Monday, April 08, 2013

How to Fashion a 1940's Style Ladies Trilby From a Modern Hat

Vintage hats aren't cheap, and if you don't wear one regularly but just need one for a one off-event they can seem like too big an investment.

When I was looking at buying a 1940's hat, the problem that I had was actually finding a vintage hat to fit me. I didn't think I had a particularly big head but compared to ladies from seventy years ago, mine must be gargantuan!
I decided it couldn't be too difficult to fashion something myself that would pass muster until I found what I wanted.

So, although I'm certainly no milliner, until I found a my vintage hats in the right size and price bracket I wore this little Deb-designed hoo-ha and thought it may be helpful to share with you how I achieved it.

As you can see, I've obviously got too much time to waste on playing about with fun but pointless picture editing software*

First step is to find a hat. I bought a felt cloche style one from Gap via the charity shop. Apologies, but I forgot to take a picture of what it looked like before but I'm sure you can imagine...rounded close fitting crown and a downwards pointing brim, nothing like a real cloche of course but very suitable for my purposes. Felt is great because not only is it period correct, it's easy to change the shape of it by steaming. As I'm sure you know, you can cut felt without it unravelling or needing any finishing and whatnot.

Then a picture for inspiration is always useful.

I love this picture! (I've split it in two so you can see all the detail) Ordinary ladies wearing ordinary, everyday hats, most of them in the unstructured style I was aiming for. There they are, knitting away for victory!

Step three is to find a 'head' for your hat as I'm sure, like me, you don't have a hat block lying around the house doing nothing. My small mixing bowl was just the right shape and size. I wasn't trying to change the size of my hat so really the bowl just serves as somewhere to rest the hat while working on it.

Next, set a large pan of water simmering on the hob. Then you need to start manipulating your hat into the shape you want. Obviously, what you do will very much depend on the hat you're working on and what you want to achieve. As I was going for a ladies trilby I wanted to put a deep groove in the crown. Once you have the felt where you want it, use pegs to hold it in that shape while you steam it.

 Hold your hat over the pan using a pair of tongs or something similar and preferably wearing an oven glove (I put mine on a bit too late, ouch!)

Keep setting your hat on the 'block', manipulating the felt, pegging and unpegging to see if the pegs are holding it where you want it and then re-applying some steam to each area you are trying to change. Try the hat on to make sure you're pinching and bending the felt in the right direction and that it doesn't look like a dog's breakfast. Don't do this when you've just took it off the steam obviously! It all sounds a lot more complex than it is, trust me! All will be pretty obvious when you are doing it.

When you're happy with what you've got, leave your hat to dry. Don't worry if it's not perfect though, you can always go back and do some more fiddling, that's the great thing about felt. As you can see, I let mine dry but then decided I wanted a more downwards facing brim at the front so I did a bit more steaming and pegging...

When it's dry, remove the pegs, try your hat on and if you've done steaming, all that's left to do is to pretty it up a bit.

A petersham ribbon is a perfect addition and you can find it on the high street or for a huge choice of colours, try ebay. I wanted a particular yellow to contrast with my green hat and because I knew I was going to wear it with a yellow cardigan, so that's where I bought mine.
You can sew the ribbon on if you like but I used my trusty glue gun and it was done in seconds. I trimmed my ribbon to the exact length around the crown as I knew I would be putting a bow on the top but if you're not doing that make it slightly longer and fold it over neatly where the two ends meet.

The bow was just another piece of ribbon folded over and then a short piece glued around the middle. Then the whole bow was glued on top of the join I mentioned above. As you need to position your bow over your ear, make sure this is where the join in the ribbon is.

And that's about it! My hat cost just £3.00 plus the ribbon. I can't remember how much that was but it wasn't a lot and I had quite a bit left over for other projects.
Oh, and if you were wondering if the pegs left dents in the felt, they didn't and neither did I end up with a stain where I let my hat touch the water; luckily!

*No, I haven't