This smart hat is made from straw plait, spiralled and securely machine-stitched to create a shallow crown and medium brim. The straw has been dyed an elegant pearl grey shade, perhaps the colour sometimes referred to by contemporary fashion writers as ‘London Smoke’. In common with much millinery of the time, the hat is trimmed with ostrich feathers and ribbon; the brim is edged with a fancy straw ‘lace’, woven from split straw and horsehair. It was supplied by J.H. Holloway of Wells to a member of the Perkins family of Burcott Manor near Wookey Hole in Somerset.

Hats, whether broad-brimmed straws and felts, or chic, velvet-covered ‘pork pie’ shapes, were less worn than bonnets throughout the 19th century and tended to have a more functional as well as a decorative purpose. By the 1890s fashionable modern brides had abandoned veils and bonnets in favour of hats for a short time, whether smart or everyday. Outdoor bonnets began to be spurned as old-fashioned, worn only by the elderly and the working class, or for mourning.

As much cheaper straw plait was imported from the Far East by the 1890s, demand for English straw plait from Bedfordshire fell dramatically. Hat manufacturers and milliners did well though, forming and trimming the ready made hat shapes in profusion. Most large towns had a hat shop or milliners which supplied ready trimmed hats as well as basic shapes and the trimmings to decorate them at home.
Accession Loan No.
Simple Name
Common Name
Production Country
United Kingdom: England
straw; feather (ostrich)
Period Classification
Victorian (1837-1901)
Collection Class
Clothing and accessories
Production Area Region
Northern Europe
Production Continent
Production Year Low
Production Year High
Family Group

whole diameter 310 mm; crown diameter 115 mm
Created At
2016-10-13 15:45:57
Updated At
2020-01-28 11:42:57

      There are 3 comments

      • Zoe Isopova, housewife and English student
        22 March 2017 | Permalink | Reply to this comment

        [This looks like a] hat for quite a rich person who likes to dress up very elegantly. Handmade, very modern for its time, very nice work. Very expensive, with all the detail. It reminds me of similar hats from Russia, my country.

      • Teresa Cielinska, student in English class at Belmont Chapel
        22 March 2017 | Permalink | Reply to this comment

        The lacework is like a tablecloth. It would have been difficult to make.

      • Min from Exeter
        22 March 2017 | Permalink | Reply to this comment

        It reminds me of my dressing-up box of Granny’s old clothes.

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