Accessories Of Dress - Hats
( Originally Published 1924 )
"No article of wearing apparel has a more diplomatic mission than the hat. If you will observe the people you pass in the street or who sit opposite you in a car you will be surprized to see fifty women who are well gowned for one who is appropriately hatted."-WINTERBURN.
A woman should be a "design." If Nature has failed to give to a woman the desirable asset of Beauty, she often compensates by giving the woman sufficient intelligence to camouflage her homeliness. When a woman decides that certain head-gear will go a long way toward attaining distinction, if not beauty in her appearance, she will give close attention to these important points :
Head—its size, and carriage
A hat should primarily seem to belong to the wearer. It is the one article of dress of which a woman should "neither a borrower or a lender be." It should seem to belong to the wearer, not only because it fits her head but because of its suitability to her costume and her temperament. It is not true, logical tho it may seem, that the hat which beautifies the lady will harmonize with the dress that is becoming. They may both be equal to the same pleasant task and yet not be able to endure each other.
Very often the head that wears a certain crown betrays a cruel red streak across the forehead. Cain, the murderer, was branded by such a mark. But there are many cases where women felt like committing murder because of ill-fitting crowns. A gentle, Madonna face can be hoodooed into one which is almost vixenish by the evil spell of a hat, And so, the crown, of the hat not only decides its becomingness but the comfort of the wearer as well. The width and length of the face should determine the height and width of the crown—and we might add that the crown retaliates by determining new dimensions for the face. Crown and width should never be equal if the face is broad. The round-faced woman demands extra breadth in the crown. The tam-o'-shanter crown, especially if permitted to take its own flat round way, will give even greater width to a plump face. Crowns with lines which meet at a topmost point—like the wedges of a pie—direct the eye to the center of the crown, and so create the illusion of smallness of the head. This is a desirable effect, because our standards are influenced by the Greek idea of beauty which held the small head as the ideal.
The hat that is wide in the brim produces the effect of Alice-in-Wonderland's magic potion—shortness. If one is short, she probably wishes to be taller—for it is human nature to desire that of which one is not possessed. If one is tall, she may wish to appear shorter. Now it is quite an easy matter to please both of these women with what one might call "hat-magic." The tall woman should wear the wide brim ; the short woman should choose a hat without a brim, or with a very narrow one.
With the progress of elimination of all superfluities in dress and a growing dependence upon line and richness of fabric, we find the hat in keeping with the general trend. In some future season Dame Fashion may use her woman's prerogative of mental change and proclaim a decree in favor of elaborate trimming. The tiny woman should give this no anxiety, however, for there is a law higher than that of the Dame Fashion, and that law is the good sense of the Individual. All that the Individual needs to do is to establish a logical reason for her insubordination to Fashion's dictate. It would be very effective to exhibit a photograph of one who bears upon her head a roof-garden hat, burdened, but not adorned, with three bunches of purple lilacs, a half-dozen pink roses, and two bunches of white grapes. Truly the white woman's burden !
Here are a few practical suggestions for one who feels uncertain of what she should wear:
A square face needs an irregular outline. A straight-line hat may by its very contrast emphasize irregularity in a face. The round faced one can wear a straight brim, a sailor, or a standing line such as characterizes the Russian hat or the off the-face hat. A hard line should be worn only when the fluffy hair arrangement softens the effect upon the face. An oval face should be surmounted by a hat with a downward, irregular but graceful curving line. For a long, thin face a shallow hat with curves, no angles, and a close fit to the hair will make the face seem rounder. A stiff brimmed hat should never be placed over a very slender face unless the wearer wishes to obtain recognition through her appearance of severity and executive ability.
Those who from necessity look out at life from windows framed in tortoise-shell, or, in other words, those who wear spectacles, may discover that becoming hats are discouragingly hard to find. An off-the-face hat or a hat with the wide brim that forms deep shadows are put aside in favor of the narrower slightly drooping brim which does away with glare but does not overshadow.
When eyes are a woman's best feature, she should not hide their brightness, but choose turbans and brimless effects. If she feels that her hollow cheeks or pointed chin need to be softened, she can find many lovely things for that purpose—soft furs, laces, and neck scarfs. If one's eyes are too close together, an illusion of greater width can be given by a hat with slanting lines, or merely by placing the hat on the head in a certain manner. Even a perfectly round turban can be changed in effect by a slight tilt.
A very broad mouth can be emphasized too much by a broad, straight-brimmed hat. Color of lips plays an unquestioned part in the color scheme and may unite in tone with the hat to give an interesting touch to the picture.
A cultured and lovable girl found herself un-popular. The trouble lay in her lack of good "hat sense." She was not really homely, but her neck was built like a Grecian column; she had a long nose, and was angular in form. She wore her hat at all angles, generally with such an abrupt twist that her nose seemed to project indefinitely. A favorite hat was hexagonal in shape, and the six different points all drew attention to a seventh point, which was her nose. Overshadowing curves and trimmings correctly placed would have modified her features into a far more harmonious composite. Cyrano de Bergerac "played up" to the amusing characteristics of his nose with great success, but no woman in her present state of dependence on Beauty can afford to do this. She must temper her hat to her nose !
