woman wearing red hat and sunglasses

How to Wear a Hat and Hat Etiquette


You know you want to wear that adorable fedora, but you are afraid to walk out the door because you do not know when you should leave your hat on or take it off. Well, here are the rules for women’s hat etiquette. Once you know the guidelines, you can choose to follow or break the rules, depending on your personal style.

Women’s chapeaus often feature embellishments like flowers, ribbons, feathers, or veils; so, ladies’ hats are considered fashion accessories. That is why women need not follow men’s hat rules. In most situations, it is no more necessary for women to remove their hats than to remove their shoes. Ladies are not required to remove their hats when going indoors or upon hearing the national anthem. However, women wearing masculine hats, such as baseball caps or trucker hats, must remove their caps whenever a man would.

Most confusion about hat etiquette concerns hats in restaurants. Historically, it is quite correct for a woman to wear a small hat after 6:00 pm, unless she is dressed in a ballgown; and, for the first half of the twentieth-century, no well-dressed woman would ever go out in public without a hat. Therefore, the traditional rule is that any woman may wear a hat, day or night, in a restaurant.

After dark, large-brimmed hats are inappropriate for restaurants, as there is no sun. If the evening’s plans call for cocktail dresses or formal gowns, there are still several “hat” options. These include fascinators, cocktail hats, veils, embellished combs, and scarves tied as headbands or turbans. On the other hand, no woman should feel obliged to remove her large-brimmed hat after dark if she has had no chance to change clothing.

There are places where ladies should not wear hats: in their own homes, at their friends’ homes, or in their own offices. Women must remove large hats in theaters, but may leave them on in churches. There are two special circumstances when women may ignore traditional hat rules: when wearing head covers for religious reasons or for covering hair loss.

Most women do not know proper hat rules. Some girls never learned proper etiquette from their grandmothers. Others are fashion eccentrics who scoff at old-fashioned customs. However, no woman of good breeding would point out another woman’s fashion faux pas. And, in general, women in hats are more chic than their bare-headed cousins.

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