In the early Middle Ages, women began using more substantial headcoverings, and when the Church decreed that women must cover their head when attending mass, hats became more popular, even though a veil sufficed as a proper head covering in church.
Later, around the fourteenth century, ladies’ hats became, to my mind, more glamorous. Built to roughly conform to the shape of a crown, stiffened with bone, and lavishly decorated with pearls and jewels, surely they would catch the eye of any nobleman.
Although we think of straw hats as being a more modern invention, straw headcoverings were actually in use much earlier, especially by farmers and plowmen, most likely for the same reason we wear them today when gardening.
Men’s hats, especially during the Renaissance, became as outlandish as any woman’s hat ever devised. In that same period, women’s hats became an essential part of the wardrobe. Milliners’ shops sprang up, and frequently the proprietor was a woman. Sometimes the shops were owned by more than one woman. Inside, women could try on hats in relative privacy.
I’ve seen artwork depicting women in hats that appear to be the result of a drunken milliner; some hats were half again the height of the wearer, wide-angled productions that must have been an impediment to eating, walking, or even standing still.
Personal experience has taught me that men are fascinated by women in hats. Several years ago, my sisters and I were on a moving stair in an airport. I wore a hat, as I'd recently been told to do by my dermatologist. My sisters were bareheaded. A gentleman, passing the other way on the stairs, commented on the hat, and ended by saying, "Don't let her lose that hat." The next day both my sisters bought hats.
Another time, my husband and I were seated at a gathering. A man, who according to my husband, had been seated behind us, rose to leave. On the way out, he paused at our table, said how much he liked to see women in hats, and went on his way.
If that's not enough to convince you to go out and get yourself a flattering hat, I don't know what will!
Joyce's recent release, The Tapestry Shop, from Five Star/Gale, has been getting favorable reviews, excerpts of which can be seen here .