It's a hat that was immortalized by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart, and other dapper gentlemen of years gone by, but did you know the popularity of the fedora hat first began with a woman?
Back in 1882, French author Victorien Sardou published a play called “Fédora," which revolved around the fictional character of Princess Fédora Romazov, portrayed by famed actress Sarah Bernhardt. In 1889, when the play made it to the United States, Bernhardt appeared onstage with a soft-brimmed hat that had a center crease.
Once audiences caught a glimpse of this chic headgear, it wasn't long before the "fedora" became a favorite hat style for American women.
Basics of the Fedora
Originally, fedoras were made of fur felt or wool felt. However, today's fedoras aren't just wool felt hats. They come in countless fabrications including natural and synthetic materials.
Although today's fedoras can greatly vary from one to the next, the signature elements of a fedora haven't changed much since the days of Sandra Bernhardt. They always feature a somewhat flexible brim and an indented crown with a center crease that's pinched on the sides.
By the way, if you're not sure what all this talk of crowns and pinches means, brush up on your hat terminology with our handy hat terms glossary.
We know that some people bemoan the fedora's renewed popularity these days, but such disdain is misguided. That's because the fedora is often mistaken for its trendier and tinier cousin, the trilby.
Unlike narrow-brimmed trilbies that offer virtually no face protection or fashion sensibility, fedoras generally have mid-size brims that can protect you from the elements while providing a stylish silhouette. Get the scoop on the difference between the trilby and the fedora so you know exactly what you're getting when it's time to go hat shopping.
Different Materials and Maintenance
Winter, spring, summer, or fall: There's a fedora made for every season in both natural and man-made materials. Wool felt fedoras remain an undisputed favorite, especially for those cool autumn days and chilly winter nights. Wool is a durable fabric with a cozy feel, but it can also be quite delicate. Take a look at our guide on how to clean a wool hat to keep it in tip-top shape.
Meanwhile, straw fedoras have become a go-to sun hat as the weather warms up in spring and summer. Because there are so many types of straw — shantung, Panama, raffia, hemp, and toyo, to name a few — it's important to read the hat label as some are more resilient than others. Our step-by-step guide on how to clean a straw hat will show you how to maintain your straw fedora hat no matter what type of straw it is.
Along with wool and straw, womens fedoras come in just about any fabric you can imagine, from tweed, hemp, and leather to chenille, velvet, and an ever-increasing list of synthetic fibers. Pay attention to the hat's material to help steer your decision on when and where you want to wear it. And don't forget, there are easy ways to keep your hat clean.
Different Brim Styles
Wide, short, floppy — no matter your preference, fedoras are always brimming with style.
When it comes to womens fedoras, connoisseurs agree that the hat brim should be 2 inches or slightly larger. Not only is this practical for protecting against the sun or the rain, but it's also universally flattering on most face shapes and allows enough width for the brim to be snapped up or down.
As a general guideline, you should not go smaller than a 1 1/2-inch brim on a fedora hat. Anything shorter and you're getting into trilby territory, which is not ideal. That said, even though a trilby is typically too small for a man's proportions, in some cases it can work on a woman's smaller head and frame.
Not feeling the formality of a more structured brim? Then the floppy fedora is just for you. Offering a more easygoing and boho-chic vibe than the traditional fedora hat, floppies are wide-brim hats with a relaxed style that can be dressed up or down.
Favorite Fedoras for Women
Fedora hats are having a major moment as a fun and fresh fashion statement for women. Here are just a few of our favorite womens fedora hats for your shopping list.
Under my umbrella, ella, ella...Rihanna will have nothing on you when you're rocking the stunning Ella wide-brim fedora that could rival the most fabulous derby hat. Made of wool felt, this eye-catching floppy hat features a 4-inch floppy brim, classic grosgrain ribbon trim, and chic feather embellishment that will step up your wardrobe whether you're heading to a concert or evening wedding. Available in must-have neutral shades including brown, grey, and black, but why choose? At just $38 each, you may as well snap up all three.
This packable straw fedora is just as suited for the sunny days of summer as it is for the cool nights of fall. With a slight nod to the cowboy hat, the Venice by Brooklyn womens fedora is expertly crafted from bao straw and offers the classic fedora silhouette with a center crease, two pinched sides, and 3-inch brim. The layered horsehair hat band and tassels add a sophisticated finishing touch. No need to blow your budget on those pricey Helen Kaminski chapeaus — this $65 wide-brim fedora hat keeps your bank account in tact without sacrificing quality or style.
Never mind dropping hundreds of dollars on that Rag & Bone number you've been eyeing for the past month. The Avignon wide-brim fedora by Brooklyn checks off your wardrobe (and wallet) wish list by keeping the price well under $100. A classic fedora shape in a goes-with-everything navy hue, this mixed wool felt hat achieves understated perfection with an unexpected touch of color to keep things interesting. The 2 3/4-inch brim is neither too big or too small, and the mixed wool fabrication makes this a solid winter hat that's still lightweight enough for spring.
Simple, stylish, and easy to pack, Chatham by Scala is perfect for the woman who likes a no-fuss approach to headwear and prefers a smaller brim. Made from hand-crocheted raffia, this crushable straw fedora features a 1 3/4-inch brim and slim braided trim that steps up your summer look from the basic "hair in a baseball cap" routine. Plus, at just under $50, this small-brim fedora is an affordable alternative to pricier Panama straw hats.
Fedoras for All Seasons
There are so many womens hats in countless styles, but fedora hats remain among the most functional and fashionable. Try a straw version for a day at the beach or a wool felt floppy for a night on the town.
Whatever you decide, have fun and consult our trusty guide on what to do (and what not to do) when wearing a fedora — you'll be glad you did. Make sure to shop our full selection of womens fedora hats, including new arrivals, for even more heady inspiration.