Hat From the Past

Royal Hats to this day in 1935 when a young Duchess of York opened the Middlesex Hospital in London in a lace gown and wide bow trimmed picture hat with fascinating circular cutouts (or an underlay of silk printed with large dots?) on the brim.

Embed from Getty Images
Embed from Getty Images

Photo from Getty as indicated

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23 thoughts on “Hat From the Past

  1. I love this hat.
    HQ, I found a photo with a good close side view of this hat illustrating a Daily Mail article of 2009. The article does not credit the photo, so I haven’t linked to it. Do you know any way of finding out remotely the source of old photos which are uncredited — and published by the Daily Mail or any other magazine/ newspaper? I tried a direct search of Getty and Alamy with no success.

        • Thanks for posting these, mcncln! It’s always interesting to see photos from earlier eras when photography was less prolific and therefore individual photos are more special. Interesting to see the nurse’s all the way down to the ground curtsy, which you pretty much never see anymore. Does anyone know, were the less deep curtsies of today implemented at some point by decree, or did they just gradually become less deep over time?

          • Thanks Matthew! a great question, one for the older generation of ladies-in-waiting I think. I will certainly look out from now on for any info on this topic.
            Re the first pic: the nurse looks like she is resting her knee on the ground! not at all comfortable (even though she may be on a red carpet spread over the footpath) and she risks dirtying the knee of her stocking. I dare say she did not have the benefit of curtsy lessons, and simply
            improvised. The traditional Court Curtsy (lots of Victorian/Edwardian era pics online) to the monarch was indeed deep, requiring practice, but no knee was meant to touch the ground. [unlike the truly spectacular Texas Dip for debutantes; if you don’t know this ” Swan Lake” style curtsy, do check out the videos!)
            I think this Nurse’s wedding-proposal style curtsy is delightfully enthusiastic, and I suspect Queen Elizabeth was charmed too.

          • PS. The era of the narrow miniskirt must have made the deep curtsy nearly impossible to perform with any modesty or grace 🙂

        • mcncln, I agree that touching the knee to the ground was not a requirement even in Victorian times (we are just now watching the second series of “Victoria” on Masterpiece) and probably lack of training or over-enthusiasm (or maybe even losing of balance) on the part of the nurse. And regarding modern day curtsies, not only short skirts, but even the longer tight ones render a curtsy quite difficult and not at all attractive. I know Pinterest links aren’t allowed so I won’t put one here, but if you go to my Pinterest (matthew951) to a board called the-art-of-the-curtsy, you will see some very awkward curtsies indeed! (And an absolutely stunning one by Mette-Marit.)

          Thanks for the suggestion to watch video of the Texas Dip, that was hysterical. Had an Olympic style dive followed, I would not have been at all surprised!

          • Matthew, glad you enjoyed the Texas Dip (or should it be called the Texas Plunge ?). Your Pinterest board (thanks for the suggestion!) is a fascinating collection of good and not-so-good curtsies. From viewing these, I have to say that the crossed-thigh version of the curtsy has unfortunate “call-of-nature” overtones.
            As you say, Mette Marit’s is indeed beautiful, and from another of your pins, I can see that she must have learnt it from Queen Sonya.

  2. Perhaps the real color, or merely an artist’s rendering:
    Embed from Getty Images

    • An artist’s impression, I fear. An all-white ensemble, with white hat and white gloves, plus the white of the nurse’s cap and apron, plus the white bedsheets – all too much for what is meant to be a colour illustration! Hence the fetching pastel hues. But I may be wrong!

        • Jimbo, Magdalena (Guddipoland) is a member of Deviantart who seems to specialize in colorizing photos of royalty, but there’s no indication that her color choices of the very old ones are based on any historical research rather than her own ideas. It’s interesting, nevertheless, that two unrelated artists chose to create pictures of scenes from this same royal visit, both of which are very Norman Rockwell-esque in their tone and feel.

  3. I like the Duchess’s hat and dress but I find the dress length odd for the occasion. It would seem to be better suited to a garden party at BP. With regard to the nursing caps, my grandmother was a nurse during the 20’s and 30’s. In her later years,she was always horrified to see a nurse without a cap. From what she said, at least in the US, each nursing school had their own cap. You could tell which school a nurse graduated from by the cap she wore.

  4. As a registered nurse of 28 years, we stopped wearing caps in the 80’s in the US, although you’ll still find an “old school” nurse wearing a cap here and there. I graduated from nursing school with a pinning ceremony but we still took graduation pictures wearing a white nursing cap, more for nostalgia than anything. I still have my cap, with one black velvet stripe because I was a head nurse, but it’s faded and yellowed over the years. I still think they have value in today’s world because when you’re in the hospital you can’t tell the professional RN ( or Sister in the UK) from the practical/vocational nurse (LPN/LVN) or the certified nurses aide (CNA)! I wouldn’t mind wearing my cap again.

    • Thank you, SoCal Gal, I never realized that the caps differentiated the levels of training or position in the management structure – your post was very interesting!

    • I graduated in 1976 and they already had started to phase out the LPN programs and the hospital schools of nursing. What I think really created confusion for patients in identifying who is who in the hospital was the advent of wearing scrubs outside of the OR. While they were comfortable to work in and I was an emergency department nurse so they very practical ( lots of “spills”) I do think we looked less than professional. I’m retired now.

  5. And don’t forget, though not royal, the caps worn by the nurses themselves. I remember cute little white caps of various styles worn by nurses as recently as the 1960s and 70s, though here in the U.S. you never see them anymore, I’m not sure when they went away. The ones worn here were much smaller than the ones in this photo – far too small to be justified as being for sanitation purposes – more like just part of the costume.

    • Caps slipped quietly away during the late 70″s….I wore mine for graduation and perhaps 3 or 4 times later. When I moved to Boston in 1978 I worked at a very traditional hospital where I saw one or two nurses wearing them until 1980. They were a badge of honor so to speak a fun way to identify schools of nursing while eating in the cafeteria but too impractical to work in. Everytime I pulled a curtain around a stretcher I would knock it off my head!

      • This discussion of nurses’ caps is fascinating — I never before realized that there were different styles of caps depending on the school the person went to. I had very little contact with hospitals before caps went out of style, and if I saw nurses on television or in photographs wearing different caps, I assumed it was part of where they worked rather than where they went to school. (Part of the working uniform of that hospital.)

  6. Recently Princess Sofia of Sweden attended a graduation or awards giving ceremony at a nursing school. She wore a pale pink pantsuit. No hat. How times have changed! The Duchess looks as if she is going to a tea dance.

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