Conical hennins like these were worn from 1430 and onward mainly in Burgundy and France but even in England, Poland and Hungary. It wasn’t very common in Italy though. In the beginning they were just worn by woman of nobility. Conical hennins were often accompanied with a veil that usually was on top of the hat.
Sometimes the veil could even reach all the way to the ground like here.
In this case the idea was to make the hats as high as possible. The higher the hat the better. At least that was what the women wanted. It was also fashion to pluck or shave the hairline on the forehead so that the forehead would appear longer. There were critics however that opposed to the extravagance of these new headdresses. Thomas Racette, a carmelite friar wrote for example in 1428 about
…the noble ladies, and all others, who dressed their heads in so ridiculous a manner, and who spent such large sums on such luxuries of fashion.
Thomas Racette even went as far as to urge streetboys to chase women that wore hats like that to rip their hennin off by promising them indulgences. An indulgence back was a reward for good works and prayers and they could be used in heaven to avoid punishment for sins committed in life. So if you hat committed sins in life the smart thing to do would be to try and obtain indulgences from the church in order to balance the score out as much as possible before you died. We of course do not agree with Thomas Racette’s harassment of women but he was right in calling the hats extravagant. Typically, the hennin was 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) high, but might be considerably higher, as much as 36 inches (90 cm!) according to some sources.
Nobility women did usually want to be perceived by the public as pious women even though they ignored petty religious people like Thomas Racette.
Here we can see mary of Burgundy being portrayed as a pious woman while wearing her conical hennin.
And like this one:
Its a very fashionable picture of her but she also shows her devotion for the virgin Mary.
Why of all the hennins this particular one stood out and became the stereotypical fairy tale princess hat I don’t know. It’s certainly one of the more dramatic ones so that might be why.
Bonsoir, mes amis! Hilde