Thread By Thread: Costumes on Screen

Hats Off

Not since Jackie Kennedy have hats been so stylish and desirable. Kate Middleton has brought the hat in all forms back on the forefront of fashion. Her charming personality, good looks, and her middle(ish) class background have made her a real people’s princess (to-be).  Hats have always been an affinity for the British, but across the pond hats as a fashion accessory are more likely to be found on film than in the street.  So let’s get started at looking at some of film’s best hats.

Rose’s Boarding Hat from Titanic

For this scene of the film, the filmstrip was actually flipped so her hat would prove a more dramatic reveal and take up more of the screen.

It was the hat that was as epic as the ship Rose DeWitt was boarding. Designed to reflect the Edwardian era fashions of large hats it was also cleverly used as a suspense tool. Much like in My Fair Lady an over-the-shoulder camera shot on her hat then the reveal of her face as she turns her head was exactly the kind of big reveal many Edwardian ladies wanted.  The outfit and hat take after Cecil Beaton’s designs for My Fair Lady. The navy blue and white colors are reflective of Beaton’s black and white color scheme for the Ascot races (Which contrary to popular belief was not done solely for aesthetic purposes but instead because of the film’s time setting, 1910, the year that black was worn to Ascot in memoriam to King Edward VII). The bow on the hat may not perfectly match her double breasted pinstripe lady’s suit  but it complements it nicely and shows its likely pairing with another outfit (something commonly done in Edwardian times).

The inspiration for Rose’s hat, Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, thankfully without the mop cap.

Delysia’s Shopping Hat from Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

The color and shape of the hat was designed to turn heads on and off screen, just what Delysia wants.

A hidden gem, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a delight in art deco setting and fashion. Set in London right before the Blitz, it follows an out of luck Governess who follows actress/singer Delysia LaFosse for one day. Who knew a girl could wear so many outfits in one day?  For her day out Delysia is dressed in a French Blue wrap dress with a matching hat. The color compliments her strawberry blonde locks and looks fresh and young in comparison to the darker streets and mood of the country on the cusp of war. The hat’s almost fortune cookie shape is reflective of the Art Deco movement which used a lot of basic lines and shapes in new ways.

Fleur’s Beauxbaton Hat from Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

The tilt gives the wearer a nice shadow over the eyes adding an air of mystery, appropriate as the true source of Fleur’s allure is magical parentage.

It is only appropriate that French beauty Fleur would don a pale French Blue for her first appearance on screen. The hat looks like a Hershey kiss atop a half made paper hat but somehow works, clearly designer Jany Temime added her own French air of mystery to it. Upon a second look you can see that the hat is really a combination of a witches hat a bowler hat.  The point and the folding of the brim are reflective of a witch hat, without them it would simply be a bowler.

Scarlett’s Mill Hat from Gone With The Wind

Scarlett ironically wears white for her meeting with Ashley, it is the one moment in the film where she doesn’t lust for him but rather comforts him in as a steadfast friend.

It is only fitting that Scarlett would don a hat that is reminiscent of a wedding veil for the scene where she truly connects with Ashley. But the bridal qualities of the hat also communicate how Scarlett is married to an idealized image of the past, too blind to see she’s got it made in the present. The irony of a character from Gone With The Wind clinging to an idealized image of the past is not lost, some would even argue it’s purposeful but that’s a whole different kind of analysis.  The hat is a small triangular shaped hat covered in white lace with a sprig of spring flowers as an accent along with a tail of white tulle is oddly reserved for Scarlett, it shows she has matured but her beauty hasn’t dimmed.  The style of the hat was not overtly popular in the 1870s but the penchant for small hats for ladies was and the style of Scarlett’s hat even experienced a small resurgence in the 30s and 40s.

Lorelei’s Beret from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Beret and high heel sale soared after Monroe’s appearance in them in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

The Beret has never really gone out of style since its entrance into mainstream fashion in the 20s. It can be worn many different ways but it looked best tilted on Marilyn Monroe’s head in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The dark blue color offsets her golden tresses perfectly and its caricature look is done on purpose for a Paris café musical number. The beret is worn at a tilt is a nod to Lorelei’s odd combination of naiveté and seduction. Lorelei’s take on French fashions even managed to land her a contract performing in a Paris cabaret.

Princess Anne’s Press Conference Hat from Roman Holiday

The silk hat replaces Princess Anne’s tiara, and represents her desire to shed her royal mantle but her embrace of inherited responsibilities.

In the film Roman Holiday Princess Anne literally sheds her royal clothes and crown for a romp with reporter Joe Bradley.  During the film Anne cuts off her long hair to a cute gamine cut, which thousands copied after the film.  To show her new mature outlook on life, costume designer Edith Head decided to have Princess Anne ditch the tiara for her first solo press conference.  Instead she put on a sleek silk hat that represented reserved elegance.  The hat sits at the front of her head and is reminiscent of Dior’s New Look.

Marie Antoinette’s Versailles Tricorn from Marie Antoinette

Swathing Marie Antoinette in French blue represented the French court’s total control over her, as she was literally stripped of all Austrian possessions before her arrival in France

A must see for all fashion lovers Marie Antoinette is a lavish period movie that hardly shows its titular character in the same outfit for more than a few minutes. For the Austrian Princesses arrival at the French court of Versailles she is dressed in a French Blue silk. Marie Antoinette had to adhere to the strict formalities of Versailles, in strong contrast to the relative lax atmosphere of Vienna.  The tricorn is certainly reflective of the era of the film and its blue ribbon and plumed feather signal the influence the future Queen would have on fashion.

Though some speculate Kate may wear a hat on her wedding day, with an array of tiaras hats seem paltry.

Since the 70s hats have fallen out of the mainstream fashion and have instead been worn mostly as for warmth in the winter and shade in the summer.  Consequently most hats displayed in movie are either on fashionistas or ladies of another era. It’s also ironic to note that most hat wearers on film, even in different eras, are foreign. Here’s to hoping Kate Middleton’s hat fashions transfer to America.

This entry was published on March 9, 2011 at 2:33 pm. It’s filed under Entertainment, March 2011 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Hats Off

  1. Kate’s Titanic boarding hat was built by Mela Hoyt-Haden, who teaches Theatrical Costuming at Fullerton College. She’s also made hats seen in the Emma Thompson version of “Sense and Sensibility,” the BBC’s 1990s “Persuasion,” and Glenn Close’s big black hat seen in “Dangerous Liasons.” Mela also built the corsets Glenn and Michelle Pfeiffer wore in that film.

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