Fashion in the years 1910-1919 is characterized
by a rich and exotic opulence in the first half of the decade in contrast with the dull practicality of garments worn during
the Great War. Skirts rose from floor length to well above the ankle, women began to bob their hair, and the stage was set
for the radical new fashions associated with the Jazz Age of the 1920s. Most people saw these times as shocking and crude,
but the new fashions survived to move on to the 1920s.
The bra hasn't been around for as long as you might
think it has. In fact, it only became widely popular around the start of the twentieth century after seeing some use towards
the end of the previous one, though it has since proven incredibly popular around the world as an undergarment that promotes
both physical support and, of course, fashion.
history of the bra is a fascinating one, and could be said to have started when style bible Vogue first used the term 'brassiere'
in 1907. The word made it into the Oxford English Dictionary a few years later in 1911 and has been used in both full and
shortened form since then. After replacing corsets as the breast
support of choice, bras had a lot to live up to. But, like every other aspect of fashion in the last century, they underwent
plenty of changes before resulting in the undergarment most women place on their bodies today. For example, in the 1920s bras
were actually used to flatten the breasts in compliance with the American Flapper era. It was until this point that bras were
fundamentally different, being created from a band of material wrapped around the breasts as opposed to the individual cups
we know today. In the 1930s, these cups made their appearance. Designed by Maidenform, these bras were created to provide
support to individual breasts and shaped the way bras developed over the next few decades.
Between 1910 and 1920, fashion
began to loosen up. French designers like Paul Poiret encouraged the trend after 1907 by designing women’s clothes for
an uncorseted figure. Their clothes were softer in line and followed a woman’s body rather than forcing the body to
conform to clothing as previous designers had done.
Within a few years women could finally throw away their corsets–underwear garments with long laces that were
pulled until a woman’s body was held in a tightly defined silhouette, then tied to keep it that way. Needless to say,
corsets could be uncomfortable. Meant to control how a woman moved and stood, they could, if too tightly laced, restrict her
breathing, even her eating. Yet, many women found them comfortable and women of all classes wore them to conform to the fashion
of the day.
There had been a movement
since the mid-nineteenth century to abolish corsets. By 1900, women were wearing at-home gowns, sometimes called tea gowns,
with minimal corseting and a long, slim shape. Between 1908 and the end of the 1920s, the tubular silhouette, with its emphasis
on slimness and the natural motion of the body, remained fashionable
During the First World War (1914-1919), great changes came to couture. Paul Poiret and other fashion designers were
called into the military and their couture houses closed. Wartime prevented commerce between France and the United States
and, although the French silk industry remained in operation in Lyon, its clientele in the couture disappeared into the army
along with many of its weavers.
male designers were off defending France, a young female designer came of age. In 1915, Gabrielle Chanel was in the West of
France, out of the combat zones, producing hats and designing loose-fitting chemise dresses with belts at the hip. By 1916,
she was making casual pleated skirts from the practical Rodier wool jersey that before the war had been restricted to men’s
underwear, and topping them with sailors’ sweaters–in the mode of the sportswear that had begun to appear earlier
In the face of wartime
shortages, Chanel’s practical but expensive jerseys seemed an instant modern classic, appealing to wealthy clients because
they made the rich look young and casual. By contrast, the designs officially promoted by the French government, which considered
it essential that its fashion houses be supported throughout the war, looked dated.
Throughout the 1910s, there was a trend in some circles toward so-called peasant,
or native-dress, motifs. Embroidery designs from native European dress found their way onto couture gowns, as did smocking
and brightly colored fabrics. The designers of the early twentieth century and their clients were experimenting in the new
The House of Paquin opened in 1891 on the fashionable
rue de la Paix in Paris. Its founder was Jeanne Paquin, who was considered the first important female couturier. Paquin used
clever marketing techniques, sending her models to the opera and the races to parade her latest creations. Her Chimère
evening dress is a fine example of the archetypal ‘flapper’ dress and a highlight of Art Deco 1910–1939.
It was exhibited at the 1925 Paris Exposition and represents the height of French couture. The dress, constructed from delicate chiffon and French silk, is covered in a mass
of diamante studs, seed pearls and gold glass beads. The intricate finish and detailing was completed by hand by artisans
specialising in beading and embroidery. Fashion designers decorated garments in a way that would emphasise light and movement,
which was best demonstrated when the wearer danced to one of latest crazes such as the Charleston or the foxtrot.
