Mrs. Miniver Era Hats

Henry Travers, Greer Garson

Henry Travers, Greer Garson

In the opening scenes of the movie, Mrs. Miniver is about to board a London bus. She hesitates, ponders, then boards.  But she can’t get something out of her mind. She asks the conductor to stop the bus, and rushes into a shop and claims the prize for her own. It’s a hat. The corresponding scene in the book concerns an engagement book. Jan Struther describes it charmingly, but a date book just doesn’t carry the same weight as a new hat. The one she’s already wearing is beautiful, in fact the prettiest hat among those on the crowded streets. Clearly, this is a woman of taste and style.

Vogue Magazine, July 1944

Vogue Magazine, July 1944

Hats were an important part of any woman’s wardrobe.  They finished the look and were an expression of her personality. Sophisticated, wholesome, alluring, sensible, old fashioned or modern.  Along with the shoes, gloves and jewelry, they polished the appearance.

Although I love hats, most of the ones from the 1940s look silly to me.  There’s a blog review of Mrs. Miniver, in which I agree with the writer about everything, except her hats. She thought Garson’s hats were silly. I think they were fairly stunning.

Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday

Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday

For an example of a really silly hat, how about the one Rosalind Russell wore in His Girl Friday?

So, it’s all a matter of personal preferences, which was one of the creative aspects of dress. As women, we still present ourselves to the world, but much differently. I love pretty clothes, but I dress very casually. It’s seriously doubtful that the Apostle Paul was talking about clothing when he said “…for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” Romans 7:15. He was writing about spiritual matters. I’m just using it to illustrate how we humans are inconsistent.

Vogue Feb 15, 1940
On the occasions when I dress up, I feel dressed up. My behavior changes, becomes more ladylike. My mother used to say that with the advent of casual clothing, came casual behavior. She did not mean this in a good way, and I agree with her. Our society has not improved in most ways. Thinking that most things don’t really matter has resulted in the loss of the many of the really important things in modern American life. This, I see is a result of the very casual 1960s.

Back to early 1940’s hats. Here are a few more:

February 1940 Home Arts

February 1940 Home Arts

February 1940 Home Arts

February 1940 Home Arts

Vogue Magazine, January 1945

Vogue Magazine, January 1945

9 Comments

Filed under 1940s, Fashion, Hats

9 responses to “Mrs. Miniver Era Hats

  1. What lovely kitties in those photos!!!

    Cheers!

    Cat

  2. You are right about that Ros Russell hat in My Man Godfrey. It always kind of bothered me. I didn’t much like that other one either…kind of a white straw boater with a ribbon. But I love her, so….

    I wonder how the average woman chose her hats? I mean, they probably only had enough money for 2 or 3 on an average and it would be so hard to choose a color much less a style. Don’t you agree?

    I am so glad my friend Brenda showed me your blog. I will have fun exploring the rest of it!
    God bless!

  3. I’m so glad you visited and left comments!

    As to how they chose hats, I’m not really sure and I never asked my mother, although I wish that I had.

    Was the color chosen to match the shoes and handbag? And generally the style of the dress? I’m not sure.

  4. Karen

    My grandmother was a Tailoress and Milliner in the 20’s – 60’s. Mother always said your shoes, handbag, and belt would match, and your gloves would match your hat. Most of the girls (in the 1940’s woud have about 3-6 hats which could be alternated with their outfits. Always a basic black hat, with a navy, and plum for winter, with sometimes an olive green, and lighter colours for summer. My grandmother lived in a Queensland country town, and made hats and dresses, including the most beautiful ball dresses for all the girls in the neighbourhood. Her Ball dresses for the young ladies often won the Belle of the Ball.

    • The older styles had so much attention to detail and design. They look like they were a ton of work to produce, so my hat is off to your grandmother. I can’t imagine doing that much sewing on a garment, but it produced such worthwhile results.

      The hats mystify me as to how they were shaped. I’ve seen hats in museums that are over 200 years old, still holding their shape.

      My mother, who was a young woman in the 1930s and 40s said that a nose veil on a hat made a woman feel so alluring.

      When I was a little girl, we still wore hats and gloves and matching shoes and purses to church, but by the late 60s when I was a teenager, all that was gone. It’s a shame because it presented such a completed, polished look.

      What a lovely comment! Thank you so much.

  5. Karen

    Yes, I remember as a child we too wore hats and gloves to church. We had matching shoes and bags as well. I learned sewing from my Mother, who was a beautiful dressmaker as well, but unfortunately, I am not as good as my Grandmother or Mother were. But I have learned the types and fall of fabrics, and how to complete the finished outfits.
    I was born in the 50’s like you, and now see the styles of clothing I wore then, are now so popular. I wish I had kept some of the outfits my mother made for me, as they would be in fashion now.
    We are just entering our winter Racing season here in Central Queensland, which means we now don our felt hats, and winter clothing. It is always such a change to dress up, and enter our Fashions in the Field on the major Race Days. Hats, gloves, shoes to match our outfits, and it takes us back to a more ladylike time.

    Bring it on!

  6. JEANNIE SPEAKMAN

    I would love to know who made “that hat” Mrs. Miniver had to have and how much it cost? I have seen the movie dozens of times and wonder the same thing every time, so when I saw this post I had to look. I am an old movie fan from way back, so I just bought a Lily Dache hat from E-Bay today. I don’t think the Miniver hat is a Dache, from what I’ve seen from her styles. The Gene Tierney hat from “Laura” is a Bonnie Cashin creation, but I’m not a fan of the droopy sided look of those hats. Anyway thanks, and it might be as simple as the costume designer for that particular movie, but if you find out please try to post it. Jeannie Speakman

    • I apologize for taking so long to reply and approve your comment. As you may have noticed, I’ve been very negligent on blog housekeeping.

      After reading your comment, I did my best to track down who designed the hat, and I couldn’t find anything about it, which seems really odd to me, considering how stunning it was. If I ever do learn more, I’ll post it.

      Thank you so much for commenting.

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