Hats off to our 50th year

Scottish Ballet’s new ballet, The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s. When we were adapting Arthur Miller’s play for dance, we wanted to draw out as many visual elements as possible. Hats have been an essential element, they define hierarchy and status within this intricate society, particularly the judiciary and the church — the pillars of the community.

Hand crafted

In total, 36 different hats are being hand crafted by an experienced milliner, with each hat taking between seven and eight hours to make.

In the Crucible, each role might be performed by three or four dancers, all with different head measurements, so several hats in varying sizes must be created.

Introducing the hats…


Made from three layers of the lightest possible straw so that it doesn’t create shadows on stage. The inside is covered with ribbon, binding it to help with fit and stability. Worn by Thomas Putnam, one of the accusers in the witch trials.


Made in a fur felt called peach bloom. The material is dampened, steamed and stretched by hand, then dried over a head-shaped blockade, a process that is hard work on hands and labour intensive. Donned by Reverend Parris and other men of the church.


The Reverend’s daughter, Betty Parris, the wealthiest of the young girls, wears a decadent felt hat. This has been designed with a bouquet-patterned fabric, in line with her father’s important status.


Our female dancers mostly wear hand-crafted muslin cloth caps or a more structured ‘coif’. These hats have been inspired by traditional images of Dutch nuns and complete the cleanly structured period costume.

(Hat) tricks of the trade

Our Wardrobe team need to add character and life to the hats, to make them appear well-worn. This means taking spray paint, sand paper or soap to the beautiful works of art; they have even been known to drive a car over some!

The hats sit far back on the dancer’s head, secured with kirby grips and pins, to allow audiences to see hairlines and centre partings, which was the popular and practical hairstyle of the period. The hats need to be comfortable for the dancers to wear, not obstructing their sight, hearing or balance, and allow the audience to see the dancers’ facial expressions.

‘Putting on a hat is always the final piece of the jigsaw for me. After I have warmed up, done my hair and makeup and got into costume, just before I head to the stage, I put on my hat. It’s at this moment you see yourself as the character from head to toe’

Grace Horler, Soloist

After each performance, the hats will be sponged with washing up liquid  and water to remove traces of stage makeup. Once the tour has ended the hats are sent to a theatre specialist dry cleaner for a thorough clean.

The Crucible is the first of five new ballets being created as a legacy for our 50th anniversary.

By supporting our Millinery Appeal, you are bringing a new ballet to life that will remain part of our repertoire for years to come.


To donate by other methods or request a brochure, please call us on 0141 331 6291 or contact alison.thomson@scottishballet.co.uk.