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Chapeau by Blériot

In the winter of 1909, chic Parisians sported Blériot, Antoinette, and Voisin biplanes on their heads.

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Parisian shopgirls celebrated Sainte Catherine's day by launching a new fashion: the aeroplane hat. Photograph from Past-to-present.com.

It may have started in Chicago, but the craze had already made its way to Paris by December 11, 1909, where a tumultuous crowd of midinettes, or salesgirls, wore the latest fashion: Aeroplane hats sporting imitation Blériot and Antoinette monoplanes.

The biplane's compartments could be further decorated with flowers and ribbons. Photograph from Art.com.

In a special cable to the Washington Post, a fashion correspondent noted that “Other girls wore a tolerably good copy of a Wright machine on their heads. The front lifting planes were not omitted, and protruded gracefully from over the forehead, while the tiny rudder at the back constituted another ornament.

“The real ‘chic,’ however, is said to have been the Voisin biplane, with its partitions and compartments, which afforded ample scope for ingenious decorations with ribbons and flowers.”

Tailors expressed disgust at the idea of the "trouserette" gown. (Illustration originally appeared in the June 18, 1909 edition of the Washington Post.)

In Paris, the airplane sometimes constituted the hat itself; at other times it was a fanciful trimming. Two months earlier in Chicago, airship-themed hats had been spotted “having two long feathers on either end and a curved rim… 20 by 18 inches,” according to the New York Times. Thanks to the feather trimmings, the hat weighed less than a pound.

The hat was just part of the ensemble. New York women were also pitched the “trouserette” gown, which some tailors scorned as unseemly. Mr. Harry Heimerdinger, a New York designer, declared the ruckus to be “absolute tommyrot.” The gown had a conventional bodice, but then morphed into trousers from the knees down. “There’s the article you are going to find at Newport and along the roads which lead thither,” Heimerdinger exclaimed. “In this you can sit down, stand up, ride horseback, jump fences, play tennis, or do anything else”—including flying in an aeroplane.

Many thanks to Alyce Cornyn-Selby at Portland, Oregon’s Hat Museum for locating these wonderful photographs.

An aeroplane hat, Paris, 1909. Photograph from Past-to-present.com.

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