Frederic Tudor turned the world of ice on it’s head back in the early 1800’s with the commercialization and distribution of Mother Nature’s wonder when he successfully transported ice from Boston to Calcutta.  Today, ice is carved, coloured, flavoured and preserved in all sorts of miraculous ways; from Mr. Freezie to the Hôtel de Glace, ice has never been hotter!

While not really a hat of historical significance, the cultural relevance of the ice pack is undeniable and what better day to celebrate it than today?  While one may be better served putting the ice pack or hang-over helmet on their feet in order to draw the blood away from the brain, the ice pack is a staple in most households these days.  A bag of peas can do wonders in a pinch but does your frozen salad come in this many colours and styles?

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here and a related  one (Pablo’s Hangover, after Picasso),
Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,


Chica Chica Boom Chic

I had a insane craving for pineapple juice today which I later attributed to the zinc citrate I was taking for a skin affliction.  The zinc apparently threw off my manganese reserves propelling me into a pineapple frenzy.

I’m sure you’ve all figured out my thought process by now but in case you haven’t..that got me thinking really deeply about the origins of the fruit, namely the fruit headpiece….  Why, pray tell was fruit the height of fashion in the 1940’s?

Legend has it that mendiants or chocolate discs covered in dried fruits and nuts were all the rage in headwear at the turn of the 20th century. Food and confections became a veritable trimming for millinery centrepieces everywhere.  Popularity of these cranial cornacopias exploded in 1941 when “gay hats” as they were called, were featured at the Saks Fifth Avenue season opener. 

Of course it was Brazilian Babe, Carmen Miranda that brought fruit apparel into our living rooms and later into our kitchen as the inspiration for the Chiquita Banana logo.

It’s always struck me as that fruit would adorn itself with fruit but the Chiquita logo was clearly an example of effective marketing regardless of my obsession with anthropomorphization.  By the late 1980’s, Chiquita became the lady in blue but her fruit hat was still as prevalent as ever.

It’s cold outside Norman…GET ME MY PHRYGIAN CAP!

There is a good deal of controversy surrounding the origins of this and other so called freedom caps.  “Controversy” you say?   Millinery drama taken to new heights…

In any case, I’ve taken the liberty (pardon the pun) of synthesizing my findings on your behalf because as you know, my main goal is to entertain and not bore you death.

Let’s start here…

The “liberty cap” actually consists of a sort of family of brimless hats including the phrygian cap, the pileus and the pilos, all of which have been associated with uprising and rebellion at one point or another.  Like most sitcoms, misunderstanding and dysfunctional family are at the heart of every episode.  Add to this time and close proximity and it’s easy to see where historians go amiss.

Stay with me here….

A petasos or petasus was a sun hat worn by Ancient Greeks made of felt, leather, wool or straw.  It had a wide floppy brim and would have been typical rural headwear at the time.

The pilos  evolved from the petasos as a brimless felt or leather version worn for travel.  The pilos hat was sometimes worn under the bronze pilos helmet in Sparta back in 5th century B.C.E.

There was also a winged version of this number worn by Hermes in Greek Mythology but that’s a topic for another day…

The pileus, a felt version of the pilos was worn by the Greeks who were liberated from slavery and was later proudly displayed on statues and heraldry as the “freedom cap”.

Meanwhile, the Phrygian hat appears to have already been in existence since as early as seventh century B.C.E.  Originating in Phrygia, now western Turkey, many falsely assume that this hat was later introduced to the Greeks where it gained fashionable notoriety.  Therein lies the confusion..

While this cap was similar to the pileus and may also have been constructed of felt (but often leather as well), the distinguishing feature was the prominent curl at the front.  Some adaptations of the hat may have had ear flaps or extensions at the back as well.

In 1789, French Revolutionaries mistakenly adopted the soft felt phrygian cap and not the pileus as a symbol of rebellion to the stiff tricorner hats worn by the aristocracy.  The red cap later became a symbol of French liberty. 


To compound this confusion, the Phrygian cap appears on official seals and banners, such as the state seal of West Virginia, the presidential flag of Argentina, the Treasury seal of Paraguay and also perched upon the head of notorious freedom fighter Papa Smurf.

Cloche Hats and a Tangent Monitor Please!

As you may know, the French word cloche translates into bell or bell shaped in the case of the cloche hat. Often made of felt, cloche hats naturally enveloped the head and were designed to be worn low on the face. The brim jutted out a bit and was reminiscent of a bell.   As they grew in popularity, the cloche appeared in other fabrics such as lace and may have been beaded as well.  At times, certain ornaments and accessories were added to indicate a ladies marital status and it became popular to flip up the brim at one point as well.  The cloche hat was introduced in 1908 by master milliner Caroline Reboux and the trend lasted until the early 1930’s.

I was, until recently, a huge fan of the cloche hat.   Lately though, I can’t shake the whole homeless chic phenomenon from my brain.  Maybe it takes me back to my earlier years but whenever I see an oversized romper paired with a cloche hat,  all I can think of are the Olson twins and one of those wet cat posters from the 1980’s.

Moving on….

That got me thinking deeply about the appeal of the bell silhouette and it’s appearance throughout history.  At some point fashion often trends back to the bell shape most likely because ( in theory) it is symmetrical like an hourglass and symmetry is pleasing to the eye.

There is  also something pleasing about the “perfect”  hip/ waist /bust ratio (apparently that number is 0.7 if you care) and nobody nails it like those southern belles.  Whatever happens below the belt in bows and ruffles is matched above the belt with locks and tresses that are larger than life.

The turn of the 20th century slowly did away with the glorious female curvature in fashion and replaced it with a boxier and in my opinion, less flattering silhouette than the preceding Victorian and Edwardian periods.  That said, it is worth mentioning that the introduction of multicultural fashion by great designers like Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny during this time does pique my interest a bit.   I guess I would be somewhat remiss if I didn’t mention the whole art deco movement either.  It’s not that I dislike the 1920’s,  it’s simply that the clothing looks remarkably stunning…on a hanger.  On your average girl, the drop waist and knee length skirt can look a bit dowdy and matronly in my opinion.





At seven feet tall, an actual roof or two may have been raised to accommodate these millinery masterpieces.   The higher the status, the grander the hat.   Luckily, such hats were more likely worn outdoors on the Mongolian battlefields by some serious ass-kicking warriors, than indoors.

Spotted as far back as the late 1100’s it is plausible that the boqta inspired the more subdued conical hennin seen throughout Europe in the mid 15th century.  Worn upright and less cone shaped than the princess style hennin, the boqta would have been adorned with ornate items such as peacock feathers.  Mongolian headwear like the boqta seems to have been one of the few distinguishing features between male and female attire and were therefore likely viewed as a symbol of great femininity.

You can read all about these Mongolian works of art at


As far as fashion icons go, Mongolian royalty seem to have been the inspiration for Hollywood greats like George Lucas and costume designer Trisha Biggar.  Seen here wearing something similar to a divided hennin, one can see the influence Mongolian fashion had on the rest of Europe.  Were the truncated and divided hennins also knock offs from Mongolian royalty ?  Quite possibly.  After all, fashion recycles itself every few years…

Christine de Pisan presents her book to Queen Isabeau of France. She and her ladies wear jewelled heart-shaped stuffed or hollow "bourrelets" on top of hair dressed in horns. Christine wears a divided hennin covered in white cloth.