Where We Live: The National Hat Museum

Multnomah County

The National Hat Museum in Portland is the country's only hat museum

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — There’s a one-of-a-kind museum in Portland that celebrates the glory of a timeless accessory: the hat.

The National Hat Museum is located in a historic Edwardian home near Southeast Portland’s Ladd Circle. It started in 2005 with Portland author and collector Alyce Selby who was known for wearing hats to every event she attended.

“She was a very glamorous gal and she loved to dress up,” said National Hat Museum Director LuAnn Trotebas.

Trotebas, who was Selby’s longtime friend, took over the museum when Selby passed away.

LuAnn Trotebas, the director of the National Hat Museum in Portland, Nov. 28, 2019. (KOIN)

“With my love and appreciation of vintage clothing, I could see the value in keeping this collection together,” she said. “I told her that I would absolutely do it for her.”

The museum is the only hat museum in the country and people from across the U.S. visit it to take in fashion, history and culture. It showcases hats dating back to the 1800s when hats were essential in polite society.

“Usually, the bigger the hat, the higher up they are within the society,” Trotebas said.

The National Hat Museum in Portland, Nov. 28, 2019. (KOIN)

Trotebas said the museum currently has more than 2,300 hats on display (though there are many more in storage). Many rare hats are among the collection, including the “Audobonnet” created by the Audubon Society.

“It was a way to show how you can decorate a hat with the illusion of feathers but not actually harm the birds,” Trotebas said.

There are also hats created by the Queen of England’s favorite milliners, top hats from President Lincoln’s era and hats donated by stars like 1960s comedian Phyllis Diller.

“She donated us a beautiful black mink hat and with a signed autograph photo and she also included a little note,” Trotebas said.

The museum also has hats from a woman who built a fashion empire in New York named Lilly Daché.

“She was the queen of hats,” said Trotebas. “Every woman wanted a Lilly Daché hat.”

Titled ‘Spirit of Portland’ this limited edition, fine art print is available for purchase at the Weird Portland United website. Inscribed on the bottom, it reads, “Be the weird you want to see in the world.” October 25, 2019 (Courtesy Weird Portland United)

The National Hat Museum is part of the “Keep Portland Weird” movement. Trotebas was one of those featured in the recent “Spirit of Portland” photograph.

The museum is open to tour by appointment only. Each 90-minute tour is limited to 5 people. To schedule a tour, send an email to hatmuseum@gorge.net or call 503.319.0799.

Book a tour through Airbnb

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