The few years between 1908-1912 could be considered the king of hats. During these five years, hats grew to overwhelming proportions — not only a large brim, but an colossal crown was very chic.
To support such a mammoth size, the foundation of the hats were mostly constructed from buckram and thick metal wiring. Over the base, silk and velvet were popular materials. Some hats were made of straw.
This was the period when Coco Chanel opened her first shop at 21 rue Cambon in Paris, creating hats before she became a couturier.
And there was no shortage of decoration. Artificial flowers, buckles, feathers, ribbon, rosettes, and lace were de rigueur. It seems the more over the top they were, the better, when it came to trims.
But the crowning glory was none other than the ostrich plume. Hats could be piled with ostrich feathers. They were luxurious and voluminous. One advertisement in a 1909 Sears catalog raves “most becoming dress hat literally loaded with ostrich plumes.” And another from the same page describes the trim as “a single 17-in. ostrich plume in black, applied from the left side of the crown, drooping across the front to the right brim.”
About 1913-14, women’s preferences changed and the crown shrank. No other period in the 20th century has seen hats like these.
Could you imagine the balance it would have required to keep one of these things atop your head? Even though they aren’t heavy, I can imagine they’d be quite unwieldy perched on your coifed hair.