‘It is the Hat that Matters the Most’: Hats, Propriety and Fashion in British Fiction, 1890–1930

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Essential to both propriety and fashion, hats were a crucial aspect of British female dress and appearance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article shows how British novelists of this period, ranging from mainstream to experimental, understood this importance. With appropriate contextualization, these literary depictions can illuminate how women wore and felt about their hats. Authors such as Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dorothy Whipple, and Virginia Woolf used these accessories to explore social respectability and convention, the pleasures and challenges of following fashion, and consumption strategies among women. Despite the era’s significant social changes, remarkable continuity exists in these literary representations of hats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-102
Number of pages25
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

This article has been accepted for publication by Edinburgh University Press in Costume, the Version of Record can be found here: http://www.euppublishing.com/doi/10.3366/cost.2017.0006


  • hat
  • millinery
  • late nineteenth-century fashion
  • early twentieth-century fashion
  • British fiction
  • etiquette
  • propriety
  • social ritual


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