Jeans were strictly for workman in the first three decades
of the century. In 1908, Morris Cooper created a workwear production company in his own name. By the 1910s, 600 people were
employed in the Morris Cooper factory in London, producing workwear clothing from durable and versatile fabrics for various
trades. Popular at the time were the Bib-and- Brace overalls. With the arrival of the first world war, the company converted
its production to military uniforms. In 1931, the company was renamed “M Cooper Overalls Limited”, and in 1937
opened up a new factory in Stratford East London. The forties saw the world in chaos with the arrival of the second world war. Strong production techniques and quality
products lead to cooper overalls ltd being requisitioned by the British armed forces to manufacture uniforms. Morris Cooper,
was killed in a car accident in 1940 and with his son, Harold, serving in the Royal Air Force (RAF), the Company ran without
a Cooper at the helm until the end of the war. In 1946, when Harold returned, he altered the direction of the company by changing
its focus from work wear to jeans production. The name changed also, and the now famous Lee Cooper brand was born (Lee coming
from Harold's wife's family name). Within 2 years, Lee Cooper was “the” firm at the forefront of bringing
denim jeans to the UK market.
We all know that undergarments are worn under clothes,
often next to the skin but have you ever considered that the amount of freedom undergarments allow, their part in displaying
erotic intentions, and the degree to which morality imbues them all speak to the social roles of their wearers? Practically
speaking, they keep outer garments from being soiled by perspiration, shape the body and provide support. Undergarments can
be used to preserve the wearer’s modesty, as well as for erotic effect. Undergarments commonly worn by women throughout
history include bustles, corsets, girdles, bloomers, hose, garters, petticoats, and brassieres. As popularity in one style
of undergarment changed, so often did the social and political role of women, or was it visa-versa? Corsets and 18”
Waists Historically, metal, bone and wood were sewn into support garments called corsets, with the intention of ‘staying’
or defining the shape of a woman. Stays of the 18th century were laced from behind and drew the shoulders back to form a high,
round bosom and upright posture. Undue tightening of the corset stays sometimes led to a woman needing to retire to the fainting
room or couch as they lessened her ability to breathe. As small waists became fashionable in the 1820s, the corset was boned
and laced to form the hourglass figure. By the 1860s, a tiny waist came to be seen as a symbol of beauty with women seeking
the ideal 18 inches. Rational thinking re-emerged by the 1880s with the dress reform movement that campaigned against
the pain and damage to internal organs and bones caused by tight lacing. Following this thought, in the early 1900s, Inez
Gaches-Sarraute, a corsetiere with a degree in medicine
A hobble skirt (from to hobble = "to
limp") is a skirt with a narrow enough hem to significantly impede the wearer's stride, thus earning its name.
A knee-long corset is also used to achieve this effect. A dress consisting of such skirt is called a hobble dress.
skirts first appeared in Western fashion in 1880s, the term was first used in reference to a short-lived trend of narrow skirts in around
1910-1913. The Parisian fashion designer Paul Poiret is sometimes credited with the design, inspired by the widespread Oriental
influence on Western culture, but in fact the extreme hobble skirt is an evolution of the narrowing skirt seen in fashion
since the turn of the century.
BBC TshirtThe archives of the New York Times between 1910 and the beginning of the First World War
contain many detailed accounts of the hobble skirt wearers of the era. It seems that some New York fashion houses may have
asked their dressmakers to interpret too literally the slim styles depicted in Paris fashion illustrations. Many women and
their admirers subsequently discovered quite accidentally the delights of the geisha-like way of walking which such narrow
skirts create, and the hobble skirt, impractical though it was, achieved tremendous popularity.
Although the term is sometimes used in reference
to narrow ankle-length skirts in the early 1910s, some skirts of this period, although called hobble skirts, had slits, hidden
pleats, and draping that lessened the restriction on a woman's ability to move freely, because in this period women
were becoming more active in various activities which would have been impossible to do in a hobbled hemline. The most restricting
extant styles from this period, which truly do hobble the wearer, are either evening wear or are found in wedding dresses
when a woman was only required to take small measured steps down the aisle of a church.
Long tight skirts reappeared through the
century in various forms, particularly in evening gowns, as well as daytime pencil skirts popular in the 1950s. A more literal
interpretation of hobble skirts became a mainstay in bondage-oriented fetish fashion, often made out of leather, PVC, or
latex. For example, they were a regular topic in the 1950s John Willie fetish magazine, Bizarre.
