry, I'm harmless!)

Since this post was so excellent I was wondering if you'd do another on gloves? I'm always so confused as to when to leave them on and when to take them off, what colors to wear, length, that sort of thing. Any help would be very appreciated!

Unknown said...

I also was taught by both the Air Force and the Girl Scouts :D that your "cover" stays on inside if you are female, unless you are wearing a flight cap, and then it is a men's hat and you "uncover" indoors just like the guys do. But a hand over the heart and participation in the ceremony has never been treated badly by anyone looking on. Of course, most of my friends know that I grew up in a family that was a stickler for manners, military and otherwise. I would love to see you do a post on male hat etiquette in the current day. I keep getting told by my 18 yo skater son that his hat is just fine to wear indoors nowadays and I'm constantly trying to get it off his head, but it's hard when every fricken pseudo celebraty (misspelled on purpose) on TV now days takes pride in being disrespectful and rude.

Katja S. said...

As of 2014, it is still considered perfectly proper for a lady to wear a hat in church. No, the hat is not removed. A solemn Easter mass is definitely more formal than a baseball game, and no, a lady does not remove her dress hat for/at a sporting event -- regardless of what is played or who is in attendance. I have been to more US Naval Academy graduations than I care to count, and at all of these, ladies kept their hats on.

Anybody who is offended by that needs to read a good etiquette book.

Unknown said...

I don't believe a woman should remove her hat during our national anthem. I was raised by a WWII vet and a mom of the same era in the Deep South, one of the most tradition bound and deeply patriotic regions of the US. Disrespect of elders, traditions, and especially our nation is not looked upon kindly. My mother and father would have taken care to teach me to remove my hat if it was proper. I have never seen any newsreel footage or any vintage movies that show that has EVER been the case for women to use the ame hat rules as men.. Women are NOT men. Different rules apply. But then, hats were worn in an in which the differences between the sexes were known and accepted.