Lost Password?

A password will be emailed to you. You will be able to change your password and other profile details once you have logged in.

How to Wear a Hat – Rules & Etiquette for Women

Steampunk Hat by Louise Green

by Tina Boomerina (Christina Gregoire)

Do you know how to wear a hat to a party, a restaurant, or your best friend's house?  I know you want to wear that cute hat that's been sitting in your closet, but you are afraid to walk out the door. Don't be.

women's hats

When Should You Wear Your Hat?

Here are the proper fashion rules for women's hats. You can follow them or break them, but you should know the rules before flouting convention.

Women's Hat Etiquette

Hat etiquette for ladies is quite different from hat rules for men. Up until the early 1960s, there were specific headwear guidelines to follow, but now manners and customs are less clear. Yet, any woman can learn to wear a hat.

Hats are hip and sassy.  Hats make a distinction between those who are stylish and those who are stylish and interesting.  Also, if you want to meet people, your hat (or fascinator) will be an icebreaker in any language.

Baseball Caps and Truckers Hats

The following information does not apply to baseball caps, trucker hats, beanies with twirly propellers, most cowgirl hats, some fedoras, or anything Rastafarian.

Also, rain hats, ski hats, and fur hats, for outdoor weather protection, fall into a different category.

Note:

Many headwear customs vary from country to country, so investigate dress codes and conventions before traveling to unknown parts of the world. When in doubt, remain flexible and follow what other women do.

read about hats

Ladies Hats for Spring & Summer

 

Ladies Dress Hats

Here are a few clarifications for those who did not grow up in the era of Easter bonnets and little white gloves. The rules explained below are for those hats specifically made for women, often embellished with veils, flowers, ribbons, embroidery, or feathers.

  • Women’s hats are fashion accessories and are part of their ensembles. Therefore, ladies are not required to remove their hats when going indoors.
read about hats

Winter Hats for Women

  • Women may wear hats at formal teas, luncheons, and wedding ceremonies or receptions.
  • Women do not take fashion hats off during the National Anthem, however they must take off men's-style baseball caps, trucker hats, etc.
  • Women are allowed to take off their hats, if they wish, in any of these circumstances.

Women's Hats in Restaurants

A woman may wear a hat in a restaurant during the day. Actually, up until mid-century, a woman would not consider going outside in public without a hat. Therefore, she would, almost, never consider taking her topper off in a restaurant. (See movies from the 1940s for reference.)

read about hats

Can a Woman Wear a Hat in a Restaurant?

  • Hat Rule Number One: In the evening, a woman may wear a hat in a restaurant if she is wearing street clothes. (Women are not in “street clothes” whenever they are dressed for a cocktail party or a formal "black tie" event. Jogging suits are not "street clothes" for anyone over 40 or 50 and no hat in the world will help.)
  • Hat Rule Number One Again: Because so many sites get the hats-in-restaurants issue wrong, I want to reemphasize correct etiquette with a quote from Gary Warth at VillageHatShop.com, "Women should not remove hats that go with dinner suits or dinner dresses throughout the evening."

The rules of etiquette confuse people because men must remove their hats in a restaurant or at a table. On the other hand, only Ronald McDonald would consider a hamburger joint to be a restaurant, so that would be a gray area for men's hats.

Women’s Cloches or Small-Brimmed Hats

A large brimmed hat, such as a sun hat, a big, floppy straw hat, or a Kentucky Derby / Ascot-style hat is inappropriate for a restaurant at night, as there is no sun. However, a woman should not feel forced to remove her hat if she finds herself in this situation with no opportunity to change her ensemble.

read about women's hats

Cute Hats for Dinner or Drinks

The following hats are cute and are definitely chic enough for chicks to wear while dining in a restaurant or having drinks at a bar:

  • Cloche Hats - similar to Roaring Twenties flapper hats
  • Women’s Fedoras - especially embellished styles
  • Steampunk Hats - embellished women's tophats
  • Fancy Berets - try one with sequins for clubbing
  • Dressy Caps - sometimes called Gatsby or newsboy styles
  • Pillbox Hats - like those worn by Jackie Kennedy

Actually, any hat that has a small brim, or no brim, is fine at night. Some websites disagree, but historically it is quite correct for a woman to wear a small hat after 6pm, unless she is dressed (in a ballgown) for a formal event.

read about ladies hats

Cocktail Hat & Fascinator

Evening Hats and Fascinators

Traditionally, fashion hats are not worn with formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses. Women, instead, wear:

  • Fascinators
  • Cocktail hats
  • Veils (often attached to small hats)
  • Fancy combs or other embellishments
  • Beautiful scarves tied as headbands or turbans (These are great when nothing else works, and a woman has no time to fix her hair.)

