Monday, February 11, 2013

What is That on Your Head?- Part 1

Almost every culture in history has had some form of article that people wore on their head whether it be made of metal, fabric, or feathers. The reasons behind each are as varied as the items themselves.


Vanity is often the most common reason for people to make the largest and most obnoxious hats. During the 1800s, women would wear hats over a foot tall and decked out with feathers, ribbons, lace, flowers, and even whole birds and their nests. In cities, the owner of a millinery (hat store) could make a lot of money helping rich women out shine each other.

Not only did women need the most extravagant hat, but they needed one to go with every outfit. One in pink, one in blue, one was purple, and in yellow they might have two. In any well-to-do woman's closet one would find hat boxes stacked to the ceiling.

To feed their need to feathery things, women began to ask for whole stuffed birds in their hats. They also wanted nests and eggshells. Milliners (owners of the hat stores) would pay neighborhood boys to hunt out the birds and bring them back with minimal damage. Then they would be stuffed and attached to the hats. Often a bird would have springs and wires attached to it so that the wearer could move the head and wings as though it were still alive.
Bird Hat

Eventually this was stopped when influential women wrote articles on the cruelty of killing the birds simply for their feathers. There were also tales of sparrows being left in cages to turn their feathers yellow. I don't know if this is true, but it had an affect on those who read the articles.

The hat fashion for women was even more outrageous in France during the 1700s. Their hats would be even taller and attached to the tops of wigs. Women would spend two days getting their hair and hats ready for a party.
French Women and their hats

Marie Antoinette was famous for the way she wore her hair with hats. She was known for trying numerous new themes. The most well known was the time she wore a miniature ship in her hair for a ball.
Marie Antoinette







Women were not the only ones, though, who liked this style. Men often wore hats on top of wigs. The only difference was that they did not have as big of hats or as many feathers.


Ever heard this song?

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy. 


Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 


There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion
A-giving orders to his men
I guess there were a million.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 


Macaroni
Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 


Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 


More Macaroni
Originally this song was written by the English to mock Americans. The part where Yankee Doodle 'stuck a feather in his cap and calls it macaroni' is an allusion to a French hairstyle (called macaroni) where a wealthy French man would wear a cap with a feather. It was to say that Americans were so stupid, they would just stick a turkey feather or something in their hats and think that they were sophisticated. In the end, American soldiers thought the song was so funny that they began to sing it themselves and the British lost their best ribbing of the Revolutionary War.

For more information on Victorian era hats, go here

In the comments, please tell me if you want there to be a What is That on Your Head?- Part 2
Also, please vote in the poll to the side on what you would like as the next topic.





Bookishqueen 

2 comments:

  1. Really interesting article! Can't believe they put whole birds on their hats! Women went to some extremes... Also interesting about the origin of Yankee Doodle!

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  2. I know. I would never want a bird on my hat.

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