Some Fun with Antiquated Hat Terms - Part Four - 1900 - 1944

Fred Belinsky

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I have uncovered some obscure and unusual words while looking back at the history of hats and headdress. Having recently finished reading THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN (by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins 1998) about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, I thought it might be fun to explore the definitions and etymology of some of these ancient terms, most of which have all but disappeared from modern use. [You’ll find parts one through three at and the HAT BLOG: Everything Hats. ]

In the first parts of this project, I indicated that to qualify for inclusion in the list, the word “must show up with a squiggly red line at Microsoft Word’s ‘spell check’ tool. ” Now however, as these terms enter 20th Century usage, they are, of course, less obscure. For these last few entries, I have changed the requirements for making the list. Certainly, more readers will know the terms below than was the case in parts one through three. Here are the last few terms – not seen everyday, but also not so lost to antiquity that “spell check” was stumped. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series.

Gainsborough Hat

2. A large broad-brimmed hat of the type worn by women in Gainsborough's portraits. In full, Gainsborough hat. 1878 Cassell's Fam. Mag. Aug. 569/2 The. . wearers of the Gainsborough, Rembrandt, and beef-eater hats. 1884 [see CART-WHEEL n. 5]. 1904 Westm. Gaz. 12 Aug. 5/1 Extemporised Gainsboroughs. 1928 Amer. Speech IV. 92 One remembers the Gainsborough hat.

Merry widow Hat

2. a. In full Merry Widow hat. A kind of ornate wide-brimmed woman's hat, usually made of straw and trimmed with plumes. 1908 Daily Chron. 9 July 1/4 The women in the galleries took off their ‘Merry Widow’ hats, and waved them frantically. 1909 Daily Chron. 21 Jan. 7/3 A huge Merry Widow of the approved Occidental pattern from China. 1956 C. H. B. KITCHIN Secret River i. 61 Mrs. Ashworth in a Merry Widow hat, in which she thought she had looked ravishing. 1986 G. O'HARA Encycl. Fashion 171 Merry Widow hats were fashionable for several years.

Overseas cap

II. Special uses.

3. overseas cap orig. U. S. Mil. , a peakless fabric cap worn by U. S. servicemen when serving overseas; (in extended use) any army cap resembling this. overseas Chinese, a Chinese emigrant; (also) any person of Chinese ethnic origin living outside China. overseas experience, (a) experience of life and culture in an overseas country; (b) N. Z. (orig. humorous) [perh.influenced by colonial experience s. v. COLONIAL a. C. ], an overseas working holiday, usually to Britain or Europe, undertaken by young New Zealanders and freq. considered as a virtually obligatory part of an informal education; abbreviated OE. [1918 Stars & Stripes 8 Feb. 4/5 The officers’ Oversea cap will be the same model as that worn by the men, but the material will be that of the officers’ uniform. ] 1918 Marines Mag. July 33/1 A special cap, officially known as the ‘*overseas cap’, is now being worn by the soldiers and marines of the American Expeditionary Force. 1992 Philadelphia Inquirer Mag. 11 Oct. 35/1 When he got to the Pacific in 1942 most naval officers were wearing overseas caps or officer's caps.


e. A style of cutting women's hair short, as in the bob, but with the back hair shingled (cf. SHINGLE v.1 2a). Also, hair cut in this way. 1924 Hairdressing Feb. (caption), Based on the ‘shingle’. 1927 F. E. BAILY Golden Vanity xvii. 265 Doris powdered her face, combed her dark shingle, lit a cigarette, and picked up her beef cubes. 1945 N. MITFORD Pursuit of Love xx. 172 She had a short canary-coloured shingle (windswept) and wore trousers. 1975 G. HOWELL In Vogue 13/1 The small pitted cloche brought in the bob, which became the ‘shingle’ or the ‘bingle’ of the twenties.


[Said to be from the name of the 1st Earl Cadogan (died 1726). See Littré, and N. & Q. 7th Ser. IV. 467, 492. ]

A mode of knotting the hair behind the head. c1780 B'NESS D'OBERKIRCH Mem. (1852) II. ix, The duchess of Bourbon had introduced at the court of Montbéliard. . [the fashion] of cadogans, hitherto worn only by gentlemen.

Juliet cap

[Female personal name (F. Juliette, It. Giulietta), dim. of Julia. ]

Juliet cap (see quot. 1957). 1909 Westm. Gaz. 9 Feb. 8/3 Their Juliet caps were composed of violets. 1930 Daily Tel. 7 Apr. 7/6 The ‘Juliet’ cap idea is to be found in the little theatre hats worn abroad. 1957 M. B. PICKEN Fashion Dict. 49/2 Juliet cap, small, round cap of wide, open mesh, usually decorated with pearls or other jewels, similar to that worn on the stage by Shakespeare's Juliet. Worn chiefly for evening. 1973 Times 15 Nov. 6/3 The bridesmaid. . wore a pinafore dress and a jewelled Juliet cap.


[Russ. , grandmother, f. baba (peasant) woman. ]

A head covering folded diagonally and tied under the chin; a head-scarf. 1938 Chatelaine Feb. 33/2 The babushka is a peasant-sort of hood you wear over your pretty curls. 1948 F. BROWN Murder can be Fun (1951) vii. 106 She wore a greenish mottled babushka and. . stringy hair. . pushed out in front of it. 1959 Encounter Oct. 32/2 A voile scarf tied babushka-style.

Fred Belinsky

Fred Belinsky is the founder and president of The Village Hat Shop. The 4-store California chain is 27 years old. , launched in early 1997, was the first online hat seller. Belinsky also runs Private label brands include Jaxon Hats,, and sur la tete, his line of women's hats. More of Belinsky's articles can be seen at the HAT BLOG: Everthing Hats. also publishes THE COWBOY HAT, an ezine featuring short fiction, essays, and poetry about the American West and the Mexican-American Border.


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