This was one of my favorite pieces on display in the Printed Fashions: Textiles for Clothing and Home exhibition (currently at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum of Colonial Williamsburg through 2018; see another article from the exhibition I've mentioned here), and it's also one of the simplest. In fact, at first glance, it's so simple that at first glance it may not be easy to tell exactly what it even is.
What's shown, left, is the underside of a woman's flat-brimmed straw hat, a circle of printed pattern that's almost abstract: a circle of printed pattern. Seeing it on the mannequin, right, and it makes sense as a hat. Here's the information from the exhibition's placard:
"Flat straw hats were fashionable women's headwear in the 18th century in parts of Europe and England. In the case of this Dutch example, the underside of the hat brim was lined with scraps of an earlier India chintz, probably dating to the first half of the century.
"The Dutch East India Company engaged in a thriving trade with India during the 17th and 18th centuries, and colorful chintz cottons in a wide array of patterns were readily available."
Of course the storyteller in me longs to know more about that lining. With all the stitched pieces, this looks like a hat that a woman ornamented herself rather than purchased from a professional milliner. The fabric is from India, and dates from 1700-1750, while the hat itself is probably from at least thirty years later. Was that red and white chintz special to the wearer - scraps cut from a treasured dress, or one worn by a mother or sister? Or did she simply choose the chintz as a way of adding color to an otherwise plain hat, with the green ribbons for extra emphasis?
Left: Inner brim, Woman's Hat, Colonial Williamsburg. Photograph ©2017 Susan Holloway Scott.
Right: Photograph, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.