Victorian Family photograph, circa 1890

Extravagant hats in this formal family portrait, circa 1890. Photograph: Sean Sexton/Ellis & Co./Getty Images

Amidst the fog’s gloom and bitter winds of the coldest month the year has yet known it is difficult to realise that spring is close at hand, and we need to be reminded by the milliners that the season of flowers has once more returned, and that the violets, crocuses, and daffodils so lavishly displayed on hats and bonnets are but the forerunners of the wealth of blossoms which will again occupy the first place in decorations of all kinds throughout the season.

Never before, perhaps, have headdresses so light and summer-like appeared this early in the year, and though for the fortunate few who can journey southward in search of sunshine these open crowns and coronets of flowers may not be premature, the Englishwoman who has to encounter March in her own land will do well to resist for a time the fascinations of the wreath of cowslips tied with a velvet ribbon, now deemed sufficient for a fashionable bonnet, and content herself with the pretty, comfortable capotes of velvet, bordered with soft curled ostrich feathers, which some sensible milliners have prepared especially for the early spring.

Equally to be recommended are the picturesque hats of fine flexible straw, which can be twisted into any shape best suited to the arrangement of the plumes, in preference to those of lace or net, which are singularly ill-suited to the chill days yet in store for us.

The weeks preceding Easter are usually devoted to experiments in fashion, and many new designs and materials are produced which prove failures and are abandoned when the season has really commenced.

Amongst these, let us hope, will be found the large plaids with which we are again threatened. These are more objectionable than ever, for whereas in the autumn they were for the most part in dark subdued colouring, bright tones are now being used in combinations that set the teeth on edge. The least aggressive are those which have a ground of neutral tint.

Much to be preferred are the tweeds and homespuns in fawn, grey, or biscuit and a new shade of red, and the charming smooth-faced “lady’s cloth” which has taken the place of cashmere and is one of the specialities of the year. This is made in all the “new” colours, amongst which, after long neglect, blue once more takes a foremost place, and reappears in every variety. Reds are also in fashion, especially those with a purple tinge, and a so-called novelty known as “clover”, which is not very different from the “crushed strawberry” of past seasons. A rather unpleasantly vivid tone of violet is also appearing here and there.