Sue Wood Millinery Makes Victorian Hat For Mayor of Neston

At the beginning of December, I travelled back to Victorian times for the second Neston Christmas Festival. The event was organised by Neston Town Council in partnership with Neston Rotary Club and Neston & District Churches Together.

I was delighted to be asked along to give a talk about hats and to do a demonstration on making hats. Little did I know that I would end up making a Victorian-styled hat for, Pat Kynaston, the Mayor of Neston. Cllr Pat Kynaston, who has lived in Neston for her whole life, wore an incredible Victorian dress to the festival.

During the Victorian Era, a woman's place was at home. Her dresses reflected her lifestyle and place in society. When Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, the ideal form for women of the time was a long slim torso with wide hips. To achieve the look, ladies would wear corsets on the top and huge skirts on the bottom, with horsehair petticoats underneath to emphasise the lady's small waist.

Hats were an absolute must during the 1800s. They were a crucial part of a woman's apparel and one would be considered improper by failing to wear one - particularly when attending social events! Similar to the fashion at the time, hats were a symbol of a woman's (or man's) place in society. Hats were trimmed with ribbons, flowers, feathers and veils.

The Victorian hat I "whipped up" for the Mayor was red and black to match her dress. During Victorian times, it became very popular not just to use feathers on a hat but an entire bird. As popular as it was, it was also very controversial. Instead of using a whole bird, I decorated the mayor's hat with a long black veil and black feathers.

The entire bird is used, and is mounted on wires and springs that permit the head and wings to be moved about in the most natural manner.”
Harper’s Bazaar, 1875