What Would Marie Do? Straw Hats and Etiquette in 18th century France | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: What Would Marie Do? Straw Hats and Etiquette in 18th century France

January 10, 2011

What Would Marie Do? Straw Hats and Etiquette in 18th century France

Dear Antoinette,
I am a little confused about straw hats. Especially about the rules every fashionable lady should follow. I have heard that straw hats should be worn only in the morning before 11 AM. What is confusing me is the information that the etiquette demanded ladies to get up at 11 AM or even later. Can you provide me some piece of information on this?
Thank you,

 This is a fun question! The rules of etiquette are certainly perplexing, (even headache inducing?) which is why it is understandable that someone like Marie Antoinette found herself endlessly frustrated by them. So let's jump in, what would Marie do when she knew it was unfashionable to rise early yet she had a fabulous straw morning hat she wanted to wear?

Even by the mid-nineteenth century straw hats were often paired with morning dresses, so the trend did not soon fade. I think here we need to look for reasons for ladies to wake earlier, perhaps a planned luncheon or event. Planning to take a daily walk with friends or entertaining company may be some of the many reasons a fashionable lady would rise early. These are excellent occasions to pair a morning dress with a morning hat, typically straw.

In Antoinette's case she often sought refuge from the demands of etiquette at her Petit Trianon where she no doubt would wear a straw hat while admiring her gardens and Petit Hameau. Here she did not need to stick to the rules so carefully.

Rose Bertin made beautiful straw hats adorned with ribbons, flowers and even fruit. These items were often much more affordable than her higher end silk hats, so many fashionable ladies would purchase them. As we have mentioned, it is better to have one Bertin hat than no Bertin hat! Just owning one would certainly prompt a lady to rise early enough to wear it about and show it off! Readers please share your thoughts on this topic!

Answer based on noted behavior of the Queen herself - with room for fun interpretation of course


  1. In the pic it looks as though there is some fabric added to the crown so that the bouffant doesn't get squashed.

    I love a straw hat in the garden; I can push my hair up into the crown and I still look half-decent when I take it off!

  2. I love hats, especially historical ones and the 18th century was particularly fabulous in the hats department. That being said, I couldn't help but smirk at the thought of hats with fruit. Am I the only one who pictured a hat with a bunch of bananas on top?

    I often wore straw hats at reenactment events. They're very elegant. If you've got it, flaunt it!

  3. Would you look at the color of that gown? And I thought the 20th century had invented apple green. Just gorgeous!

  4. I agree with everyone, I also love hats. I am not sure that I can pull them off so well, but I like to think I can...!

  5. I too love hats from this era, and loved this post. What a conundrum, raising late or being able to wear the straw hat. If you would like to see some images of hats from the 1700's come see my post, would love to have you visit.