‘Edwardian Ladies’ Hat Fashions’ revisits lavish extremes of millinery history

By Karen Knapstein

Peter Kimpton undertook his treatise on Edwardian hat fashions originally intending to show off part of his extensive postcard archive – in particular, those postcards showing beautiful ladies wearing extravagant hats. It turned out to be much more.

Examining Postcard Archive Leads to Fashionable Hats

“Edwardian Ladies Hat Fashions: Where Did You Get That Hat?” Available at booksellers nationwide and online.

As Kimpton explains, “What had started out in my mind as a fairly light-hearted offering about fashionable, frothy Edwardian ladies’ hats based on images from my collection, rapidly turned a very sinister corner.” He speaks about the devastation of bird populations – the killing of millions of birds only for their plumage – to feed the feather trade that existed hand-in-glove with the millinery trade.

Kimpton’s inclusion of the impact that Edwardian fashion trends had on birds like the heron, egret, and bird of paradise, to name but a few, is interesting but disturbing. Contemporary accounts of the havoc wreaked on the birds by plume hunters are graphic. If you’re merely looking for a picture book to enjoy Edwardian styles, this will suffice … but then you may want to skip over reading the chapters about plume hunting and its overall affect on bird populations and feather workshops (sweatshops). You’ll find significantly more depth of information with this book than with many topical postcard books. I find the educational text makes the book much more valuable and appealing.

 Preservation of the Past

Kimpton says of his Edwardian “girlfriends”: “although sadly now long gone, [they] have remained captured in time, ghosts of the past – ever-happy and ever-beautiful with their enigmatic and knowing smiles still greeting us from over a hundred years ago.”

In addition to early period photos, photo postcards (Photographic Glamour) and hand tinted postcards, the author includes a healthy selection of beautiful color illustrations of Edwardian fashions to illustrate this historical exploration of early 20th century head covers.

‘Edwardian Ladies’ Hat Fashions’ serves as a feast for the eyes and food for thought. The plentiful illustrations are large, clear, and fascinating, and the text is informative and entertaining.

Hopefully we never forget these large, feather-laden hats … perhaps we can then avoid putting our natural resources at risk for the sake of fashion.

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