Hobble skirts are still present today in goth
and BDSM communities, but are also sometimes used as evening gowns and wedding dresses and sometimes in other occasions although rarely
due to restricting properties. Like other skirts in western civilization they are almost exclusively worn by women.
Large hats with wide brims and broad
hats with face-shadowing brims were the height of fashion in the early years of the decade, gradually shrinking to smaller
hats with flat brims. Bobbed or short hair was introduced to Paris fashion in 1909 and spread to avant garde circles in England
during the war. Dancer, silent film actress and fashion trendsetter Irene Castle helped spread the fashion for short hairstyles
The Castles' initial
fame began in Paris, where they introduced American ragtime dances, such as the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear. When the
Castles returned to the U.S., their success was repeated on a far wider scale. Making their New York debut in 1912 at a branch
of the Cafe de Paris, operated by Louis Martin, who had given them their start in Paris, the duo were soon in demand on stage,
in vaudeville and in motion pictures.
In 1914, the couple opened a dancing
school in New York called "Castle House", a nightclub called "Castles By the Sea" on the Boardwalk in
Long Beach, New York, and a restaurant, "Sans Souci." At Castle House, they taught New York society the latest dance
steps by day, and greeted guests and performed at their club and cafe by night. They also were in demand for private lessons
and appearances at fashionable parties. Despite their fame, they often found themselves treated as hired menials; if a rich
client was too demanding, Vernon would quote a fee of a thousand dollars an hour for lessons and often get it.
Bendel, Henri (22 Jan. 1868-22 Mar.
1936), fashion designer and entrepreneur, was born Henri Willis Bendel in Vermillionville (renamed Lafayette in 1884 after
the Marquis de Lafayette), in southwest Louisiana to William Louis Bendel, purported to have been a former British Naval
officer,and Marie Plonsky, born in the German states. They arrived in Louisiana before the Civil War and opened a dry goods
store. His father died in 1874; four years later his mother married Benjamin Falk, a Russian-born dry goods merchant, when
Henri was ten years old. His mother, a successful businesswoman, ran a furniture store, a dry goods store, a drugstore and
a funeral parlor. His stepfather was one of the most successful businessmen in late 19th century Lafayette, the proprietor
of a large department store, owner of the city's entertainment center, Falk's Opera House. He also served as assistant
fire chief and city alderman, helped establish the Lafayette Improvement Association (forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce),
the first high school in the city, and the first synagogue. His parents' prominence contributed to Henri's drive,
business acumen and dedication to his hometown even after he moved away.
As a young man, Bendel moved to Morgan City, Louisiana, some 70
miles southeast of his home. There he worked for and built a personal relationship with Aaron Lehman and his family who most
likely ran a dry goods or related business. Bendel purportedly opened his own millinery shop in Morgan City. Records show
that he married the Lehman's daughter, Blanche, in New York City in 1894. His wife died one year after their marriage.
In 1895, Henri Bendel opened his first New York City store, a millinery shop on Ninth Street, where he designed custom hats,
clothing, and accessories. He made a name for himself quickly as designer to New York City's elite, including the Astors
and Vanderbilts, along with well-known entertainment figures, such as Geraldine Ferrar, an opera diva and silent screen
star and film actress, Billie Burke.
Ever innovative, he understood the idea of creating a recognizable brand. In 1907, he introduced
his company's signature brown-and-white strip (still used today on promotional products, although the company has long
been owned by a large retail corporation).By the 1910s, Bendel had become America's preeminent fashion designer, designing
and producing custom made attire. In 1914, Vogue Magazine approached him to be part of their November "Fashion Fete"
benefit, a war charity event. His reputation by that time was such that they knew that if Henri Bendel came on board other
important designers would follow, and indeed that is exactly what happened.
Henri Bendel Fashion Sketch
This decade is particularly interesting to me because it reflects
a drastic change in women's wear. During this time, we did not entirely lose the corset, but it loosened quite a bit.
