05-26-18 – Blog Queen - Sarah Raplee

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Top Hat Travesty

I write Regency Romance and I’m always researching the time period. I recently stumbled upon a tantalizing tidbit of history that I couldn’t wait to share.

In dressing the hero for the third book of The Wallflower Wedding Series, I wanted to portray Griffin Croft as someone who liked to be in control at all times. Not necessarily buttoned-up, but also not the kind of gentleman who would ever let his hair grow unfashionably long, as many rakes are want to do. Therefore, Mr. Croft would never think of leaving his stately townhouse without his top hat. And that’s when I found this gem of an article ( by Ms. Lou Carver, “Top This…The Story of Top Hats.”

Apparently, starting a new trend in fashion was far more dangerous than you could imagine. “When the first top hat was worn by the haberdasher John Hetherington in 1797, it caused a near riot,” Ms. Carver writes. “According to a newspaper account, ‘passersby panicked at the sight. Several women fainted, children screamed, dogs yelped, and an errand boy’s arm was broken when he was trampled by the mob.’  So Hetherington was taken to court for wearing ‘a tall structure having a shining luster calculated to frighten timid people.’”

Of course, this report sparks my imagination for future characters, timid or otherwise. And while I’m not certain I believe Hetherington was necessarily a “calculated” individual,  I do think he meant to cause a stir.

Apparently, he did. The top hat is still worn to this day.

Carver also informs us that, “What Hetherington designed was a modified riding hat of the day, widening the brim and lengthening the top area.  In 1823, Antoine Gibus came along and modified it even more to a collapsible opera hat; which made traveling with it much easier and during the opera could be stored flat, under the seat.”

Yet, after reading this article, a smirk curves my lips as I wonder what type of riot would ensue if our modern day Lady Gaga could travel back in time wearing one of her fashions.

Now, there’s a story. J

If you're interested in a little Regency Era romance, check out "Tempting Mr. Weatherstone," available now in Five Golden Rings: A Christmas Collection. Or you can preorder your copy of Daring Miss Danvers, the first book in The Wallflower Wedding Series. For more information on the series, visit

available May 6th, 2014


Judith Ashley said...

Lady Gaga in Regency England? I can't even begin to guess the outcome if a top hat created that mob reaction. I'm looking forward to reading your The Wallflower Series, Vivienne. I tend to wait until a few if not all of a series is available so I can indulge myself with a weekend marathon.

Paty Jager said...

That's the fun historical stuff I like to find. Fun post!

Vivienne Lorret said...

Thanks, Judith! :) I love reading binges, too.

Vivienne Lorret said...

The weird and wacky aspects of history always keep me hooked, too, Paty. :)

Sarah Raplee said...

The pendulum has swung to the other extreme, hasn't it? Thank you for an entertaining post, Vivienne.

Vivienne Lorret said...

Thank you, Sarah. And yes, I agree!

Diana McCollum said...

Wonderful post! Really enjoyed it.

Vivienne Lorret said...

Thank you, Diana! :D