A hat box (also commonly hatbox and sometimes hat bucket or hat tin) is a container for storing and transporting headgear, protecting it from damage and dust. A more generic term for a box used to carry garments, including headgear, is a bandbox. Typically, a hat box is deep and round in shape, although it may also be boxlike and used as an item of luggage for transporting a variety of hats.
Hat boxes may be made of a range of materials, including cardboard, leather or metal. They may include straps or a carrying handle for transportation. More luxurious models may be padded and lined in materials such as silk in order to protect the headgear.
The hat box became a popular item in the 19th century – matching the popularity of hats for both day and evening wear – and accessories were produced to assist with both storage and cleaning. While milliners often packaged designs they sold in cardboard hat boxes, more robust designs were produced for travelling. Some designs were made to store more than one hat – including designs that could store both a daytime top hat and a collapsible version for evenings, known as a gibus. They might also include storage space for items such as a hat brush.
Designs became quite large during the Victorian era. A letter to The Times in 1844 warned travellers that Blackwall Railway's porters had charged a 1d to carry a hat box onto the train and a further 6d for transporting it to the London terminus, with the traveller himself paying only 4d for the journey. He recommended that travellers with luggage should go by steamboat.
While traditionally hat boxes are circular or square in shape, some versions may follow the shape of the hat. New York Historical Society archives include a crescent shaped cardboard design thought to be from the early to mid 19th century and attributed to the New York City hatmaker Elisha Bloomer; Canadian archives include a tin design curved to match the tricorne-style military hat worn by Isaac Brock and dating from 1812.
- Brooks Picken, Mary (2010). A Dictionary of Costume and Fashion: Historic and Modern (1999 ed.). United States: Dover Publications. p. 170. ISBN 0486402940. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- "Sir Isaac Brock Hat Box". ourontario.ca. 1812 History. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- "Victorian Hat Box and Top Hats". bbc.co.uk/historyoftheworld. BBC. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- "Top hat". vam.ac.uk. Victoria and Albert Museum. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
- "Blackwall Railway: To the Editor of The Times" (18720). The Times. 20 September 1844.
- "Museum collections: Luce Center". nyhistory.org. Retrieved 13 July 2015.
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