During our recent look at the classic pillbox hat, readers Barbara and Louisa May asked some questions about the “toque” style of hat. Through this conversation, I came to understand the toque not only as a unique style of hat but also as the answer to our turban-pillbox hat mystery!
History: As I understand, toque hats were a brimless hat widely worn by men in Europe between the 13th and 16th centuries (see here and see here). After falling out of fashion, the toque style morphed into what we know as a chef’s hat today. During the Edwardian era (1900-1910), the toque regained popularity as a hat for women. Edwardian toques were usually adorned with spiky hussar plumes or puffs of ostrich feather.
Characteristics: A brimless hat that sits off the face. Although the sides of a toque fairly straight, the crown shape of a toque is usually rounded or peaked on one side. Toques characteristically look as though they were made of wrapped fabric or straw. This pleated or ruched look makes them resemble a voluminous turban although their shape is closer to that of a rounded pillbox. Traditionally, a calot hat sits back, tightly fitting to the crown of the wearer’s head while a toque sits forward on the top of the head.
Royals Associated with this Hat Style: Queen Mary adopted this hat style during the Edwardian period and continued wearing it for 30 years (a marvellous newspaper article about this can be read here). Today, Queen Máxima and Queen Mathilde and their Belgian hat designer Fabienne Delvigne have revived this style in a version worn back further off the face.
Queen Mary in 1932, during her Silver Jubilee in 1935, and at coronation events in 1937
Queen Elizabeth,1978; Princess Astrid, 1999; Queen Paola, 2001; Queen Margrethe, 2013
Duchess of Gloucester, 2007; The Duchess of Cornwall in 2005;
Queen Máxima, 2013; Lady Helen Taylor in 2014
Here is Fabienne Delvigne’s revived toque hat variation, still voluminous but worn further back off the face:
For months we have debated if Queen Máxima and Queen Mathilde’s hats were turbans or pillboxes and I hope this answer provides some clarity. My sincere thanks goes out to readers Barbara and Louisa May whose questions and suggestion made me research further into what a toque really was. I am so curious what the rest of you think about the toque, both as Queen Mary wore it and during its royal revival this year?
Photos from Topical Press Agency,Popperfoto, and Popperfoto via Getty; Corbis; Photonews via Getty; The Royal Forums; Jens Astrup via Berlingske; Mark Cuthbert via Getty; Tim Graham via Getty; Patrick Katwijk via Dutch Photo Press; Max Mumby/Indigo via Getty; Associated Press via Volkskrant; Nieuwsblad.be; Patrick van Katwijk via Dutch Photo Press; Michel Porro and Michel Porro via Getty