Hat etiquette for ladies is quite different from hat rules for men. Up until the 1950s/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, cute, and sassy.
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. Rain hats, ski hats, and fur hats, for outdoor weather protection, also 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.
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/receptions.
- Women do not take fashion hats off during the National Anthem, though they must take off men’s-style baseball caps, etc.
- Women are allowed to take off their hats, if they wish, in any of these circumstances.
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.
- In the evening, a woman may wear a hat in a restaurant if she is wearing street clothes. (Women are not in “street clothes” when they are dressed for a cocktail party or a formal (black tie) event. Jog suits are not “street clothes” for anyone over 40 or 50 and no hat in the world will help.)
- Because so many sites get this wrong, I want to reemphasize this point 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.
Women’s Cloche or Small Brimmed Hat
A large brimmed hat, such as a sun hat, a 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.
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:
- Cloches – like a Roaring Twenties flapper hat
- Women’s fedoras - especially embellished styles
- Fancy berets – try one with sequins for clubbing
- Dressy Gatsby / Newsboy caps
Actually, any hat that has a small brim, or no brim, is fine at night. Some 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.
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, when nothing else works
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. Other rules:
- When at a theater, women should remove large hats. It is common courtesy to remove hats when they might block someone’s view of a stage or screen.
- Women remove their hats at work in an office.
- Women are not required to remove large hats in churches.
There are times when a lady would choose not to follow traditional hat rules and two common examples are:
- When a woman wears a hat or headcover for religious reasons.
- When a woman wears a hat to cover hair loss from illness, age, or alopecia.
Some girls were never taught proper hat etiquette by their grandmothers. Also, fashion rebels (and eccentrics) scoff at some 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.
- Ridicule a woman (or young lady) about a slight of etiquette.
- Cause anyone discomfort by making a big deal out of something as silly as the “correctness” of one’s chapeau.
Be proud. Be stylish. Be chic. Be brave and pop on that hat.
How to Wear a Hat – Women’s Hat Etiquette at Restaurants, Parties
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