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This simple form of head-covering has a long history. It is made of a circular piece of woollen cloth or felt which is drawn up round the edge by a thread or a leather thong to make it fit the head. Some designs are very full and have a semi-stiff head- band. Most berets have the characteristic tail in the centre, which is sewn on to cover the central eye of the woven fabric. Berets were worn by the Cretans, and in Greece and Rome as the pilos and pileus respectively, and throughout the early Middle Ages related to the biretta. In the sixteenth century, velvet or wool beret- styles of hats were fashionable; these had a turned-up brim. in the 1820s and 1830s, ladies began to wear a beret-style of hat, which also had an upturned brim, this time like a halo. The beret was lavishly trimmed with feathers and, again, velvet was the fashionable material. The hats were especially popular for evening wear. Child- ren, both girls and boys, in the 1890s, wore sailor berets with their sailor suits. The modern beret takes many forms, most stemming from the Basque design popularized by the French in the 1920s. It was worn by everyone but is most closely associated with the French working-man. In western Europe, in general, berets of this type were fashionable for ladies, worn with suits or coats, during the 1920s and 1930s, though the style has never died out and re-appears from time to time. Another well-known form of the beret is the Scottish woollen tam-o@-shanter. This is a woollen cap in several colours worn at a jaunty angle. Named originally after a poem by Robert Burns, it was very popular in the nineteenth century for both sexes and hatis been consistently revived for feminine winter headwear in the tweneth. (See also Greek, Rornan and Scottish Highland dress.)

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2006 March 28