Stylish Pillbox Hats of the Past

DSC04962With many people wearing hats, I am reminded of the stylish hats ladies wore whenever they left the house.  One of the most recognizable styles of hat is the Pillbox.  This hat shape was popular during the 30s but especially in the 50s and 60s.  A small woman’s hat with a flat crown and straight, upright sides and no brim, the pillbox hat was most notably worn by American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who popularized the style from day one in the White House, when she wore a bone-white pillbox hat to her husband’s inauguration.

This hat is a classic hat shape.  Depending on the shape and size of the hat, you can pin or place it at different angles on the head to get different effects.  The pillbox hat went well with almost any style of DSC04964clothing – formal, glamorous, romantic, minimalist, or dramatic.  Take a look back at photos of Jackie and many of the movies leading ladies during the fifties and sixties and you will see them wearing their hats at many different angles.  It is also interesting to note that the pillbox hat dates back to being a part of a bride’s attire since medieval times. 

A variety of materials were used to create a pillbox hat – felt, straw, buckram covered with fabric, velvet, straw, etc. This simple shape of hat can also be trimmed in a lot of different ways – with felt applique, feathers, lace, French veil, brooches hat pins etc.

While the pillbox hat had become quite popular, their history dated DSC04965back to the Roman times. Historically, the pillbox was also military headgear. During the late Roman Empire, the pillbox, then known as the pilleus, was worn by Roman soldiers. Even these days in some countries pillbox hats often include a chin strap, and can be seen on ceremonial occasions, for example, the Royal Military College of Canada dress uniform includes a pillbox hat.

Goodwill’s Vintage Collection of pillbox hats has quite the variety represented as you can see from the photos.  If you have any thoughts of trying to wear a hat this year, try the pillbox shape.  Acquire a beautiful hat pin and practice pinning your hat at various angles.  Have some fun dressing up and showing off this classic hat shape!

DSC04963Goodwill Vintage Collection –
Barb Byler