A hat begins life as an idea in the mind of the milliner, and on this page you can see a selection of hats from the V&A’s archive that Stephen Jones finds inspiring. The sources of inspiration are unending – and often surprising.
Historic hats redolent of romance and adventure are a constant source of inspiration for many milliners. Simple folded shapes such as the tricorne and bicorne can be reimagined, evoking the drama of a bygone age.Architecture and geometry, travel and exoticism can all spark the maker’s imagination. The natural world, too – flowers, feathers, the sea, animals and vegetation – offers inspiring forms and styles that can be endlessly updated for new creations. Hats are unconstrained by the need for fastenings or neck holes, sleeves or soles, opening a door of fashion possibilities.