Women's hats and silent film spectatorship: Between ostrich plume and moving image

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Perhaps no other visual or physical obstruction posed a greater annoyance to 1910s motion-picture spectators than the woman's hat. Adorned with everything from exotic bird plumes, to entire fruit baskets, to miniature barnyard animals, women's early twentieth-century hat fashions butted heads with the sheer logistics of film screen visibility. As the mayor of Macon, Georgia, put it in 1912, in his futile efforts to pass an ordinance banning ladies' hats from film screenings, "many a man goes to the moving picture show, pays his dime and for it sees a beautiful hat but no picture." More than just a physical obstacle to the visibility of the screen, the woman's hat represented a whole constellation of social and aesthetic problems that afflicted the motion-picture industry. These triangulations between spectator bodies, women's hats, and moving-picture images had an enormous impact on the emergence and uneven codification of industry film culture from roughly 1907 to 1916, a period characterized by the simultaneous standardization and constant transformation of the meaning and experience of filmgoing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-53
Number of pages30
JournalFilm History: An International Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Comedy
  • Fashion
  • Gender
  • Silent cinema
  • Spectatorship


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