A straw hat. A lace-trimmed bonnet. A felt sunhat with flowers. It sounds like I’m talking about the hats worn by a character from Bridgerton or Downtown Abbey, but Lladró sculptors have been incorporating these hats into their figurine designs since the brand’s beginnings in the 1950s.
The idyllic scenery and Victorian-inspired fashions of In the Balustrade evoke a sense of calm that resonates with many.
Many of Lladró's classic figurines depict women in long gowns lazing around in picturesque gardens filled with colourful flowers. While many of us are not able to spend all our time relaxing in the sun, the palpable sense of calm and ease given off by these figures is something that resonates with most people. The idyllic scenes depicted in the pieces take us to a simpler time and place, bringing with them a feeling of tranquillity that is easy to project ourselves into.
The elegant and romantic clothing styles of the figurines play an important role in creating these evocative pieces, and are inspired by the Regency and Victorian eras of the 19th Century. In this time, the hat was often considered the most important part of a woman’s outfit. Not only used for protection from the elements, headwear was vitally important to a woman’s self-expression, and, among other things, could be used to communicate her status, fashion sense, and eligibility for marriage. Wearing a hat outside of the home was also a sign of respectability and civility, so it was considered very improper to be seen without one.
Simple straw boaters were common among young girls like this one in A Romp in the Garden
The size, shape, and decoration of a woman’s hat could tell people many things about her. For instance, children’s hats were usually very simple and made from straw, like the one seen on the girl in A Romp in the Garden. However, in their adolescent and adult years, young women would transition to stylish wide-brimmed felt sunhats such as the style worn by the Fragrances and Colours woman figurine, as well as ornate bonnets for formal occasions. This was to symbolise that they were old enough to be presented to society as women and start looking for a husband. Once women were married, they would begin to also cover their hair indoors with a soft lace cap.
Fragrances and Colours features a young woman wearing a stylish felt sunhat.
A woman’s fashion sense and style was also evident through the hats that she wore. Keeping up with trends was very important in the 19th century, and millinery styles were constantly changing. For example, flowers and even fruits were a very common adornment in the beginning of the century, while in the later years feathers and fabrics became much more common. Similarly, trends in hat shapes also changed during this time, transitioning from soft Capote Caps to Poke Bonnets like the one worn in Spring Joy.
This girl in Spring Joy wears a trendy Poke Bonnet from the Regency Era.
Of course, one of the most important connotations of headwear in this era was to communicate a woman’s status in society. Even today, wearing a hat adds something special to an outfit, making it feel more dressed up and elegant. This sense of class and stature is why the British Royal Family, and Queen Elizabeth in particular, continue to wear hats to all their official appearances even to this day. For regency and Victorian women, a large, ornately decorated hat was the most obvious marker of a high-class woman. These hats were expensive and impractical, meaning they could only be worn by women who had maids to take care of all their household chores. They were also difficult to redecorate at home, so they indicated that a woman could afford to have a large collection of headwear to match different outfits and were a way to show off this wealth. For example, horse racing was considered to be a sport for only wealthy people to participate in, as owning a racehorse is very costly. In order to prove their wealth to others at the races, women would wear their most decadent pieces of millenary. This tradition has continued and is the reason that most women wear a hat or fascinator to a horse race even now.
The importance and meaning of hats in Regency and Victorian era style makes them an obvious choice to feature in many of Lladró's classic figurines. They add a softness and elegance to the pieces and are key in drawing the mind back to an idyllic and romanticised time period that distracts us from the chaos of our everyday lives.