Places Where Women Don’t Wear Hats

Women do not wear hats in their own homes or at a friend’s home. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. Women sometimes wear small hats at a friend's dinner party.

Here are some other hat rules:

  • Theaters: At a theater, women should remove large hats. It is common courtesy to remove hats when they might block someone’s view of the stage or screen.
  • Work: Women should remove their hats when at work in an office.
  • Church: Women are not required to remove large hats in churches.

Etiquette Exceptions

There are times when a lady would choose not to follow the traditional hat rules.  Two common examples are:

  • Religion: When a woman wears a hat or headcover for religious reasons, she is never required to remove her headcover.
  • Hair Loss: When a woman wears a hat to cover hair loss from illness, age, or common alopecia, she is never required to remove her hat if it would cause her embarrassment.  For this reason, I feel it could be impolite for anyone to insist that an unknown woman remove her hat, even for the National Anthem, unless she is in the military.

Manners in General

Some girls were never taught proper hat etiquette by their grandmothers. Also, fashion rebels (and eccentrics) scoff at some of these old-fashioned customs. However, any woman with good breeding will know that it would be a horrible breach of manners to point out another woman’s faux pas or ridicule a woman (or a young lady) about a slight of etiquette.

Hats are coming back into style because of the publicity surrounding "Kate," the Duchess of Cambridge, because of retro and Steampunk fashions, and because hats are just plain fun.  So, save your skin and make us proud the next time you go outside.

More Articles for Boomer Chicks:

23 Trendy Plus Size Clothing Sites for Large Women: Sizes 1x - 12x

How to Wear Leggings if You're Over 40 or 50

Best Jeans: 5 Denim Trends for Fall / Winter

Hippie Wedding Dresses for a Casual Bohemian Chic Celebration

Photo Credits:

  • Main Photo: Louise Green (with permission).
  • When Should You Wear Your Hat? La  Redoute, prshots.com.
  • All the rest of the hats are from Louise Green (2015).
  • If you came here from Pinterest and you don't see the hat you're looking for, it's from Louise Green (last season) and it may still be available.

What do you think of this article? Leave a comment at the bottom of the page. We never publish your email address. We just need to know you're human.

Share on Google+7Pin on Pinterest6,714Email this to someoneShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0

Tina Boomerina (AKA Christina Gregoire) is a Baby Boomer born at the end of 1952. Her mission is to make the internet a kinder and gentler place for Baby Boomer women around the world. Tina's specialty is fashion for women over 50.

Follow Me on Pinterest Follow My Boomer Lifestyle Blog on facebook

Related Posts

37 Comments

  1. beth

    Hats look good on everyone but me.

  2. Tonik

    And me, beth, and me : ( !!!

    • Tina

      Toni,

      I wonder... I'll bet you either have gorgeous hair and don't want to hide it, or you just haven't tried the right hat on.

      Tina Boomerina

  3. Sue

    Thank you for the great info on wearing all the pretty hats. Love your site!

    • Tina

      Sue,

      Thanks so much. I love it when people like this site. Actually, I also love it when people hate this site... very rarely... because it means our little (startup) online magazine is growing.

      We have a lot of great writers. Thanks.

      Cheers,
      Tina Boomerina

  4. Suzanne V. Morgan

    Love your website and Pinterest boards. I would love to wear hats. Would you kindly talk about different styles and shapes and what to do with short hair and what jewelry I can wear and help!
    Thanks, Suzanne

  5. Gean

    Is it proper for a woman to wear a black hat after Memorial Day?

