Hello everyone, my name is Sam Swift, this is my first blog post and I am a self-confessed vintage addict. I’m addicted to that feeling of glamour, femininity and decadence that comes from wearing my vintage pieces. I’m addicted to hunting out sought-after pieces from our beloved vintage designers and finding vintage bargains in the most unlikely places. And most recently, I have become addicted to hats. ALL THE HATS. This has become a recent compulsion after collecting vintage for a number of years and only now have I come to realise that for me, a hat is the ‘cherry on the cake’, the ‘fairy on the Christmas tree’, the finishing touch to an outfit that really helps to pack a punch and create visual nirvana.
Looking back into the history of millinery, it would appear that I am not alone in feeling this way; headwear for women became commonplace in the middle ages after the church declared that ladies’ hair should be covered. At this time, hats were used as an indicator of social status and were even used to identify particular groups; for example in 1215, the Fourth Council of the Lateran demanded that all of Jewish faith wore the Judenhat (“Jewish Hat”), resulting in them becoming a target for anti-Semitism. Over time, the demand for hats developed and the role of Milliner (hat-maker), traditionally a female role that was carried out at home, developed into a profession in the 1800’s. As fashions and politics evolved, so too did our taste in headwear; from tall and mighty in the 1700s to face-hugging cloche’s of the 1920s, the evolution of our chapeau-based compulsions has seen all shapes and styles take centre stage.
Whilst I have a range of hat styles and shapes, I have a particular penchant for the hats of the 1940s. Interestingly, hat materials avoided the rationing restrictions on both sides of the Atlantic brought about by the second world war, leaving milliners free to create high visual impact to brighten even the most mundane of outfits. Hats of all styles and shapes were created to suit all faces, all hairstyles and all outfits and so there really is a 1940s hat for everyone. So whether you go bananas over berets or wild for wimple hats, there is something to fulfil every desire!
Let’s focus on one of the most iconic and visually spectacular hats of this era; the classic turban hat. Almost a mythical creature due to their relative rarity in the market compared to some other styles, the turban (for me at least) encapsulates the drama and seductiveness of the old Hollywood films where Greta Garbo, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr would often be seen with a turban atop their beautiful heads. Created from a variety of fabrics from rayon jersey to rich velvet, the turban hat can be found in many styles and shapes and can thus can complement both day and evening attire.
Interestingly, the turban had been a popular look throughout earlier decades and also featured heavily during the war where ladies didn’t have the time or resources (shampoo and hair styling products were not considered essential during this period) to maintain a perfectly coiffed ‘do. Additionally, as many women worked in the factories or on the land, a turban was considered an effective way to keep their hair out of their faces and more importantly, out of the machinery.
I own a number of different turbans, mainly from the 1940s. Each of them offer something a little different in terms of their style, impact, shape and ‘degree of hair cover’. The photo at the top of the blog post and those in the slideshow were taken at the ‘WW2 Home Front’ event at Crich Tramway Museum, Derbyshire. The turban featured here is made of a luxurious burgundy silk velvet fabric which has been pleated, stitched and folded around an inner wired structure to give height and create the very prominent three peaked crown. Unlike some other styles, this is designed to sit at the back of the head and as such, requires fixation with hat pins. As shown, it actually covers very little of the head and so allows for more flexibility in styling the hair around it.
Another one of my favourites has to be the black velvet turban-style hat with the attached drape (see images in the slideshow above). This is a recent acquisition and let me tell you, it set me back a few pennies but I think it was worth it! This hat is created from supple silk velvet and incorporates a rolled, padded edge that has been wound around a cotton batting roll. This is then intertwined with a second roll, covered in pink rainbow metallic lurex thread (yes, really). If this were not enough, a rayon jersey drape is attached at the right side, which can be worn hanging or pinned to the left side, cradling the chin and creating a medieval wimple-effect, another look that was popular in the ‘40s.
Turban hats from this era can be notoriously difficult to find but don’t despair, there are plenty of reproduction turban hats available in the UK and tend to be much more purse-friendly! Sarah Bloor at Pin-Up Curl offers the ‘Lana’ turban in her Etsy store (https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/PinUpCurl), a stretchy lurex turban available in a variety of colours. At just £10, these are super-affordable and have featured in the new Splendette advertising campaign.
Sarah Dunn of ‘Sarah’s Doo-Wop Dos’ (https://www.etsy.com/shop/SarahsDooWopDos) creates handmade turbans in jersey stretch fabric with a pre-sewn knot at the top so no fiddly tying techniques required! These are also available in a range of colours.
Happy turban-ing everyone!
Photography by John R. Mackaill (http://www.mackaill.com) and No Time Like the Past