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Whatever Happened to Grandma’s Hats?

By Marie Burns May 04, 2023 Family

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like I see women wearing hats much anymore. As a child, we once lived with my grandmother for about six months while our house was being built and my favorite thing to do was play in her hat closet.

Grandma’s Hats

After she passed away, I was blessed with some of the hats from that closet. I promised myself I would start wearing them when I turned 50. Well, that was 10 years ago, and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve worn one of the hats.

Wearing Hats

Maybe I don’t wear them because I live in Arizona, and she lived in Wisconsin. Several of the hats are for colder weather, which we rarely have here. Maybe I don’t wear them because I feel like they have to be kept for a special occasion. Or maybe I don’t wear them because I feel like I stick out too much in a crowd.

Hat Compliments

The last couple of times I wore one was to a Women’s Breakfast and a Ladies’ Tea at our church. Both times many women, even those I didn’t yet know, made a point to stop and tell me how nice my hat looked. Or to tell me that some women don’t think they look good in hats, but my hats look great on me!

Yet when I look around when I am out and about, I don’t see many hats being worn. Only one other woman was wearing a hat at both of my church events. But when I do see another woman wearing a hat, I usually think: Nice! That looks so stylish! She looks wonderful! I wonder where she got that cool hat! Why don’t I wear hats more often?

The Hat Closet

When I played with my grandmother’s hats as a kid, they were mostly in their own boxes. She stored them in an upstairs bedroom in a small walk-in closet. There were shelves on both sides of the closet with no hanging bars, so I called it her hat closet. It felt special just to be in there! You can hear a story about my grandmother, and me wearing one of her hats, on my YouTube channel.

Styles of Hats

As a child, I had no idea there were names for each of the hat styles. I am still learning but have come to realize some of my favorites. I love the Fedora, a wool, wide-brimmed hat that always seemed like a fancy cowgirl hat. The Newsboy and Beret hats I love but because of their winter fabrics (a wool cable sweater fabric and a lovely mohair), I can hardly ever wear them in Arizona.

One drawback for me is that some hats flatten my hair on top which is probably why I especially like the Gatsby Cloche hat because its design doesn’t even allow the top of the hat to touch my hair.

The Family Cottage

Some of Grandma’s hats went to the family cottage, where we kids were allowed to use them for dress-up playtime. What a treat! Some were velvet, some had a brooch on the side, some had netting or flowers, and others were straw, garden, or derby hats.

Hats were a common part of women’s attire back then and like most fashion items, I assume they will keep going in and out of style. I keep thinking of them as a tribute to my grandmother. After all, some of them are almost 100 years old now!

Hats as Treasures

I’ve decided that treasures like these, even if they’re a treasure just to me, are meant to be enjoyed so I am trying to wear my hats more often than Easter, Mother’s Day, and church events. I’m also thinking about a way to display some of them in my home. That way I will see them often and be more likely to wear them.

Passing Down Treasures

I have also realized that this family heirloom collection is something I want to share with my daughter and her daughter so I am putting that in writing on a Personal Property Disposition List. After all, some of these intentions need to be put down on paper or no one will ever know about them!

Surprisingly, or not, it is the personal items, “the stuff,” as I often refer to it, that cause the most anguish in families after someone has passed away. What one person prioritizes, another does not. I remember cringing when I learned that my father had thrown away boxes of slides after my grandmother died. I would have loved to have perused, reminisced, and kept some of them.

One of my clients walked his adult children through his home to clarify values and ask what they wanted as he wrote his estate planning wishes. Another had her daughter go through her jewelry to immediately begin enjoying some pieces she no longer wore.

Your Solution

We all have different situations and unique solutions, but we need to think about them to make the decisions that matter to us. Whether you have hats, other family memory items, or things of value, I encourage you to have a conversation with yourself about your wishes and how/when you will express them. If you would like some assistance, I have tools to help you with those decisions.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

I’m curious what hat stories you have in your life. Maybe they are a more common part of your attire where you live? And what about the “non-hat” items in your family? Have you decided what to do with them? How have heirloom items been distributed in your family?

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I love hats and have a lot of them. I know how to clean them, reshape and redesign them, and how to wear each style properly for my facial structure. I too rarely wear any of my straw or wool treasures. I do not like drawing attention to myself. Also, I often knock them askew getting into or out of the car. Although, truth be told…I miss wearing them and I do love them.

Marie Burns

Bethany, can you briefly share any tips for cleaning and reshaping them? And your thoughts about complementary style for facial structure would be much appreciated too!


I have recently been thinking that I would like to wear a hat more often! All I have are straw hats, but I think I’ll start keeping my eye out for vintage hats at Goodwill. I’ll have to figure out how to clean them thoroughly. Thank you for the encouragement to wear a hat. My hat’s off to you!

Marie Burns

Let’s keep encouraging each other, thank you for sharing!


I absolutely love hats and always have.When my grandmother passed away when I was 11 I asked for her everyday purple hat with a silver brooch on it.She wore that one so much I can still picture it. I live in Atlantic Canada so I’m blessed with the four seasons. A summer hat,a fall hat,a winter hat and a spring
A few years ago at a family reunion on my mother’s side there were many hats.I’m guessing maybe a gene thing as well. Enjoy your hats. 😀

Marie Burns

Yes, let’s enjoy our hats, so glad you are too!


I love hats and wear them constantly. People always tell me how much they like the unique ones! It takes people awhile to be accustom to someone who’s different then the norm, but they do.
Thank you for the article.

Marie Burns

Nancy, I agree with your comment about being different. Funny how we often just want to fit in with the group as a child but then we eventually realize the fun of being unique later in life!

The Author

Marie Burns, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), advocates for women’s financial health. She is an author of a financial checklist book series, speaker, podcast host and partners with clients to offer friendly financial advice in her independent practice Visit her at or

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