    • Tina

      Gean,

      It is proper to wear a black hat in summer on the West Coast... and probably on the East Coast. Generally, debutantes (and those types of chicks) in places like the Deep South have their own rules, but I don't know what they are. Lots of women wear black sunhats to the beach or the pool in Hawaii, in Cali, and on cruises. And, I've seen women in Europe wearing black hats... and wearing lots of black in summer.

      So, if you can wear a black hat in Europe or Hawaii, I don't think there could possibly be anything wrong with wearing a black hat in the US or Canada. I used to wear my black hats all year long, but now that I'm older and paler, I don't look as good in black. The only reason I hesitate to say that you should wear a black hat year-round is that some women who are pale don't look great in black until the sun goes down and the lighting changes. Back in the day, it was considered gauche to wear black before 6pm or 8pm or so. The only reason for that was because the wrong black can be harsh with some complexions... of course, a fake or bake tan will make black look better in many situations. And, children never wore black... ever... back in the day. But, that was in the 1950's and it's all changed.

      More important than what time of year it is... is what your outfit looks like. If a black hat goes with what you're wearing, and black seems to always look good with brights, black or dark denim, white...for example, a black hat would look great on you!

      • Tina

        ps A black hat with a large brim looks different than a black hat with a small (or no) brim... at least on me. I can wear a black or navy sunhat and it shades my face, so that the contrast isn't too severe. And, if I wear more makeup at night, or if I wear a magenta scarf or something similar in the day, a black hat of any style looks better on me. If you're not a Baby Boomer or Senior, you can probably wear black anywhere at anytime.

      • Diana

        I desperately need to know if it is a terrible breach of hat etiquette to wear a tightly woven straw pink and black hat in January? I live in the Deep South.

        • Tina-Boomerina

          Diana, I'd have to see the hat, but I think that if the "feel" of the hat goes with the "feel" of your outfit, I would wear it. I think it's more important for the color and style of the hat to look right than to worry about the material from which the hat is made. Also, since it is a tightly woven hat, it will not look summery and casual like other straw hats. I would do it... If I loved the hat, I would wear it.

          Tina Boomerina

          • Tina-Boomerina

            ps It might be better to have a lightweight felt hat, but I know how difficult it is to find a hat you really love, so I say wear it. Make sure it photographs well if you'll be going to a wedding.

  6. Lindi

    Great article! Thank you for the information.

  7. Rozemary Fournier

    I was born in 1930. Dressed up women always wore hats -- but NEVER at night. Yes, you see the wearing hats at night in the old movies. You see them wearing hats in restaurants, wherever. But that was strickly a movie thing. Not real. Believe me. Another "movie thing" is to see women on camping trips wearing high heels. Not real. Get a life. These were movie things, not reality.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Rozemary,

      Thank you so much for your insight. I do remember my grandmother wearing a small floral thing. I considered it a hat. And, my mother wore a champagne mink cocktail hat that went with her mink stole. I suppose it depends on where you grew up.

      Cheers,

      Tina Boomerina

  8. Chrispin

    Hello Tina,

    My girlfriend would like to know why are hats not worn after 6pm. Thank You.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Christpin,

      Actually, I wear hats all the time in the evening. I know you're not supposed to wear giant sunhats with huge brims, but you can wear small cloches and hats with small brims at night.

      I don't know why women decided it was uncool to wear hats at night. It doesn't make sense to me... Women used to wear crocheted hats and all kinds of hats to discos in the 70s and no one freaked out... except to yell how much they loved the look.

      If you're a stickler for "rules", a woman can always wear a fascinator after dark... and no one can say that the wearer is gauche in any way. Fascinators (with feathers and embellishments), cocktail hats (like retro 60s saucers for your head... see Victoria Beckham's hats), and doll hats (cute mini top hats and the like) are ALWAYS appropriate after 6:00 pm. No one can bitch about those... even if the girl is wearing a formal gown!

      I can only guess why women decided not to wear big hats at night... Maybe some chick poked another woman's eye out with the plumage on her hat? ... Maybe some man decided it was a pain in the ass when he tried to kiss a woman and her hat got in the way? ... Maybe you can come up with a better answer.