Hemlines rose. Skirts slimmed and flared and slimmed. Waistlines rose, especially, from my observations, on evening and special
occaision gowns, between 1911-1914 and then fell and kept on falling between 1915 and 1919. Completely shapeless dresses were
becoming increasingly popular, which is something we hadn't seen in Western dress since the early Middle Ages. As in every
era, strange things were afoot with sleeves. There was a lot of experimentation with uncut sleeves...in other words, sleeves
that were cut as part of the bodice, not cut out separately and sewn on; layered sleeves (see mourning gown page) and; three-quarter
sleeves. In addition to this beadwork and finge became increasingly popular, particularly in the Poiret-inspired psuedo-Asian/Mid-Eastern
patterns. Later in the decade,since you could now see the lower calves and feet, hosiery and shoes became more interesting,
and example coming to mind is the jeweled Arabian slippers that Poiret commissioned from some shoe-making company in Italy,
I believe. In
the first half of the decade, skirts slimmed to such drastic lengths as to seriously inhibit walking. These "hobble"
skirts soon began to have slits that allowed for easier movement. A variation on the hobble skirt is the peg skirt. These
skirts were cut much fuller at the top than at the bottom, giving the wearer an appearance of carrying pleated saddle-bags
on her hips. I
have some crackpot theories as to the spirit behind these particular skirt designs that should, in no way be considered seriously. The hobble skirts
were very easy to rip in the course of a normal stride, therefore women often took to binding their legs together with cord
to prevent this. In my mind, the people of this era were some serious S&M freaks. You lose the restrictiveness of corsets
and what do you do? You bind a different body part, of course! As for the peg skirts? Well, in the preceeding eras, women's
fashion was very centered on the rear. Bustles and trains were often more decorative than the front of the gown. I think that
the peg skirt may very much have been a final nod to women's hips and posteriors. They certainly do accentuate those areas.
once again, this is just my crackpot theory.
In the 1910, notable fashion designer Paul Poiret of
Paris began to advocate for no corset in women’s fashion. This was an important step in liberating women from the confines
of a metal or bone cage that caused them to disfigure their bodies. We began to see fashion soften a bit. Necklines finally
lowered after several years of high collars.
This decade also saw extremely slim skirts all the way down to the
floor. Some skirts were so tight, it was difficult from women to walk! Soon the skirts featured slits in the back or side,
allowing for freer movement. For the first time in history, women’s ankles were showing. Previously women’s fashion
had dictated that the hemline should touch the floor. With their feet showing, women’s shoe fashion begins to evolve
from a utilitarian boot that no one saw under layers of skirt, to a fashion statement of its own.
The First World War marked the end of the fashion trend
known as the Gibson Girl look. The Gibson Girl was the personification of a feminine ideal during a 20-year period spanning
the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Gibson Girl was tall and slender, with an S-curve torso shape that accentuated
the bust and hips. This shape was achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset. The 'ideal' woman was statuesque, with a
thin neck and her hair piled high on her head in bouffant, pompadour, or chignon ('waterfall of curls') fashions. During the war, women were working outside the home
and needed a new fashion that was ready-to-wear. As women worked in factories, it was dangerous to have long hair and long
dresses. For daytime wear, women favoured a practical, more masculine suit, compatible with war work, over the elegant dresses,
bustle gowns, shirt-waists, and terraced, shorter skirts.
After the Boer War, a collection of army oddments tucked
away in a cupboard in the King Street store had little hope of finding homes. Military men came to Moss Bros for their everyday
needs, not for their uniforms. But in 1910, an assistant named Martin successfully kitted out two officers in military frock
coats and later found the perfect uniform for another officer from Ireland. This soldier was so pleased that he recommended
Moss Bros to all his friends. "At this rate," said Martin, "we'll not be needing a cupboard but a complete
department!" And so the Military Department was born. At the outbreak of World War One in 1914, vast numbers of newly commissioned officers descended on King Street
for their uniforms. The pressure on staff was enormous, with some sleeping on piles of clothing after exhausting 15-hour days! In 1914, Alfred made the firm into a limited
liability company. His nephew, Monty Moss, a skilled buyer and a friendly member of the team, fell at Passchendaele in 1917.
Peace returned, and Moss Bros soon demonstrated that it had lost none of its flair and appetite for innovation. During the
1920s, mass-production of cars was in its
infancy so horses were still important, particularly in the countryside. Moss Bros was already well known for riding outfits,
so it was a natural progression to add a Saddlery Department in the basement at Kings Street. In 1924, King George V insisted
that Ramsay MacDonald's new Labour Government dressed correctly at court. Ministers were happy to wear a uniform rather
than comical knee breeches, but were worried about the cost. The company was justifiably proud when the King's Private
Secretary suggested that second-hand 'levee' dress could be had at Moss Bros for just £30 complete!
