At the beginning of the 20th century, individual milliners turned the simple hat shop into an exclusive space that enhanced their signature styles. This ‘salon’ environment, similar to that of haute couture dress houses, offered the customer an intimate place to view, try and buy elegantly displayed hats.
Traditionally a good saloniste offered advice, recommending turban styles for those with large noses or advising asymmetric styles to slim a wide face. However, the cardinal rule of hat-buying, as French fashion editor Genevieve Dariaux noted, is to 'take the one you fall in love with, which mysteriously "does something" for you, which magically makes you feel more beautiful'.
When the right client meets the right hat, the wearing begins. On the hat’s journey - from initial inspiration, through construction, to the salon where it is tried and chosen - it is the client who ultimately gives it life and launches it into the world. From royalty to revolutionaries, a hat frequently becomes a signature feature for a well-known face, recognised as part of the personality of the wearer.On this page you can select hats from the V&A salon and explore the story of their makers and wearers.