Before there were fascinators, there were embroidered women’s caps. Now women—especially Jewish women—are bringing back styles of old into their millinery collections.
If you’re a woman today, you’ve probably noticed the surge in popularity of European-style women’s hats—like turbans, fedoras and the ever-so-popular fascinators.
Style icon Elizabeth Savetsky, also known as “Excessories Expert” in the fashion blogosphere, says the hat trend is gaining lots of momentum—both in high-end fashion and everyday life. “We’ve been seeing a lot of turban-inspired hats on the runway—for example, with Gucci, Alice and Olivia, and Dolce and Gabbana—as well as on the street…drawing on influences from old-world-Europe, glamourous-gypset vibes and modern embellishments such as whimsical patches, pom-poms and sequins.”
And if you take a look at some antique hats from Europe in the 1800s, you’ll see what she means: Recently, Kedem Auction House just debuted three handmade Jewish women’s caps from the 19th century for their February 2017 auction—they’re complete with sequins, ribbons and floral patterns.
In old-world Europe, says Savetsky, “nobody would have left their house without topping off their look with a hat—both men and women. It was just the concept of completing the look.” And it wasn’t just a Jewish thing—“it was the culture of Europe, in general,” she says.
Jewish designers are capitalizing on this comeback of old-style hats to create their own vintage-inspired designs.
In 27-year-old Israeli designer Daniella Farin’s thriving boutique in Rechavia (called Daniella Faye Ein Sof), one of the most popular items are her handmade headcoverings and turban-style headbands. “A big part of a married Jewish woman’s day is figuring out how her outfit is going to match her hair covering. The mitzvah of covering one’s hair is very important and special, and many women like finding new hair accessories and pretty hats to always look beautiful.”
In fact, Farin’s velvet turbans were chosen by marketing firm TAG (The Artisan Group) to be included in the highly prestigious Golden Globe swag bags, given to over 100 celebrities who attended this past January American awards ceremony.
The hat trend began in Europe years ago, so it makes sense that fascinators are the norm in England at weddings, bar mitzvahs, horse races and the like. Rosie Rubin of Rosie Olivia Millinery (whose handmade hats are available at boutiques like Selfridges and have adorned the heads of royals such as Princess Beatrice and celebrities like Pippa Middleton) says hats and fascinators are making a comeback in the modern century largely because the royal family has been popularizing them… “and everyone loves the royal family—not just in England, but around the world. It’s not just quite a British thing anymore,” she laughs.
“Hats are also like clothes, though, in that styles come back into fashion all the time,” says the designer. “For example, years ago women used to wear large-brimmed hats, and now it’s back to short-brimmed.” She’s referring to the fact that bonnets—along with attached veils—were de rigeur in the 1830s. According to the Vintage Fashion Guild, larger-brimmed bonnets in the mid 1850s gave way to smaller brims, and ribbon frills called bavolettes were introduced. A ribbon bavolet, attached to the back of the bonnet, would cover a lady’s neck—an exposed neck was improper in the mid 19th century. Eventually, bonnets gave way to “wide-awakes,” then very ornamentally styled tall hats called “three-story” or “flowerpot” hats in the mid 1880s and then “crowns,” “cloches” and fedoras. During World War II, where hat materials were one of the only items not rationed in Europe, trimmings like veils, fake flowers and feathers were very popular. Also during this era, small “doll” hats (worn toward the very front of the forehead) bonnets, turbans and halo hats came back in style.
“Nowadays, when you’re wearing a glamorous hat, it’s the first thing people see,” says Rosie, whose bespoke creations for clients who want high-end hats for occasions start at about 400 EU a piece. She instructs every client to bring a sample of the dress fabric they’ll be wearing with the hat in order to match textiles and colors.
“Of course it’s possible to just wear a hat casually, but when you wear a hat fashionably it becomes another statement piece,” says Rosie.