Submitted by jays on 28 January 2014 - 2:03pm

This hat, a ‘boater’ or ‘ladies’ sailor hat’, is made from finely plaited straw and dressed with a black faille ribbon.  A padded silk label sewn into the crown of the hat reveals that is was manufactured for G. H. Smith & Son of George Street, Sydney, ‘sole agents’ for Henry Heath, hat manufacturer of Oxford Street, London. The inner band is impressed with the words ‘straw hat made in England’. The boater traces its origins to the flat-topped caps of French sailors but by the second half of the nineteenth century had come to signify the leisured lifestyle of English gentlemen - light, comfortable and cool, the ideal headwear for tennis, picnicking or boating.  It was a style that became popular with women in the 1880s and 1890s and marked a new social informality and freedom in women’s dress. In March 1891 G.H. Smith & Son placed an advertisement in Louisa Lawson’s radical women’s newspaper The Dawn illustrated with a sketch of a woman wearing a boater. Perhaps not surprisingly, this boater belonged to Kathleen Rouse (1878-1932) of Rouse Hill House, a progressive young woman who had little interest in activities deemed appropriate for the female sex and who much preferred travel and intellectual pursuits.

Photograph: Jamie North, 2013
Plaited straw boater hat with a black faille ribbon Plaited straw boater hat with a black faille ribbon Plaited straw boater hat with a black faille ribbon Plaited straw boater hat with a black faille ribbon
Portrait
Rouse Hill House & Farm
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R89/49-2