A receding chin can be corrected in appearance by a hat's brim which projects beyond the face. The side line should have a curve fitting down closely on the hair in the back. A trimming which, starting from the front, follows in a curve the side line of the hat and curls under the brim at the ear, gives balance to the face. A large and prominent nose requires the heaviness of the hat in front, so that the nose does not seem so important. If the chin projects, the back of the hat should be trimmed to balance it. A hat should bring out one's best qualities by emphasizing them and canceling the less at-tractive ones. This applies not only to the profile view, but from the back, front, or in-between points of vision as well.
Whether or not the ears should show depends on their size, placing, and the fashion! There are some women who gain real distinction in their appearance by wearing hats set up sufficiently high on the head for their well-shaped ears to be displayed.
A short woman once received at a public gathering wearing a flat, mushroom hat which played tag with her shoulders, while her friends endeavored in vain to see her face. Had she worn an off-the-face hat, with a slightly angular brim, it would have had—oh, such a different effect!
If one feels that her shoulders resemble the village blacksmith, because of their breadth, she should remember that Longfellow's hero "looked the whole world in the face." However, she will choose wisely a hat whose crown is fairly high and whose brim is but slightly broad to counterbalance the breadth of hips, which usually accompany such broad shoulders. The thin woman with her oval face, long slender throat, and narrow shoulders, of course could not wear the type of hat the broad-shouldered one requires. The tiny hat would extend her line of slenderness, so a soft medium-sized hat would be her best choice. Distinction would be obtained by continuing in the hat her impression of height, but one should beware of caricaturing her personality.
If the torso is long and the limbs are short, a large, flat hat would prove a tragedy. As tho Thor, the great Thunder God, had smitten with his huge hammer ! But, on the other hand, if a big woman with large face and large head wears a too-small hat, it will look as if it were ready to take flight at any moment. One's clothes should never give an impression of being migratory !
From the verdict, "No large hats for her !" there may be an appeal. A round, large hat is desirable for but a very few. The stout woman should flee from it, for it makes her neck shorter and bigger; the bump of flesh at the back of her neck assumes enlarged proportions; her shoulders become narrower and, by contrast, make her neck, face, and head broader. Yet a big hat, the rotund one says, she must and will have. The problem can be worked out by the process of subtraction from both sides of the equation. We will have less brim, and still obtain the effect of width by making the brim very short in the back. Immediately her neck seems longer and slimmer. Now make the brim shorter in front than on the sides. Remove the trimming from the front, spread it over the back of the crown where the brim formerly was. Now tip the hat a trifle so that we have a diagonal line across the eyes. Behold the difference ! Her eyes seem wider apart; the chin becomes pointed.—Voila! It is the witchery of an uneven hat line—as subtle as the irregular hem line which flatters large ankles and feet in the same manner !
The law of scale and related sizes demands that every woman shall wear clothes which are in proportion to her size. Why, then, you say, do certain tall women find it impossible to wear large hats?
The answer no doubt lies in the fact that while the figure is tall, the proportions are such that the large hat exaggerates where it should diminish. A tall woman may have a short torso and neck. In that case the aim would be to equalize the various parts of her figure. A short skirt would make the legs appear shorter; a small hat would make the neck seem longer; and there would be, therefore, greater balance in the design. This challenges the truth of the statement that "a small hat should be worn with a short skirt." A shortening of the up-per part of the figure could be produced by wearing a large hat. Unless the skirt were very long there would be no lack of proportion. Fortunately, perhaps, there are not so many anxious to look shorter as there are those who desire height and slenderness.
For some, it may seem a far cry from hats to shoes, but they are always within visual distance and should be in the same key—not necessarily the same hue. Monotones in dress, as well as in music, need to be avoided. Shoes vary in the shape of toe, length of vamp, height and shaping of heel, and the materials employed; the trimmings too—buckle, cut-outs, straps, lacings—play their part ; so one can see instantly their analogy to hats. Here we may say that if the hat and shoes are in keeping with the frock they are in harmony with each other.
The way a woman wears her shoes may have an effect upon her general appearance. A woman who wears a very small turban and long pointed shoes, may walk with toes straight on a line and not break the continuity of her appearance. But let those same long pointed toes slant outward and we experience the feeling of gazing upon one long-stemmed bud in a narrow vase with a large triangular base. The curves and angles do not combine at all and there is an effect of their standard being immovably fastened to the floor—no sense of movement or lightness. If the one who toes out wears round-toed shoes with her small curved hat, the reaction is quite different. Now, put a large hat on the one with a "triangular" base and the effect will be that of balance. Women who have large feet will find that small hats will contrast with the size of their feet and thereby cause them to seem larger.
