How to Wear a Hat – Rules & Etiquette for Women
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
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.
Evening Hats and Fascinators
Traditionally, fashion hats are not worn with formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses. Women, instead, wear:
- 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.
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:
- 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.
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