Hats off to hats!

Written by Kisha Tandy, Assistant Curator for Cultural History

This peach basket hat (c.1960–1970) is made of percale roses and leaves. The outer petals are velvet.

“Look at the lady in the pretty hat. Oh, she looks so cute in her hat and dress!” Hats tend to grab our attention. Outside of their utilitarian uses, such as protection and warmth, hats can express the wearer’s personality. Whether you are happy, sad or making a statement in your Sunday best, there is a hat for every mood.

Hats collectors often have stories that go with each hat. In September 2008, I presented a selection of the museum’s hats to a doll club. The ladies shared their hat collections, the stories behind them and how they wore them. What a great way to spend a late morning!

My grandmother has two closets in her family room filled with hats and labeled hat boxes. Most hats are matched to a specific outfit, while others work for a variety of occasions. Following each wear, she returns the hat to the correct box (sometimes with a little help). I have learned to appreciate the complexities of my grandmother’s hat collection and marvel at the beauty and detail of her collection.

This pillbox hat (c. 1960–1970) is made of red woven straw. Shirley Boltz of Indianapolis purchased it at L.S. Ayres.

At the Indiana State Museum, our collection represents styles from simple baseball caps to fancy women’s cloches. From the unique peach basket hat or a charming Fedora, headwear that makes a political statement, work helmets, hats made of feathers and children’s caps — the museum collection has a hat for every occasion and mood.

Currently, we have 19 hats on display in the Treasures Case in the Great Hall of the museum. This is a public space which means there is no charge to see them. So what are you waiting for? Come find your style!

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