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Hats from the MAG's Collection

Hats from the MAG's Collection

Posted in: MAG Collection History

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Collections Spotlight: Hats!

The MAG has hundreds of hats in our collection, and most of them are women’s hats. We've been preparing this collection to be moved into a new, custom-designed storage space where it will be easier to care for and access. Join MAG Associate Curator of Clothing and Textiles Katelin Karbonik in this short video to learn about a few of the hats in our collection.

About the hats in this video:

The collection has over 700 hats from the late 19th century to almost the current day.

"Dressed: The History of Fashion" podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/murderous-millinery/id1350850605?i=1000410367231

[object: Audrey Hepburn straw brimmed hat] 2006.32.10
c. 1960

This is a plaited straw hat that is very Audrey Hepburn, probably from the late fifties to the early 60s. Plaiting bands of straw and the sewing them together is a very old method of making hats. Coarsely plaited straw could be relatively cheap and utilitarian, while fine straw plaiting could be very expensive. This hat has a dramatic shape and uses two colours of plaited straw to emphasize its circular, elongated proportions.

[object: man’s wool hat] 1980.1.44
First half of the 20th century

Men’s hats in the 20th century were often wool felt hats like this one. Shapes and proportions varied depending on the era, but shaped felt was a readily adaptable material for headwear. The way that you make these is by taking this conical piece of wool felt and placing it over a wooden hat block that was the shape and size you want. Then you can use a very heavy-duty iron to steam it down to fit the block. Then you can add things like the hat band and any trimmings.

[object: yellow woman’s hat with veil] 1987.162.38
Date: c. 1950s

This is a woman’s hat from the 50s that is also made of felt but in a different shape, showing how using a different hat block will give you different shapes. This hat is meant to sit on top of the head and has fake flowers and brown hat veiling.

[object: coated straw cowboy hat] 1978.109.4
Date: 20th century

The cowboy hat is a symbol recognized across the world as belonging to the Wild West and to cowboy culture, which is certainly part of the culture and history of this region, Central Alberta. The origins of the cowboy hat are uncertain – some scholars speculate that they were adopted into European settler culture from Mexican vaqueros, who themselves were livestock herders. The cowboy hat has transcended its use as a working hat to become a symbol of a way of life.

[object: brown feather hat] 1984.286.11
c. 1960s

Feathers have been a big part of millinery for hundreds of years, and when demand for hats was very high in the late 19th and early 20th century, the demand for feathers was so high it began to have a very negative impact upon certain bird species. Obviously, millinery uses all sorts of feathers but it especially loves colourful and rare ones. As this was before a lot of environmental protection measures, some species were very negatively impacted by the demand for their feathers. There is a podcast about this that I highly recommend, called the Dressed podcast by two dress historians, which I’ll have linked in the video description.

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