Empress of Michiko of Japan celebrated her 80th birthday earlier this week, a milestone which provides us a wonderful opportunity to look back through her history of interesting hats. Click on any of the photos below to link with the photo’s original source (which usually includes the date the photo was taken and a larger version of the photo).
Michiko Shōda was born in Tokyo on October 20, 1934 and married Crown Prince Akihito (as was his title at the time) in 1959. The first period of her millinery style, through the 1960s and 1970s, certainly reflected the fashion of the day.
The next period in Michiko’s millinery style began when she started working with Japanese milliner Akio Hirata. As Hirata provided hats for Michiko in the shapes popular in 1980s fashion, the hat style that we all now associate with the Empress began to emerge.
When Akihito and Michiko became Emperor and Empress of Japan in 1990, Michiko’s distinctive hat style was well established. During her first decade as Empress, flowers were the dominant motif embellishing Michiko’s hats and there was much play with colour.
Since 2000, we have seen another type of trim on Empress Michiko’s hats in a series of origami inspired bows and folded embellishments.
I can’t think of a contemporary royal who has such a consistent and distinctive personal millinery style. While it might not appeal to everyone, we can probably all agree that it is elegant, refined and perhaps even a little quirky in its own way. What I appreciate about Michiko’s millinery style is that it appears to both balance and reflect her royal status, her quiet personality and her culture, three things that I suspect might be difficult to do with one’s hat.
I am curious to hear your thoughts on Empress Michiko’s history of hats, dear readers. Are there any in particular that you would claim for your own closet? Are you warming to Michiko’s petite saucers, pillboxes and percher hats?
The Empress released an interview about her life earlier this week- you can read the English translation here. Her words are thoughtful and give profound insight into her royal life- I highly recommend it.