Pillbox Hats

  • Embellishments
  • Historic examples
  • Hat Sources
  • Patterns
Pillbox hats have been part of a bride’s attire since Medieval times, if not before. They can sit at a jaunty angle cocked over the forehead, be place on the crown of the head for a more formal look, or placed further back on the nape of the neck.

The pillbox hat is a small cap. It has straight, upright sides and a flat crown, with no brim. A snood can be added in place of a veil. Or a veil can drape from the back.


The embellishments on the hat can be beads, jewels, cartouche braiding, or other trims. Celtic knots could be formed and sewn in place. A solid colored hat could have tartan braiding. For the really bold, a tartan pillbox could be constructed, with a solid color trim.

A row of flowers, scattered flowers, or overall flowers are other ideas to consider.

When viewing portraits or reproductions, the hats often had mixed trims ~ one type of the top, a second style on the sides.

From Medieval Times
To Jacqueline Kennedy

This 15th Century Italian portrait by Domenico Veneziano shows a pillbox that could be readily adapted for a Scottish theme wedding.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

The pleated edge could be of one or more tartans. Or the top edge, which appears to be stuffed fuller, and the top could be tartan, with the other side pleats in a different fabric.

The top could be embroidered with Celtic knots, thistles, a clan badge, or a multiple theme adapted from a Bridal Concomitant. [see June 19th-21st blogs for more information]

Giuseppe Garibaldi popularized the military pillbox and a peasant shirt in the 1860’s. He fought two wars for independence in his native Italy, plus other European countries, Greece, Uruguay, and Argentina.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Off and on through history, various military units have chosen the pillbox as part of their uniform, usually with a chin strap. One is still worn as part of the Royal Military College of Canada dress uniform.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

In contemporary times, Jacqueline Kennedy brought the pillbox back into fashion during JFK’s term as U.S. President.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia

Today the pillbox is once again in fashion, made of fleece and faux leopard for winter wear. I’ve even seen one of faux Persian lamb advertised.

Hat Sources

Rameset offers a Byzantine pillbox in their Custom Heraldic Designs. For other styles available go to their Hats and Garb page.


Patterns of Time offers pattern #MC108 as an Elizabethan brimless hat. They also offer a wide selection of historically accurate patterns for hats and other apparel.

This image shows both Elizabethan and Garibaldi type views.

The vintage sewing website has instructions for constructing your own pillbox hat. Separate pages teach you how to measure for a hat, how to construct the pillbox frame, and how to cover the frame with your finish materials.

For other hats and head adornments, return to Tiaras, Etc.

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