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After Beyoncé received the Style Icon award at the CFDA Awards, the fashion press was abuzz about her wide brim black hat. Worn both in her already iconic “Formation” music video and on her latest tour, Beyoncé’s hat is more than just a summer trend. Beyoncé’s black hat serves as a visual statement of Black women taking on America’s horrible history of slavery.
Unlike what certain fashion websites are stating, Beyoncé’s headwear is not a typical sun hat. The square crown and flat, wide brim recall a type of straw hat worn by farmers and plantation owners during the mid-1800s. Although a similarly shaped hat would have been used for outdoor work, the formal black coloring and large size send a message that the wearer is in charge.
By wearing this style of hat, Beyoncé replicated an intimidating aspect of a slave owner’s costume and has taken away their power; no longer is this imposing headwear solely for them. This mindset is also present in the all-white gowns worn in “Lemonade” and the corseted wardrobes in “Formation,” which has an “Antebellum vibe.” The “Formation” set designer Ethan Tobman told Curbed.com, “the idea was that this is not a house the slaves are working in, this is a house where the slaves are the masters.”
Although worn for a different situation, Beyoncé’s hat at the CFDA Awards helped strengthen this idea of empowerment. In her acceptance speech, Beyoncé discussed the struggles of being judged by the fashion elite for being a Black girl from the South. It wasn’t until her mega success as a solo artist that she traded in her mother’s well-sewn clothing for high-end brands. She stated, “When we were starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels didn’t really want to dress four black, country, curvy girls, and we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture…. she (Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles) used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.” And although Beyoncé has only ventured into a style icon status recently for some, her struggles have allowed her to understand the message clothing can make. Beyoncé ended her CFDA speech by saying, “We have the opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection… You (designers) have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, and to show people how to embrace their complications, and see the flaws, and the true beauty and strength that’s inside all of us.”