      Well, I'm not very good at following rules.

      It's my head. If I want to wear a big hat at midnight, I will. Your girlfriend should, too.

      Cheers,

      Tina Boomerina (ps If anyone knows why women are not "supposed" to wear hats at night, please leave a comment.)

  9. Jana

    I have a question about men's style .hats, but with a bit of a difference. I wore a fedora style hat, but with sequins, as part of an outfit I put together for an early evening informal meeting. As part of the meeting, there was an opening prayer and a recital of the pledge of allegiance. A male sitting across from me demanded that I take off my hat. I did, but felt that since the hat was part of my outfit, that I shouldn't have had to do so. What do you think?

  10. Tina-Boomerina

    Jana,

    Sorry, I didn't see your comment buried in with the spam. You were right on both counts.

    1. You were right in that you were not required to take off your hat as it was definitely a woman's hat and part of your ensemble.

    2. You were right in that you didn't make a scene about being in the right.

    The man was wrong, but you did the right thing. I've had that happen to me at a war memorial in Australia. The man told me to take off my hat out of respect when they played their national anthem. It wasn't worth the effort to correct him. Later, I heard someone correct the Aussie.

    Keep wearing your hats, Jana.
    Cheers,

    Tina Boomerina

  11. Katheryn

    I've always been told a man must remove his hat/cap (except religious) ANYTIME he is inside. If you walked into my mother's house or grandmother's house, gentleman, you best not have your cap or cowboy hat on your head. This is not just in church or when sitting down for a meal and I feel the same way they did. But the worst offense is in church (non-religious hats that is) & at the table. I just want to slap the guy's head right off his shoulders.

  12. Sherry

    love this info-I am very interested in wearing more hats as I have had skin cancer on my face. Help, I never look good and I have an asymmetrical hair cut. How do I find out what will work best for me. Would be greatful for any help. Thank you.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Sherry,

      It's sad to hear about your cancer but it's funny to hear that so many women begin wearing hats for the same reason. I started wearing hats because my dermatologist said I would get skin cancer if I didn't. Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad you're getting into hats. They are fun and they'll add a lot to your style and help you in a lot of ways. For one thing, you'll meet a lot of people who ask you about your hat.

      I don't know anything about asymmetrical hair cuts. I'll have to look into it. If your hair is short, I don't think it will make any difference if it's asymmetrical or symmetrical. If it's medium length, that may make a difference but I've never thought about it. If you can tell me what kind of cut you have (shoulder length, chin length, really short like a boy cut) it would help me do research or ask around or visualize it in my mind.

      ....

      I've thought about it for a few minutes. I don't think it will matter how your hair is cut if you wear a hat with a large or medium brim... like a fedora. With a cloche, I think you'll have to try different styles. Some of them are asymmetrical cloches... and I would have to see it on. Well, YOU would have to try it on. I think flappers sometimes had cloches... oh wait... cloches won't give you sun protection. duh.

      If you're going outside and you want good sun protection, try Solumbra. I like their hats and they have chinstraps to keep the hat on if you're at the beach or in the wind or on a boat. I have several kinds of solumbra hats. I tuck the chinstrap up in the hat if I don't need it. I also like Physician's Choice... or something with a name like that. I may have the wrong name... but the one I have doesn't come with a chinstrap... so it's not as versatile... but it's VERY cute.

      You want a big brim if you've actually had skin cancer... or you're at risk for it. If for some reason, you don't think a standard hat looks right with your asymmetrical haircut, try tilting it to one side or the other... at several different angles until it looks right with your hair. (It could eighter mimic your cut or go the opposite way to balance your cut.) Another option would be to pull your hair up and just let a few wisps hang down (on one side or both sides) if your hair is long enough.

      One good thing about a big hat is that it keeps your face somewhat shadowed if you have scarring from cancer surgery. So, your scars (and wrinkles and sags and other normal stuff) won't show as much.

      One thing I've discovered with big-brimmed hats is that the most important thing is that the hat is a color that flatters your face. I can't wear plain black hats as well as I once did. I look best in bright pink or coral or turquoise hats.

