Friday, April 14, 2017

A Chintz-Lined Hat for Spring, c1780-1830

Friday, April 14, 2017

Susan reporting,

This was one of my favorite pieces on display in the Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home exhibition (currently at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum of Colonial Williamsburg through 2018; see another article from the exhibition I've mentioned here), and it's also one of the simplest. In fact, at first glance, it's so simple that at first glance it may not be easy to tell exactly what it even is.

What's shown, left, is the underside of a woman's flat-brimmed straw hat, a circle of printed pattern that's almost abstract: a circle of printed pattern. Seeing it on the mannequin, right, and it makes sense as a hat. Here's the information from the exhibition's placard:

"Flat straw hats were fashionable women's headwear in the 18th century in parts of Europe and England. In the case of this Dutch example, the underside of the hat brim was lined with scraps of an earlier India chintz, probably dating to the first half of the century.

"The Dutch East India Company engaged in a thriving trade with India during the 17th and 18th centuries, and colorful chintz cottons in a wide array of patterns were readily available."

Of course the storyteller in me longs to know more about that lining. With all the stitched pieces, this looks like a hat that a woman ornamented herself rather than purchased from a professional milliner. The fabric is from India, and dates from 1700-1750, while the hat itself is probably from at least thirty years later. Was that red and white chintz special to the wearer - scraps cut from a treasured dress, or one worn by a mother or sister? Or did she simply choose the chintz as a way of adding color to an otherwise plain hat, with the green ribbons for extra emphasis?

Left: Inner brim, Woman's Hat, Colonial Williamsburg. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: Photograph, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Ann said...

Would the hat lining not just be pieced from scraps? Though having thirty-year-old scraps available in one's stash seems more likely for someone in the last half-century than someone in the late 18th century.

Regencyresearcher said...

I am trying to figure out all the ribbons. There are obviously more than needed just to tie under the chin. Interesting that they are all attached under that inner circle.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Ann Sharp ~ Because textiles were so valuable (and therefore valued) in the 18thc, even the smallest scraps and remnants were saved. If you look closely, you can see the seaming from several different pieces in the lining here. There's no way of knowing for sure how this all came to be, but my guess is that the lining was either remnants/scraps or otherwise "repurposed" from an earlier garment.

Tea said...

I love the straw and the green ribbon.

Schuyler Mansion said...

The ribbon loop at the back is made to cup the skull since the crown of bergère hats are too shallow to stay on one's head. As far as I can tell from looking at portraits, the side straps were more often tied behind the hair than under the chin, especially for young ladies, because chin straps foreshorten the neck, and a long neck was preferable to show off, though both were done. I've seen a few with this type of ribbon layout, and based off of the shape of the side and tail ribbons, I think that they are meant to all knot together into a faux bow at the back of the head - such that the side ribbons for the bow, and the back ribbon forms a sort of swallowtail - which also creates a nice sort of cowl to keep the hat on one's head. The thinner side ribbons on this one - I'm guessing were probably intended just to hang down at the sides like in this image:

Anonymous said...

These kinds of hats were an important part of the traditional costume on the island of Walcheren (The Netherlands) around 1800. Our costume foundation posseses several original ‘shell hats’ as they are called over here. The side straps were not, as suggested, tied behinde the hair, but they are paticulary used to tie the hat on the head, ontherwise it won’t stay stuck. Imagine a little breeze and.. the hat would be gone! For costume presentations we have some replicas made.

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