Hats at Dinner

Keri Smith

Sep 26, 2015
Hello all! I am curious about dinner attire. From my understanding, it was customary for men to wear hats and gloves most of the time during this period, removing gloves to eat. Would most of the men at dinner in First Class be wearing hats? In the scene in Titanic (1997), there isn't a hat in sight. I know that movie is far from being perfect, but I haven't seen anyone comment if this is yet another inaccurate depiction.

Another thing: if hats were worn and removed, where would they be kept during dinner? I read somewhere that the third class dining saloon had hooks along the walls for coats and hats, but I've never heard mention of anything similar for first class.

I'm new to all of this, so your time and patience are greatly appreciated.


Jul 1, 2015
Tacoma, WA
Hats would be removed while entering any enclosed space, just like one usually does in the military. This usually applied to gloves and coats also, as they were considered outside wear. I don't know if coats were taken off once entering the ship, or until they got back to their cabins. I guess that depends on the chill of the ship. I do know that jackets were worn as passengers made their way to the boat deck to evacuate so maybe it also depended on circumstances.
Most passengers (at least in first class) would change into dinner outfits, so hats would be taken off and left in the cabins. Passengers did not have to go outside to reach the dinning hall, so there was no need to bring the hats along. I would assume this would apply to all planned meals, as the passengers would know the meal times.

Bob Godfrey

Nov 22, 2002
There were coat and hat hooks also in the short corridor connecting the a la carte restaurant reception area to the restaurant itself. Though it's highly unlikely that many (if any) First Class passengers would arrive for dinner wearing either, unless they had come down directly from a walk on deck, which would be more likely perhaps on the first or last night of the voyage when it was traditional not to dress formally for dinner.


Aug 13, 2015
Chicago Area, USA
Edwardian women wore hats whenever outside their own home. They were never removed, if only for the practical purpose of not having to keep a hairdresser handy to rearrange their tresses. Also, a lady never raised her hands above her shoulders in public.

Gloves were also worn, but removed for eating. Long gloves had an opening at the wrist -- ladies were able to pull them off their fingers and tuck the fingers into the opening so their hands were free.

Gentlemen never looked at a lady's hands while she was adjusting her gloves.

Fun times, eh?

Jack Dawson


Oh yes, the finesse of 1912 upper society. Fun times..depending on who you were. :rolleyes:

It never hurts to approach topics of research via primary sources; that means we need to go back to 1912 where possible and see what is written. I'm not entirely clear on any differences between British dinner etiquette and that of the Americans, but I really would be surprised to learn that 1912 upperclass ladies and gentlemen believed that one or the other's ways were flawed, vis the 'proper' manner in which to do things. Old money doesn't look fondly on new money, and in 1912 America was almost entirely made of 'new' money. Naturally everyone who wanted to fit in (or let learned people know they were not boors) would attempt to learn proper etiquette, or a semblance of it anyway. That leads us directly to original 1911-1912 period etiquette books. I'm sure most of the books were nearly exclusively aimed at what would have been considered the 'middle class', or those trying to work their way up from the bottom. So I do not expect these books to reflect the years (can you imagine that?) of tutoring that impressed the 'proper' etiquette into the highest classes of society then.

These books can be read on Google.

Emily Holt, in her 1912 'Encyclopedia of Etiquette' states that at dinners "gentlemen can be asked to lay aside their coats, hats and gloves, though assuredly in the circumstances of a very large dinner they would require and appreciate the advantages of a dressing room." Page 83. https://books.google.com/books?id=3...seCh2x7wsG#v=onepage&q=etiquette hats&f=false

"Putnam's Handbook of Etiquette" published 1913, on the subject of dress for luncheons and breakfasts tells us that "A gentleman may appear at a ceremonious luncheon in winter in gray trousers, white or fancy waistcoat, black cutaway shoes, gray gloves, and a top hat. This costume may be adopted for a wedding breakfast, or, for such a function, a frock coat is a reasonable substitute for the cutaway. At a country luncheon party, it is permissible for a gentleman to wear a gray morning suit with a fancy waistcoat and colored linen, or appear, in the summer, in white flannels or white linen, with hat and shoes to match. A gentleman, at a luncheon, leaves his gloves with his overcoat, stick, and hat, in the hall." That is on page 281. If you continue reading down to page 282, you will find this about Ladies: "Hats and gloves are always worn by women guests to the luncheon- or -breakfast-party table, otherwise the occasion is not ceremonious. Gloves are removed after seats are taken, and resumed, at the pleasure of the owners, at the conclusion of the meal or just before rising to depart. Veils may be worn to the table, pushed up from the face only while the guests eat, or a luncheon-guest may leave her net face-covering along with her other wraps in the dressing-room." Further down on page 445 (since it is of some interest) we learn about 'Travelers by land and water' regarding travel by ship "Many ladies carry decorous demeanor to the extent of donning hats and veils and gloves for deck or saloon services; but this is a detail to be decided by preference." https://books.google.com/books?id=K...seCh2x7wsG#v=onepage&q=etiquette hats&f=false

There are also references to what hat a man can wear for each type of costume, and when those costumes are to be worn.

Jack Dawson

These old books are interesting to browse, but this one has me a little puzzled:

In reading more of Emily Holt's book (See above mention of her 1912 'Encyclopedia of Etiquette') I have found some bits of wisdom I have never heard before. And having never been part of the 1912 society for which these 'rules' governed, I can't easily see why this advice was made: "For steamship dinner a bit of decorative jewelry can be worn, but on a sea going vessel any display of jewels is at once vulgar and dangerous." Page 449, regarding etiquette of travel. It's in the paragraph detailing how women should dress at sea.

Why exactly was it 'vulgar' to wear a display of jewels on a sea going vessel?

Bruce Harwood

Sep 2, 2008
Vancouver Canada
I think the 'vulgar' part has to do with the people with whom one might associate on a public conveyance. One might indulge in major display when assured of being with one's own kind and in a secure setting, for example at an opera, dinner party or ball. But when in company of people of varying means on a steamer or train, even in First Class ostentatious display of wealth would be viewed as pretentious, if not downright nouveau riche. Lady Toffington-Smythe might be travelling with the Romanoff emeralds, but wouldn't wear them at table because other ladies might feel at a disadvantage. That was also part of good manners. Also dangerous. Just as today, a safety conscious traveler wouldn't wear the family jewels where they were likely to make her a target for thieves.

Jack Dawson

Hi Bruce, good points. I think you nailed it with "even in First Class ostentatious display of wealth would be viewed as pretentious, if not downright nouveau riche."

robert warren

Feb 19, 2016
For a period of time women did wear hats at dinner. A 1908 dinner ensemble featured a large coordinating cartwheel hat worn as well. By 1912 headgear were usually small clips with a feather or two ,usually aigrette, or the bandeaus worn in Grecian style. This was a very elegant look also reminiscent of the Empire style of 100 years before.Or a simple bandeau worn across the head known as a " headache band". I think it all depended where you were. The dinner scene in Somewhere In Time features women wearing hats and the aforementioned hair jewelry. Of course a hotel dining room would have been different and somewhat more relaxed than the Titanic's first class dining room.

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