      Try hat colors that are like lipstick you look good in. If you've always looked good in burgundy lipstick, look for a burgundy hat. If you can wear (or could wear) fire engine red lipstick or bright orange or soft orange or whatever lipstick... try a hat in that color. It may not work for you, but it has worked for me. Also, if you can wear a particular shade of blue or green or gray or whatever, get a hat in that color or something similar.

      If you still look good in black, get black. I have found that the color is often more important than the shape of the hat --- when it has a big brim ---- because that color reflects onto your face. And, don't worry about matching colors. I've worn hats that didn't go with the rest of my outfit at all... they actually clashed... but women have come up to me to say things like "I didn't know you could wear those colors together" or "I like that" or... whatever.... so lots of times you can be really creative about your hat color.

      If you email me to tell me about your hair cut, I may be able to help you more, but I can't really make a guess without that info. Also, the look of a hat changes... well.... hats look different depending on things other than hair: your height, your build, the width of your shoulders, your body shape, your face shape.... you just have to play around. If you're really having trouble finding a hat that works, I would email someone at LouiseGreen.com. They make expensive high-end hats (I have a few) and they may have other suggestions... or you could have them make you something if you have the means.

      Hats are great. Welcome, my dear, to the fun, imaginative, amazing world of hats.

      Tina

      • Tina-Boomerina

        yes, there are a few typos. if you can't figure out what I mean, ask. I'm typing quickly on a tiny keyboard. i'm basically couch surfing homeless until our new house closes... we're moving to another state. hope this all makes sense. T

        • Tina-Boomerina

          Also, i meant to say that if you look good in black, you COULD get a black hat. I find all-black hats somewhat boring... but they are chic on most women. I would not get a black hat unless black is one of your best colors. don't get a black hat just because you think black will go with 'everything' and you want to play it safe. everyone probably should have ONE black hat, but I don't. I've given away all my black hats because they make me look like shit. I could wear them when I was in my 50s but I'm in my 60s and they are too harsh. I might try charcoal gray or denim or some other dark color... or just pick your fave color even if it's popsicle orange.

  13. Hats: inside or out? | Somewhat Savvy

    […] A hat can be worn in a restaurant if the lady is wearing ‘street wear’, not formal attire such as a gown says Boomerina  […]

  14. Vicky

    I don't know much about hat etiquette as I've never really worn hats and much of my family hasn't either. I am going to be attending a wedding reception in a couple weeks and I'll be wearing pants and a blouse. Is it acceptable to wear a straw fedora with my outfit? It's an evening reception with a sit down dinner.

    Thanks so much for your help!!

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Vicky,

      I think a straw fedora would be adorable with a pants outfit.

      If the reception is being thrown by a very finicky, proper, English-type family (with Mayflower pretensions), it would be best if the hat were not TOO casual. A straw hat with a tighter weave (so it looks more like solid fabric) would be more upscale and more apropos...especially in the evening.

      I'm thinking more like:

      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/274790014741527481/
      or
      https://www.pinterest.com/pin/274790014741527540/

      ......

      rather than something that looks beachy like this: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/274790014741527491/

      ......

      (If the reception is near a beach or if the reception is fairly casual, a beachy hat might be "proper".)

      Well, if you're expecting the Queen of England to be on the guest list, she would probably consider a straw fedora to be inappropriate for an evening reception... but I doubt she's invited... and if she is, she would have the good manners not to mention your slight faux pas.

      (And, I mention that "faux pas" thing because I'm not sure if a man's type of fedora would be technically appropriate at the dinner table, but if your chapeau is like the one in the link with the little bow - which is obviously a woman's hat - or if the fedora is the same color as your outfit or it has a hatband or scarf tied as a hatband or silk flower that matches your outfit [making the hat an integral part of your ensemble - thus absolutely appropriate at the dinner table]... THEN I think even the Queen of England might approve of your hat... since she would assume that you forgot to pack your tiara.)

      *******

      The "real" answer for a normal American wedding reception:

      If the reception is being thrown by a "normal" family that doesn't get all anal about propriety and archaic rules about little white gloves, you can wear whatever kind of hat you want. Any color. Any type of weave. Any hat that flatters your face... it doesn't have to match your outfit. If any old-timers make a comment about wearing a hat at the table (you never know), I would ignore them completely, because you are a woman and you are in the right.