Let us consider the problem of what colors a woman should select in her hats, bearing in mind the laws of harmony and balance as discussed in the chapter on Color. The law of simultaneous contrast, which proves that a certain color reflects a complement which in turn reflects its complement, is an important one to keep in mind.
A fire-fly girl with red hair, blue eyes, and the freckles which often accompany such hair, once chose a pumpkin tan hat for October's bright blue weather. It was "being done" that season, for the reigning "movie Queen" had one. What was the result? Her blue eyes reflected their complement, the pumpkin yellow, and became green. Her sallow skin became greenish white, compared with the color of the hat; and the freckles, which couldn't be hid, stood out so boldly that they, like the uplifted nose, became almost too assertive. One's imagination was not slow in picturing a resemblance to a Jacko'-Lantern, altho the fire-fly's real ambition was to appear as elusive as the Will o' the Wisp.
A golden blonde girl once chose a toque of gold cloth. The sheen of the metal fabric enhanced her honey-colored hair. But—alas !—a front gold tooth (which was the girl's bête noir) received the imparted luster as well!
A woman can wear a color above her face which she couldn't possibly stand under her chin. The reason for this is that her hair forms an effective transition between hat and flesh. An interposed hue will aid greatly in combining colors. Black hair placed between two hostile hues will often serve as peacemaker, because the colors of both hat and skin are affected and so clash less.
A color casts its reflection downward, but brings out its complement above. A red facing on a hat will throw a rosy gleam over a pale skin, while the same hue in a dress would but bring out its complement, green, "which, combined with the yellow tones of the face, would develop sallowness. A green hat-facing could not be as flattering as a green dress—for the hat would reflect its own color more noticeably, while the dress would reflect in the skin its complement, red, and so give a healthy, ruddy glow. A blue hat-facing would reflect itself, and the blue combining with the pink tone of the skin would give a purple cast, and thus would give a transparent effect which might be very flattering. A blue dress would reflect orange and enliven the complexion. A green-blue would bring out more of the red tones of the orange and so counteract sallowness, while a pure blue would bring out more of the yellow tones and increase sallowness. There is no color kinder to the sallow woman than a soft, grayed green-blue, both in hat and in dress, especially if intensity is low and value medium. It always brings out the red-orange tint.
In choosing color, we may desire one definite color plan, such as a black hat with a black costume, brown with brown, or blue with blue. For the street, this monotone seems most fitting. A woman who was never able to look really smart was forced by circumstances to adopt mourning. She immediately developed smartness and style, not because the somber lack of color was what she needed, but because at last she was not the visualization of a quarreling color arrangement.
The hat may harmonize by its likeness in hue, but give a variant because of the difference in its tone and intensity. One who is not certain of her color sense should beware of too contrasting color combinations. In harmonies of likeness, she must avoid wearing a hat with a dress so nearly like it in color that it gives the impression of a mistake in matching.
There is one time when a bright colored hat, especially if it is tiny, is delightful, and that is with a fur coat or one of cloth with a large fur collar. The softness of the shadowy furs blends with the brilliant colors, and the sheen and depth of the furs are thereby enhanced. Needless to say, how-ever, a bright, embroidered hat should not be worn with a raccoon coat. One needs to assimilate the feeling, not just the touch of textures, so that those fabrics which denote elegance, refinement, and delicacy are not forced into companionship with those which are hopelessly uncongenial.
A hat should repeat some motif of the costume. It may not be the major idea, but it should have a definite place in the whole harmony and not be merely an isolated note. This can be accomplished in a deft touch of trimming. The hair often repeats the color melody of the costume; and if the hat is sufficiently small to permit the color of the hair to show, it can be of a hue whose brightness or lightness will be an overtone. To illustrate: Let us take a woman with dark red-brown hair in burnished copper tones and with eyes very much the same hue, her skin a deep rich ivory with a faint flush of yellow-rose, her lips Pompeian red. Her dress is very dark blue-green of crêpe de Chine ; her necklace of pearls has the same rich tones as her skin; around her shoulders is a Kolinsky fur which repeats the tone of her hair and eyes. On her head, worn so that over brow and ears the hair displays its part in the color ensemble, is a repetition of the color of her mouth—a red, closely-wrapped turban. This is so soft in texture that its lights and shadows vary from a deep orange rose to wine tones. The turban's red is of the same value as the blue-green dress. In this color plan we have a perfect complementary harmony. Tonal blending of color and high lighting of her skin, through the glow of her pearls, bring out every possible charm by which the woman is glorified.
In recent seasons, metal trimmings were very popular on hats. In the hotel foyer one could not but notice the number of middle-aged women who wore shiny gold over their faces. One wondered what had become of all the kind-looking old-fashioned women. One probably did not realize that it was the metallic texture of their hats which was hardening unpleasantly their erstwhile gentle expressions. These metallic effects, unless most adroitly employed, will cruelly emphasize lines and shadows, emaciate thin faces, and give to the stout a Rabelaisian expression which is not at all alluring. Of course a touch of silver may be used by the gray-haired, but not so much that the face can reflect any of its light.