A Top-Notch Tam

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca

Cap, turban, derby, lid, chapeau. Call it what you like, but take a cue from some of the ladies of the past (we’ll talk about the men another time), and grab a classic one. Hats, let me correct that, good hats are so underused today. A hat can say “look at me” and be feminine, it can disguise a bad hair day in a stylish way, and it can show your fashion sense and give your head or face protection from the elements, pretty and practical.

Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back

Of course, not all hats are practical. Take Doris Day for instance. She wore some of the most ridiculous hats in her movies. In real life they would have induced laughter but on her they just worked. I can’t imagine any of her hats had any benefit other than making a statement. The furry green one probably kept her head warm. I wouldn’t wear any of these, because I couldn’t be lucky enough to pull them off, but they sure are fun.

Some of my favorite hats were worn by the character Chuck in the TV series, Pushing Daisies. (Her full wardrobe is another post altogether!) She (the show’s costume design) had the vintage vibe down to a science, and a hat for each era. Whether she was channeling the 1930s with a cloche or the 1960s with a pill box, the hats topped off an already perfect outfit. I would definitely wear all of these.

Anna Friel in Pushing Daisies. Fedora – Cloche – Pill Box

Hats were once a fashion staple for women. It was part of the outfit, and never just an after thought. A time when things matched. I love those outfits, hat and handbag matched, and most likely shoes too. Matching is such a dirty word now. Turn on any style show on TV and you’ll see it is the condemned of the fashion world. Coordinate is all you’re allowed to do. Psh.

Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Did you see Audrey Hepburn in her movies? How about Grace Kelly? Ingrid Bergman? Their hats were an extension of their outfits, it brought a sophistication and class that was

Grace Kelly in Rear Window

unmatched. Can you even imagine Grace Kelly in a trucker hat? What if Audrey Hepburn would have worn a cadet hat standing outside the window at Tiffany’s? Ingrid Bergman in a beach cowboy hat talking with Humphrey Bogart in the final scene of Casablanca? I think not. Though their grace and their beauty wasn’t just because of the clothes they wore (and they wore some good ones), these women knew style, elegance, and dignity, and how to put it all together in a stunning ensemble. They looked like they liked themselves, and had respect for themselves.


There are some great options for hats beyond classic movies. Fedoras and cloches have been making a comeback (my black cloche is my top-notch tam!), but there’s nothing quite like an authentic vintage topper. This light green hat had me swooning. I wanted to take it home with me. It looked at me with a pleading that was difficult to ignore. Not only did lack of funds make it easier, but I figured people already look at me strangely, wearing this hat would just give them extra incentive to eye me as a kook. (I seriously want it though.)

I found several other great hats in my most recent outing to antique stores. I always wonder about the history of the pieces I find. Who wore these? Did they go with a certain outfit? Did they have a favorite handbag that matched? Was it a special hat for a special occasion? Or was it an everyday-go-to-the-grocery-store hat?


I could keep writing on this subject (it will probably end up having a part 2), but I suppose my main point is that these hats, beyond being fun or pretty, were another way, another detail of taking pride in your appearance. Offering up a thoughtful presentation of yourself as a person to the world each day. Just a few of the things I feel we lack today.

26 thoughts on “A Top-Notch Tam

    • Maybe women’s lib? It brought some good things, but it sure killed a lot of things, like the need to care what you looked like. And I was on that site looking for the official name of the hat in Casablanca. All I could find is that it’s referred to as “Ingrid Bergman Casablanca hat.” Ha!


  1. Now it’s MY turn to “swoon” (whatever the masculine equivalent of swoon happens to be) because there is simply nothing more attractive than a woman in a fine hat; the shadows, the inherent mystery, and the glamor of it. And if a woman is kissable sans the chapeau, she is ultra-kissable under it.

    But still, would you WANT everyone wearing hats? I wear them regularly and enjoy the attention they get, but if all men donned hats each time they left the house I’d be like everyone else, something I have ever avoided. I wish ALL women wore them though, whether they look like Ingrid Bergman or not.


  2. Pushing Daisies was to me a great show that was just too “challenging” for viewers to handle. Anna Friel’s hats were a perfect compliment to this post indeed. Loved that show…as stylish as the hats worn on it.


    • Ah, there’s still a little ache inside when I think about the potential that show had. When ABC canceled it (and kept shows like The Bachelor, Wife Swap, etc.) that was when I fully gave up on network TV. It was clever, whimsical, original, funny, charming. . .I could go on (and I will in a post-in-progress). I frequently watch the DVDs though, at least there’s that.


  3. I was born at the tail end of the propper-hat mode of dress. My mother wore large, wide brimmed hats, and dresed like a movie star back then. The outfit she wore on my first day of kindergarten was mindblowing – a black and white, wide striped blazor with a black pencil skirt, black heels, and a black hat about 25 inches wide. She was tall for her generation, and remained lean, even after 8 children (with one more still to come). She was a style icon in our neighborhood. Red hair, full makeup and lip stick everyday, just to do her housework.

    And my father wore a hat everyday to go to work. There are old b&w films of he and his brothers at annual weekend retreats in the 50’s and 60’s- all wearing tailored winter coats, matching gloves, and brim hats, and walking like screen legends over the wooded grounds.


  4. Love, love hats. I want to buy a new one every time I see it, but alas, no magical unlimited bank account yet. Sometimes I do wish hats–splendid, big, fancy hats like the ones you posted–would come back in vogue, but it’s fun to stand out, no?


  5. I loved this post. I ADORE hats. However, I think that sometimes people that adore hats – adore them because they look GREAT in them. I’ve always looked adorable in hats. Some people just don’t have proper head for them. If you have a more challenging to fit-with-a-cute-hat head – you’d probably be less inclined to like them.
    I will admit that even I don’t wear my cute hats as often as I could. I mostly save them for special occassions, but I do always get compliments. A great hat is a personal wardrobe treasure though.


  6. You know how obsessed with hats I am right now! I’m so glad you wrote this. Doris day was my favorite hat lady. I always wanted that tall animal print hat she wore in pillow talk.
    You should have gotten that green hat…it’s so pretty! Just like I should have gotten that black “Shirley Maclaine” hat yesterday. Perhaps it is still waiting for me in the shadows of that cabinet I hid it on. 😉


  7. I agree about people no longer taking the merest hint of pride in their appearance. When I do see someone out and about – on the subway, or the street – who looks well turned out, whose clothes are not only clean and pressed, but well-styled, I want to applaud. The day it became okay (in someone’s eyes – not mine) to wear pyjamas to attend a post-secondary institution marked not only the end of an era, but the downfall of civilization. I’m not asking much, I certainly don’t obsess over my outfits, just don’t leave the house in sweatpants (or yoga pants).
    As far as hats go, I love them, but they don’t love me back.


    • I agree with the wearing pajamas to class statement. (I was probably guilty of it at some point, though.) Those photos from college campuses in the 50s are really interesting and yearn worthy. Everyone looked so put together and classy. . .oh the days.


  8. Pingback: I Like Your Moxie, Sassafras | Lovely Shades of Nostalgia

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