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  • Place of origin:

    Italy (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1760-1780 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    straw plait and straw applique

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

By the 1740s wide brimmed straw hats with shallow crowns had become a fashionable accessory for women. The hats were inspired by those traditionally worn by working women in rural areas in order to protect themselves from the sun. The popularity of the rural idyll in fashionable society and an idealised appreciation of the pastoral gave this traditional hat a new standing. In France the style was known as a bergère (french for shepherdess) and the style continued in fashion, worn at various angles and with varied decorations until the late 1780s.

The hats were made from straw plaits which were wound and stitched into shape and subsequently decorated with ribbon and straw adornments.
The straw plait industry originated in Tuscany and by the 16th century Florentine straw hat merchants had established their own corporation. Leghorn straw, grown in Livorno, north of Genoa, was of the finest quality and was prized for its bright gold colour and the intricate straw plait which resulted. As such Leghorn straw hats were highly sought after throughout Europe and many regions attempted to replicate the standard. In 1805 the London based Society of encouragement for the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, awarded Mr William Corston a gold medal for his experiments in finding a 'substitute for Leghorn plait'. The Napoleonic Wars (1803- 1815) had resulted in an end to most European imports and this lead to a strengthening of the British straw plait industry based in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire with the town of Luton as the main centre.

This particular hat is almost certainly of Italian manufacture, the fineness of the plait was something which could not be replicated in England until the invention of the straw-splitter tool around 1800. The decoration on this hat consists of flowers cut from straw sheets which have been dyed in a range of colours. The flowers lie flat around the edge of the brim and are outlined in a fine twisted straw braid which is dyed to match the flowers. An intricate plaited braid outlines the edge of the hat's shallow crown.

The popularity of this style of hat is attested to in numerous artistic depictions throughout the 18th century, from the rococo fantasies of Frangonard's 'Girl on A Swing' 1767 and Boucher's 'Summer Pastoral' 1749 to the portraits of Gainsborough (Mr & Mrs Andrews, 1748), Reynolds (Anne Bingham 1785-86) and Vigee Le-Brun (Marie Antoinette, 1783).

Physical description

Straw hat, shallow crown and wide brim, trimmed with straw sheet and straw thread appliqué around edge of brim and crown.

Place of Origin

Italy (probably, made)


1760-1780 (made)



Materials and Techniques

straw plait and straw applique


Diameter: 38.5 cm, Height: 5.5 cm

Descriptive line

A woman's straw hat, 1760-80; probably Italian; applique straw decoration


Straw; Silk


Applied work


Hats & headwear; Accessories; Fashion; Clothing; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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