Making A 1933 Summer Hat

Last post, I shared my 1933 Sunshine Stripes dress with you. One of the accessories that I loved wearing with that dress was a modern sun hat that I remade into a 1930s shaped hat. Now I’d like to share how easy this process was. I hope it inspires you to try remaking something yourself!

I started with this modern ‘straw’ hat from eBay. I say ‘straw’ because the fiber is really plastic rather than any sort of natural material… but I digress. The price was good and I thought white would be a nice neutral for my 1920s summer wardrobe. But the crown on this hat was soooo tall! 5″! It came way down over my eyebrows and combined with the floppy brim it was not a great look nor was it historical. I think I tried to wear it a few years ago but was displeased with the shape. The only bonus is that it squishes well and pops right back into shape–that’s great for packing! (As a side note, in trying to find the link for the hat I realized I ordered this back in 2015… it only took me a few years to make it something I was really pleased with!)

While trying to decide what to accessorize my 1933 dress with, I looked at the hat in my closet and wondered if there was anything to be done to make it better. I figured the white would coordinate well with the white stripes in the dress fabric. I looked for hat inspiration on my 1930s sportswear Pinterest board and 1930s day wear Pinterest board and decided that the main problem with my hat was the tall crown. I wanted a hat that just perched on my head, so I needed to shorten the crown.

I started by ripping out the stitching on the lower part of the crown just above where it connected to the brim. Here’s the hat at this point with the shallower crown and brim still technically attached.

After determining that I liked the new crown height, I cut away the extra braid. Then I wrapped the loose ends around the crown and brim and stitched them down so I had two nicely finished parts.

Then I reassembled the two parts, carefully stitching them together while avoiding the inner hat band. I matched the stitch length to what was already on the hat (rather long, by my usual standards). Because the hat is so malleable it was easy to squash onto the sewing machine.

After stitching, the join blends right in! The only thing left was trim!

I decided on a simple brown band to trim the hat. I had the brown cotton in my stash and it matched my shoes well. It is nicely complimentary for the outfit without being match-y and it’s neutral enough that I can easily wear this with other outfits as well. The brown is carefully hand sewn around the crown with the ends spreading over the brim of the hat. Ta da! Elegant sun protection!

HSF/M #7: 1885 Straw Hat

This month’s HSF/M challenge is “Accessorize.” In preparation for the first wearing of a new 1885 outfit next month, I made up a hat to match.


I chose to make a flowerpot shaped hat, a style that is quite common in the mid-1880s. You can see other examples of this style and others on my 1880s headwear Pinterest board.

The straw base of this hat has seen multiple previous shapes that failed in creating a look I was happy with. (You can see one of the old iterations in this previous post from 2012. And as a side note, I really need to wear the other clothes in that post again–it’s been awhile and they’re cute!) So I was happy to reblock the straw into a new shape (that I am very happy with!).

IMG_2398I made my hat block out of packing foam stuff that I masking taped around a lysol wipe container–make do with what you have, right? To begin, I wet the straw, then used a paintbrush to cover the straw with a layer of my sizing (a bit of elmer’s glue dissolved in water–no formula, I just winged it). In order to keep the straw in place while the hat was drying overnight I used yarn tied and pinned in strategic locations to keep everything in place. I wanted to use twine, but we’d run out, so I made do again. As you can see, there is a random seam in the middle of the hat crown, because in the past it had made sense to have a crown separate from a brim, but for this hat I needed some of the old brim to become the crown. (The seam was later covered by the tulle trimming.)


My inspiration for the trimming of this flowerpot hat is this fashion plate. The lady on the left happens to be wearing an outfit in the same colors as my outfit and the fashion plate is dated only one year later. I used materials I had on hand, but was inspired in general by her trim placement and scale.

Side view.
Side back view.

Just the facts:

Fabric: A bit of blue silk shantung for binding and a length of 6″ wide tulle.

Pattern: None.

Year: c. 1885.

Notions: French crinoline for binding the straw edges, thread, millinery grosgrain for the inner hat band, elmer’s glue for sizing, and vintage millinery flowers.

How historically accurate is it?: As accurate as I can be using the research I’ve done and the materials that are available in 2015. It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: All hand sewn, so a few mostly on the brim binding. Then a whole lot of days debating over the placement of the flowers–actually sewing them on didn’t take very long.

First worn: Has not been worn yet, but I have plans to wear it in August.

Total cost: Free! All from the stash!

HSF #16: Eugenie Inspired 1857 Straw Hat

I recently participated in an outdoor mid-century dance performance for which the weather was an un-obliging 90-something degrees + humidity. Yup, not kidding. It was HOT! And we were dancing on asphalt. Luckily, we were out on an island in the Boston harbor and had a breeze. But it was HOT!

Anyway, more on that performance soon, because it involved a new cotton print day dress made from one of my recently acquired historic cotton prints! In addition to the dress, I also restyled a straw hat to go with the outfit and keep some of the sun off of my head. The hat has been used with various other clothes (1780s and Regency come to mind), but I had only ever added a simple ribbon to it rather than really styling it. This was the perfect opportunity to really make something of the hat!

I wanted to keep it simple and in the 1850s/60s, so I started by adding inspirational images to my pinterest board for this project. I visited the board many times before making a decision that I loved the shape of Eugenie’s straw hat in this painting. The hat has that nice downward curve in the front that sort of frames the face and accentuates the fashionable heart shape. The gauzy/tulle trim was a little whimsical for my purposes, so I opted for a more subdued and practical trim style on my hat.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–1873) Eugénie of Montijo, Empress of France Date 1857

I started by wetting my hat in the bathtub then tying it with string so it would dry with the curve that I wanted to achieve in the brim. I also wanted the back to curve under a bit, so I let the hat curve on both sides.

Tying the hat to create curves.

Once the hat had dried all that was left was to trim it! I chose to use green silk left over from Evie, my 1864 ball gown, and some silk millinery flowers. The silk is narrow hemmed on both sides and the ends are fringed, showing gold threads (the fabric is green/gold shot taffeta). The long ends hang down the back while the hat is worn, a style like the one below which you can see in the images on my pinterest board. I also added a bow on the front like you see in the images. Turns out that the bow is not quite centered… whoops!

LAPL, Magasin des Demoiselles, August 1858

And here is the result of my labors, and my fulfillment of the HSF Challenge #16: Separates. “Make a non-matching garment which can be paired with other items in your historical wardrobe to extend your outfit choices.”

You can’t see the curve since the hat is sitting flat on the table… but you can see the trim!

Just the facts:

Fabric: A 4″ width of green silk 60″ wide plus a few scraps.

Pattern: None.

Year: 1850s generally, 1857 specifically.

Notions: Straw hat, silk flowers, thread.

How historically accurate?: I give it 98% (and that’s pretty high for me!). Straw, silk, more silk… The sewing machine was even invented by 1858, so the machine sewn hat isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. The -2% is for the polyester thread.

Hours to complete: 2, not including time for the straw to dry.

First worn: July 20 for a vintage dance performance on George’s Island in the Boston harbor.

Total cost: I bought the hat a few years ago for probably about $25, the silk was leftover from another project, and the flowers cost some small number of cents since I got them as part of a large box for only $5! Let’s just say $26 total.

Back view of the hat on my head. See how the front dips? This is also a sneak peak of my new gown, Georgina, to whom you will be formally introduced soon.
Front view. See the dip?

At first I thought I had made the curve too pronounced, but when I look at the pictures again, I think I was pretty darn spot on! Woo! Completed new separates accessory for my historic wardrobe: check. Oh, and did I mention I’m in early on this project? The deadline is August 12!