The postwar trend towards informal and youthoriented fashions was marked by the decline of the hat as essential attire for the well-dressed woman or man. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, hats were increasingly reserved for an everdiminishing range of special occasions such as weddings, formal public functions and events such as Ladies Day at the Ascot races. Although the latter provided newspapers and magazines with striking, and often ludicrous, images of the milliner’s art (typified by the hats of self-taught hatmaker David Shilling, whose mother Gertrude appeared annually in one of his most ambitious creations), the survival of the hat in British fashion during this period can probably be ascribed to its role in street fashion. At different moments, berets, baseball caps and other workwear or sports headgear have remained popular with young people, who would rarely if ever wear the formal hats of an older generation. One influential development in Britain in the 1990s was the trend for handmade soft fabric hats sold at music festivals and alternative events. These updated pastiches of the brightly coloured ‘motley’ of Elizabethan fools, including giant jester’s hats, brightened the image of ‘crusties’ and other alternative groups. The 1990s also saw the revival of more formal styles of dressing, and the growth of the British fashion industry has encouraged a resurgence of the milliner’s art. The creations of designers such as Stephen Jones and the Irish-born, Londonbased Philip Treacy are not conventional final touches to an outfit (like many earlier models), but elaborate, often witty or outrageous creations which command attention in their own right. Hats featured in catwalk shows are often dramatic artworks, made of unconventional materials or covering half the model’s body, and are designed for maximum visual impact rather than practicality, but their influence can be seen in more wearable designs available in the high street.
   See also: hairstyles

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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