Chatham-Kent Museum

Purple velvet hat with silver embellishments

Purple velvet hat with silver embellishments

Accession Number: 991.21.4

I chose this object from our collection because I find clothing, especially trends from throughout the 18th, 19th and 20th century, very intriguing. Further, how clothing can represent someone’s standing in society or their personality, culture, etc. is compelling. It is a way of communication that we use to express ourselves and we have done so for thousands of years. The way fashion changes is often in tandem with the cultural changes that occur in a society. This is important knowledge about the history of our country that young people should be educated about.

This stylish hat from the 1920’s to 1930’s era was found in the attic of the McAlpine home in Dresden, Ontario before it was torn down in 1983. This hat was typical of something that women in the early 1900’s would wear in Canada. In the 19th century, women always wore hats while outdoors but by the 20th century hats were more of a fashion choice than a polite requirement. By the time this hat was worn, an uncovered head did not necessarily indicate a bad reputation or loose morals as it once would have. 

The deep purple velvet used for the hat once represented royalty and would have been very fashionable for the time period. The silver beading, in a leaf and flower pattern, is very intricate and may have been hand sewn. The expert craftsmanship that created this hat is a disappearing art, as most clothing today is sewn by machines and is not customized.

This artifact is an example of how clothing, fashion, and trends can change very quickly over a small period of time. Even today, clothing that a woman wears expresses her personality or class. Women who did not wear hats while outside in the 19th century were considered less attractive to a potential mate. This hat, like clothing today, helped its wearer communicate about herself, her social standing, her tastes, and even her morals. It is imperative to teach young audiences that people from earlier time periods were not alien; they were very much like us today. Perhaps the way they did things and expressed themselves through fashion was a little different but the same underlying social principals still exist.