Rational Dress Movement and Women’s Suffrage In the late 19th century, the United States was home to a number of high-minded, evangelical women active in the anti-slavery
and temper- ance (anti-alcohol) movements who started what came to be known as the Dress Reform or Rational Dress Movement.
As they gained experience in public speaking and political activism, some of these women began to demand emancipation for
themselves and their ward- robes. They wanted the vote, and sensible clothing as well! The move- ment had its greatest success
in the reform of women’s undergarments, with bloomers, union suits and the softer, more camisole-like emancipa- tion
bodice gaining great popularity. Dress reformers were also influential in persuading women to adopt simplified garments for
athletic activities such as bicycling or swimming. Concurrently, women were becoming increasingly involved in the political
realm. So, after years of efforts in 1883 Washington women won the right to vote. When women joined their votes with
progressive thinking men, local elections often focused on issues of social justice, closing many taverns and brothels
that had operated without much regulation. As with all change, a backlash against this progress was felt. On February 3, 1887
the Washington Territory Supreme Court enacted a new law that excluded women from serving on juries. One argument held that
women who served on juries would be exposed to “sordid facts of life,” as in the conventional opinion of the time,
women were too delicate and pure to know such facts. Finally, on November 14, 1888, the Washington Territorial Supreme Court
nullified the women’s vote, arguing that Congress had never intended to enfranchise women in the first place
During the early years of the
1910s the fashionable silhouette became much more lithe, fluid and soft than in the 1900s. When the Ballets Russes performed
Scheherazade in Paris in 1910, a craze for Orientalism ensued. The couturier Paul Poiret was one of the first designers
to translate this vogue into the fashion world. Poiret's clients were at once transformed into harem girls in flowing
pantaloons, turbans, and vivid colors and geishas in exotic kimono. The Art Nouveau movement began to emerge at this time
and its influence was evident in the designs of many couturiers of the time. Simple felt hats, turbans, and clouds of tulle
replaced the styles of headgear popular in the 1900s. It is also notable that the first real fashion shows were organized
during this period in time, by the first female couturier, Jeanne Paquin, who was also the first Parisian couturier to open
foreign branches in London, Buenos Aires, and Madrid.
Two of the most influential fashion designers of the time
were Jacques Doucet and Mariano Fortuny. The French designer Jacques Doucet excelled in superimposing pastel colors and
his elaborate gossamery dresses suggested the Impressionist shimmers of reflected light. His distinguished customers never
lost a taste for his fluid lines and flimsy, diaphanous materials. While obeying imperatives that left little to the imagination
of the couturier, Doucet was nonetheless a designer of immense taste and discrimination, a role many have tried since, but
rarely with Doucet's level of success.
The Venice-based designer Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo was a curious
figure, with very few parallels in any age. For his dress designs he conceived a special pleating process and new dyeing
techniques. He patented his process in Paris on 4 November 1909. He gave the name Delphos to his long clinging sheath dresses
that undulated with color. The name Delphos came from the bronze statue of the Delphic Charioteer. Each garment was made
of a single piece of the finest silk, its unique color acquired by repeated immersions in dyes whose shades were suggestive
of moonlight or of the watery reflections of the Venetian lagoon. Breton straw, Mexican cochineal, and indigo from the Far
East were among the ingredients that Fortuny used. Among his many devotees were Eleanora Duse, Isadora Duncan, Cleo de Merode,
the Marchesa Casati, Emilienne d'Alencon, and Liane de Pougy.
The fashionable man in the early 1910s was seen
wearing a one or three button cutaway frock coat or the double breasted sack which is a straight lined jacket. Average width
of the pants leg was a whopping 22 inches at the bottom. It was a 'dandy' type of look; the cane was standard, the
collar was high (usually with a bow tie); a bowler or some type of hat was worn. A man's hat in those days was meant to
coordinate with his outfit. A top hat in 1900 went with the frock coat; the homburg was necessary for less formal day wear,
and the straw hat (or 'boater') was popular with both men and women.
Boys and younger men wore three piece suits for dress, consisting of a coat, vest
and knee pants which were tight fitting and usually made with 'double knees'. The bottom of the pant leg met the high
stockings at the knee.
