80th Birthday of Empress Michiko

Royal HatsEmpress 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.

Crown Princess Michiko in 1960 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michiko, September 1, 1960 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michiko, 1963| Royal Hats 

Crown Princess Michiko| Royal Hats 1960s late Crown Princess Michiko, May 7, 1972 | Royal Hats

Crown Princess Michiko, March 7, 1974 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michiko, June 8, 1978 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michiko, June 15, 1976 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michiko, September 11, 1978 | Royal Hats

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.

Crown Princess Michicko, October 27, 1980 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michicko, August 4, 1983 | Royal Hats Crown Princess Michicko, March 17, 1985 | Royal Hats

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.

Empress Michiko, November 18, 1990| Royal Hats Empress Michiko, September 3, 1993| Royal Hats Empress Michiko, September 9, 1993 | Royal Hats Empress Michiko, June 12, 1994 | Royal Hats

Empress Michiko, June 13, 1994 | Royal Hats Empress Michiko, September 19, 1993| Royal Hats Empress Michiko, May 29, 1997 | Royal Hats Empress Michiko, May 27, 1997 | Royal Hats Empress Michiko, December 1, 1999 | Royal Hats

Since 2000, we have seen another type of trim on Empress Michiko’s hats in a series of origami inspired bows and folded embellishments.

  Empress Michiko, July 14, 2002 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, May 7, 2005 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, 2009 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, June 14, 2009 | The Royal Hats Blog

Empress Michiko, May 15, 2012 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, March 28, 2014 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, August 13, 2009 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, November 18, 2012 | The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, May 2013| The Royal Hats Blog

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.

 Empress Michiko, November 1, 2013| The Royal Hats Blog  Empress Michiko, July 17, 2002| The Royal Hats Blog Empress Michiko, May 8, 2003| The Royal Hats Blog 2006-05-08

  Empress Michiko, June 9, 2006| The Royal Hats Blog   Empress Michiko, April 21, 2014| The Royal Hats Blog

Empress Michiko, May 9, 2005| The Royal Hats Blog  2013-12-06 Empress Michiko, November 7, 2003| The Royal Hats Blog  Empress Michiko, June 11, 2006| The Royal Hats Blog

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.

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17 thoughts on “80th Birthday of Empress Michiko

  1. What an elegant lady Empress Michiko is! Her style is understanded and gorgeous. I loved this glance through her life, through hats. I wish her many more years of health and happiness!

  2. As far as consistency and distinctive personal millinery style are concerned, I think Princess Beatrix of Holland could be her twin sister, wouldn’t you agree ?

    • Absolutely, although there is much more variety within Princess Beatrix’s personal millinery style (brims, stacked crowns, bright colours, varied embellishments etc.). That being said, I suspect we could all see a hat and immediately tell if it belonged in either Empress Michiko or Princess Beatrix’s closet.

      • PLEASE can we play that game?!

        Great post. Michiko’s teeny tiny hats now make a lot more sense to me. I don’t like them but now I can appreciate them. Thanks for that!

  3. I encourage others to follow the link provided in order to read the interview of this lovely lady who is so often featured here. While I appreciate that a Royal’s ‘personal’ reflections must be carefully edited and are limited, for obvious diplomatic reasons, for publishing, the Empress’s sensitivity, gentleness, insight, and modesty all come through loud and clear. I shall now look at her photos understanding a little more about the lady. Thank you, HatQueen, for providing the interview for your readers.

  4. I am from Japan and I remembered that some Japanese tv shows explained the reason why her hats are so little. They says those hats meet her requirements for which she could speak to people in a way they won’t feel pressured.

    • Thanks, Miki- that gives us more insight and understanding into the Empress’ hats. From what we know about the Empress’ personality, it makes sense that she does not want her clothing and hats to overwhelm or intimidate people.

    • I’m also from Japan and I remember hearing the same thing, plus so that people can always see her face. I personally couldn’t imagine HM in a big Queen Maxima-style hat; these ones really suit the Empress’ personality, I think.

  5. Fascinating and well done. Most people would not be able to carry off those twee hats, but somehow on the Empress they look so suitable. She is a gracious lady.

  6. Thank you for this look back at a very serene and lovely lady. She always looks so tranquil and at peace. It was a delight to look through the pictures of her past and present. I really hate the little saucer hats and fascinators that are so in vogue now. Regardless of the present hats, she still gets top marks for her lovely and serene presence, and her devotion to her family and her duties.

  7. What a beautiful young woman she was. I am quite surprised at the variety of her hat shapes in her younger years. Very refreshing. I don’t particularly like her little saucer hats that rest on her forehead that she wears now. I much prefer her earlier hats. However, she obviously loves those little saucers.

  8. She is, and always has been, a beautiful woman but her style in hats, especially the saucers and sometimes plates are almost silly. The earliest pill box hats she wore were my favorite.

  9. Her millinery style is my favorite of all the royals. I love its distinctiveness, personality, and look. She always appears so elegant and refined.

  10. Fascinating article. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.
    I’m not sure why the Empress decided to zero in on her signature saucer after initial experimentation with various hat styles, but she’s been loyal to that saucer for decades, and the more colorful examples are a welcome treat to see. Of particular interest to me was that 1994 bright yellow-to-light yellow saucer with matching jacket.

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