Turbans and the Older Woman

Arlington Heights Memorial Library via the Digital Public Library of America. Click to enlarge

Do you associate certain kinds of hats with certain age groups?  At the beginning of the twenty century, the bonnet tied under the chin was linked to older women.  For me, it is the turban that I associate with this age group.  (I’m using the term turban to refer to a structured hat, not a tied kerchief, like Rosie the Riveter’s.  Not everyone follows my usage, as can be seen in this ad.)

Florence Hendrickson of Arlington Heights Illinois wore a turban to her women’s group meeting in 1962 perhaps with the intent to look dramatic and stand out in a crowd.  Not only is her turban high, but it is decorated with a sparkly pin.

Wayne State University Library via DPLA. Click to enlarge

Famous blue singer Sippie Wallace from Detroit looks to have used her gauzy turban in the same way.  In both cases, quite a bit of the women’s hair (or wig) still shows.

Click to enlarge

In other cases, older women might have turned to turbans to cover up their hair almost entirely. The woman above has only a few curls visible in front. It would be a quick solution for those having a bad hair day, but who still wanted to look a little dressy.

Click to enlarge

In this mother/daughter photo, the younger woman doesn’t wear a hat at all, while her mother is mostly covered up.  Are those spangles on her turban, or just a reflection from shiny fabric?

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Eleanor Lambert, publicist for clothing lines, went to the hairdresser almost every day.  Anytime she didn’t like the results, she put on a turban.  In the photo above, not a bit of her own hair shows.

Fashion advertisements and drawings often show young women in turbans. But in the photos of turbans on actual people, I find the style skews old.  What do you think?

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4 Responses to Turbans and the Older Woman

  1. It does skew old, but I wonder if part of the appeal is something that can also conceal the thinning hair that comes with age. I’m dealing with a lot of hair loss myself right now, and hats are an appealing way to cover up the worst of it (and keep a colder head warm–I’m noticing how thin my hair is by how cold my scalp is getting these days!). (I generally go for a knitted tam or something like that, but I don’t have anything useful for warm weather beyond a kerchief–also useful).

  2. I associate them with older ladies – as I also think its because I would see them reflecting the icons of their age (marlene dietrich / princess margaret). however the way they were worn in the 20s (irish painting lady lavery ) are really lovely. they do add a nice bit of height to the head – and help the bad hair day a lot

  3. Reader says:

    I associate the turban with older women. I always assumed, in those pre-blow dryer days, that their hair was dirty and there was no time to wash it. I never thought about it as a camouflage for thinning hair.

    Turbans only work in the movies and if you’re Rita Hayworth.

  4. Kai Jones says:

    I think if you take out the label “turban” and think “head wrap” there are lots of young people wearing them, including as fashion statements, on women who use them as part of dressing modestly, and on people who’ve had medical treatment that involves hair loss (e.g., cancer treatment) or scars on the head. I wore wrapped scarves for a month after each of three surgeries I had that created large scars on my scalp (each one was like a giant question mark from right in front of my ear); after a month I had enough hair growth to cover the scars.

    Whether it reads old depends on how often you see it on young people, and I see it a lot while commuting to and from work in my city.

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