To find the answer to this question, I had to visit an exhibit “Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade” at the Legion of Honor Museum. There I found out that the actual question was, “Which hat do you need?” According to the Journal des Demoiselles’ suggestion in 1867, “If your purse allows you two hats, you will have one of straw, which can go with everything, and the other will go with your best outfit.”
Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. He is well known for his depiction of Parisian Dancers. But he, together with other well-known impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, depicted one aspect of modern life in the French capital – high fashion hats and the women who created them. The exhibition at the Legion Museum of Honor features more than 40 impressionist paintings and pastels, as well as a number of the hats from the period of around 1875 to 1914.
I was fascinated not only by incredible artistry of the painters, but also by the history of the millinery trade and by the hats.
In modern times, unless you are the Queen of England or British Aristocracy, women wear beautiful one-of-a-kind hats only on really special occasions. When I checked online for “Hat Stores in San Francisco”, I found quite a few of them. But the question remains, “On what special occasion could women in San Francisco wear a hat? And how about men?” When I was growing up in Riga, my father wore a Fedora hat. He had a few of them. It was common and fashionable for men at that time. A few years ago I bought one for myself. It is a crushable fedora Hat, which I keep in my coat pocket when I travel to New York in the winter.
The fedora hat first appeared in 1882 as a female hat. It was named after the production of the play, “Fedora” by the French author Victorien Sardou. Today, fedora hats are popular again with women, as well as men, who want to look different as well.
To answer my own question, I decided to count how many hats I have. Turns out that besides my crushable fedora, I have six baseball caps, which I wear regularly to protect my head from cold weather plus two hats named “Hooligan” Driving Caps. My wife has also quite a few, among them three made of straw. She also has a few nice ones, but rarely wears them. After all, fashion trends change rapidly. But if you want to experience the forgotten era and see some beautiful art, you still have time. The exhibit is open till September 24, 2017.