Hat Madness @ New Canaan Historical Society

The history of hats is so long and has been part of our wardrobe for thousands of years. In time many designs have appeared and disappeared, only to reappear again. In the 16th century, women began to wear structured hats, similar to those that were worn by men. In the 18th century, milliners started appearing, usually, women, that created hats and bonnets but also designing overall styles. Materials of the highest quality and best hats came from the Italian city of Milan. That is where the term “milliner” comes from.

With this in mind, the New Cannan Historical Society has organized an exhibition from November 15-March 1, 2020 called Hat Madness. “Mad as a Hatter” was a term used to describe dementia experienced by men in the hat-making business. The mercury used in the production of felt, which was then used for hats, caused the problem. In the 19th century, the Danbury Hatters experienced what was then called the “Danbury Shakes.” Without labor laws to protect them, these workers struggled to keep up with production as they lost their minds.

In Hat Madness, the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society opens up its extensive clothing and textile collection to explore the history of hats, hat design and hat-making. From the simple bonnets worn in Colonial times to stunning pieces of art that were popular in the 1920s to the “Pussy Cap” of the 2017 Women’s March, this exhibition spans more than 200 years. Period garments and related accessories will also be on display.

The show is curated by Penny Havard and runs through March 1, 2020. Opening Reception Friday,

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