      **Note: If you're fairly young... or you're artsy... you don't always have to follow the rules. Sometimes, I wear big floppy hats after dark. So, sue me. I'm artsy and rebellious. I know I'm going against the rules, but sometimes large brims look good with my evening outfits. I care more about looking good than following the rules. (Makes sense, right?)

      ********

      The "short" answer:

      If you think your straw fedora looks good with your outfit, wear it. If you think it's too casual, and you have money to burn on a good hat, get a summer fedora ('cuz it's summertime) from Louise Green. Her hats are ALWAYS appropriate and you'll make lots of new friends when strangers come up and tell you they love your hat. If you're wearing a tightly-woven hat, you can dress it up a notch with pearl earrings. If you're wearing a funkier, beachier hat, you can dress it up with boho dangles... but the dangles must look right with the whole enchilada and probably shouldn't be too long.

      You could also consider wearing a fascinator or a cocktail hat, but I think a fedora would be better with pants. If you're still not sure about the hat, ask your daughter or someone who will give you an honest answer.

      Actually, I believe that going with a hat is preferable to going bareheaded (unless you have an elaborate coif) in most instances, but I'm biased. And, I have a feeling that a hat will pull your pants outfit together... making it look just right for a fancy get-together. Don't be afraid of hats... they don't bite. And, try tilting your fedora to the side... that's my fave way to wear one.

      Tina (Hat Freak Since the 60s)

  15. Fran

    Great article! I had to get adjust to hat this Spring! I was told I had discord lupus and I suffered from major hair loss. Plus, no more sunlight on my scalp as it flares lupus. So, I bought a few hats and I now enjoy wearing them. However, I do have to wear hats even after 6pm if outdoors at a event or informal party due to the longer sunlight hours during the Summer months. I've been very fortunate to have found a fashionable hat store with 50+ UV protection plus lots of styles to pick from as well. I thought I wasn't a hat person prior to my health issue but as the sales clerk said... Anyone can wear hats. They just have to find the right style for themselves. So, I'm happy to state that I'm a classy hat wearing lady.

    • Tina-Boomerina

      Fran, I'm so sorry to hear about your lupus. I'm not sure what lupus is... I think it's some kind of autoimmune disorder, but I'll have to look it up. Lupus is one of the disorders I've managed to avoid so far. I hope you're feeling okay.

      Be happy, Chickadee. I am always thankful that we live in a time with all kinds of medical procedures and diagnostic tools that didn't exist 100 years ago.

      But, that's a bummer your hair fell out. Fortunately, there ARE all kinds of cute hats online, in stores, at street fairs, in boutiques, and everywhere.

      People who are not "into" hats just don't notice them.

      And, I want to tell you a little secret. I don't follow all the hat rules. I wear floppy hats (and hats with medium-sized brims) after the sun goes down. I suppose it depends on where you're going, but no one will snap the hat off your head and call the fashion police if you wear the "wrong" hat to the wrong place.

      On the other hand, I would not wear a giant sunhat to a crowded cocktail party or cocktail lounge. A huge hat might get knocked off and trampled.

      The Rules: Part of knowing the rules is knowing when to break them. I grew up breaking rules (as a baby boomer) and I'm sure not going to stop now.

      Welcome to the wonderful world of hats. Soon, you'll have a whole collection, and even if your hair grows back, you'll probably wear them. I know I would.

      Be healthy, Fran.

      Hugs,

      Tina

  16. Susan Clark

    Excellent article. One tiny quibble from a woman who is a former military officer: Women- and men- in military uniforms are required to leave their hats on during the playing of the national anthem. They show their respect by standing at attention and saluting.

  17. Dee

    What stylish sunhat would you recommend for a middle aged woman at the Monterrey Concours 'Elegance?

  18. Dennis Maher

    I am writing my memoir and remembering my Mother's friends ca. 1950. What was the etiquette for wearing veils? Many women wore pill box hats with veils, but I never understood when the veil was to be up or down over the face.

  19. Bonnie Fox

    Answered my questions. I appreciated it.