Mens fashion The sack coat or lounge coat continued to replace
the frock coat for most informal and semi-formal occasions. Three-piece suits consisting of a sack coat with matching waistcoat
(U.S. vest) and trousers were worn, as were matching coat and waistcoat with contrasting trousers, or matching coat and
trousers with contrasting waistcoat. Trousers were shorter than before, often had turn-ups or cuffs, and were creased front
and back using the new trouser press. Waistcoats fastened high on the chest. The usual style was single-breasted. The blazer,
a navy blue or brightly-colored or striped flannel coat cut like a sack coat with patch pockets and brass buttons, was worn
for sports, sailing, and other casual activities. The Norfolk jacket remained fashionable for shooting and rugged outdoor pursuits. It was made of
sturdy tweed or similar fabric and featured paired box pleats over the chest and back, with a fabric belt. Worn with matching
breeches or (U.S. knickerbockers), it became the Norfolk suit, suitable for bicycling or golf with knee-length stockings
and low shoes, or for hunting with sturdy boots or shoes with leather gaiters. The cutaway morning coat was still worn for
formal day occasions in Europe and major cities elsewhere, with striped trousers. The most formal evening dress remained
a dark tail coat and trousers with a dark or light waistcoat. Evening wear was worn with a white bow tie and a shirt with
a winged collar. The less formal dinner jacket or tuxedo, which featured a shawl collar with silk or satin facings, now
generally had a single button. Dinner jackets were appropriate formal wear when "dressing for dinner" at home
or at a men's club. The dinner jacket was worn with a white shirt and a dark tie. Knee-length topcoats and calf-length
overcoats were worn in winter.
Fashion for children in the 1910's
evolved in two different directions, day-to-day and formal dress. Boys were dressed in suits with trousers that extended
to the knee and girls' apparel began to become less "adult" as skirt lengths were shortened and features became
more child-focused. The war affected the trends in general, as well. Military influences in apparel for little boys was
typical and the lengths of skirts for girls were cut shorter yet because of material rationing.
At the turn of the century fashions
looked like the 1800's. For daytime wear, Women wore long skirts, long sleeves, high necks, and high button shoes. However,
big changes were on the horizon as many women, going to work outside the home, were wanting a new independence. The ready-to-wear
industry was blossoming and the eager and skilled work force, made up of immigrants flooding into America, supplied the
needed ingredient. The New York garment district flourished. Paul Poiret, a Paris fashion designer, visited New York and
saw copies of his designs for sale for as low as $15. Furious, he tried to protect his interests but ready-to-wear had taken
over the general public sales through department stores.
The shirt-waist was so popular. It
was called the Gibson Girl look, with two-piece outfits, i.e. skirts and shirts. White linen with
embroidery was pervasive; but a new fabric, rayon, the first of the synthetic, technological miracle
fabrics, produced at low cost and called "artificial silk," was important. It fell into disfavor
for several decades but has made a comeback at the end of the century. The straw boater hat was everywhere
and the hair was long but worn up underneath the hat. Undergarments, including corsets to cinch the waist, were
figure forming and confining. Vogue and Harper's Bazaar were enticing women to spend more time
and money on what they wore.
The evolution of modern straw dress
hats is marked by important changes which took place in the middle 1930s. Summer headwear, which had previously been merely
cool-looking became, cool and comfortable on the head. Paralleling the shift from hard derbies to soft hats in felts, the
emphasis shifted from hard straws to soft straws.
Some of the better known soft straws are Open-weave Panama, New braids, Hanoki, Hemp, Peanit, Leghorn,
Baku, Bangkok, and Madagascar.
The popularity of the Panama straw dress hat soared at the start of the 20th century when a photograph
of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt sporting a stylish fino appeared in the world press. The demand for the chic hat rose.
Prominent companies around the globe began distributing them. In Turkey, modernization laws banned the traditional fez in
1925 and mandated the use of Panama hats. By 1944 the Panama hat had become Ecuador's primary export item.
By the second
half of the 20th century, the popularity of hats waned. Yet, Ecuador's finely woven Panama hats maintained their mystique.
Indeed, expert hatters throughout the world compete for premium grade specimens. Famous people from bygone eras to our day
have been captivated by the elegance of the Panama hat. It has graced the heads of Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev,
Humphrey Bogart, and Michael Jordan, to name but a few.
Of course, there are inexpensive mass produced imitations of the genuine Panama. However, many
of these crack; others do not breathe. In contrast, the genuine Panama is light and airy, and it lasts a lifetime. Each
is hand woven and therefore is one of a kind. Prices range from a few dollars for the coarser hats to over $1,000 for the
rarest, the superfinos of Montecristi. Quality is determined by the fineness and regularity of the weave as well as the
consistency of color. But always remember this: A genuine Panama hat is made only in Ecuador.
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