Does this Hat Make my Head Look Big?

Montgomery Ward catalog 105, 1926. Click to enlarge

Staring in 1900, almost every Montgomery Ward catalog I paged through offered hats designed specifically for older women.  At first I noticed only the random hat, when words like “mature” or “elderly” caught my eye.  But by the 1910s catalogs began to have special pages devoted to older women’s millinery needs.  What made a hat suitable for the more “mature”?  I didn’t do a systematic comparison, but they seemed to be less flamboyant than other headgear on offer. There were fewer flowers and feathers and often a more subdued color scheme.

Montgomery Ward catalog 128, 1938. Click to enlarge

Then beginning in the mid 1920s, I began to notice a puzzling change.  Hats on pages aimed at “mature women” were also advertised as being available in larger sizes.  Each catalog had several pages of hats, but only those aimed at older women came in larger sizes.

Why link old heads and large heads? Surely it can’t be because the editors thought head sizes got bigger with age. I’ve done a lot of reading on the body changes that take place with the aging process; expanding head size is not one of them.

Montgomery Ward catalog 147, 1947. Click to enlarge

Was the assumption that the more subdued styles that suited the older crowd would also appeal to those with bigger heads?

Or did the editors want to deal with two niche markets at once, getting the old and the large out of the way at the same time?

I turn to you for your ideas on this puzzling marketing strategy.  And while we’re at it, just why is the term fathead an insult?


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4 Responses to Does this Hat Make my Head Look Big?

  1. Amy says:

    Maybe the more mature ladies in the 20s weren’t cutting their hair like the younger ladies? Meaning they still had a lot of hair to put up? So they needed a larger size? Idk, very interesting conundrum.

  2. eimear says:

    maybe the idea of a more balanced hat for someone would now wear clothes from heavier day fabrics…I am thinking specifially of how some older people would dress for weddings … and maybe to keep things conservative as some older ladies may have not wanted to wear some fru-fru fascinator? I know my tastes have become more reserved with age (although I was always a bit that way anyway!) – and Amys comment above re hair could also come into play – perhaps bigger hats meant less styling or restyling of hair?

  3. ceci says:

    My guess is that larger size hat= more hair. This is based on my need for a pretty big hat given my long hair…..


  4. Carole Gee says:

    Older ladies weren’t bobbing their hair. Many of them were still wearing pompadours and buns and braids and other long hair fashions.

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