Here’s a quick and easy tutorial to turn a modern straw hat into a mid-late 18th century bergére style hat. It’s not, of course, historically accurate, but it’s quick, easy, and looks effective.
We’ll go from this:
– A broad brimmed, woven straw hat. It doesn’t matter if it fits you, but it has to be woven (not braided and sewn together), and it has to be straw.
– Hot water
– A round metal pan or bowl with a flat base approximately 6 inches/ 15 centimeters across
– A hot glue gun
– Needle and thread
– Ribbon, fabric, feathers etc. for trimming.
First, have a look at a few 18th century straw hat inspiration pictures, and decide what style you want. Note that some have very shallow crowns, some (usually later in the 18th century) a bit deeper. Some have teeny-tiny crowns, some much wider. Brims can be broad or narrow, can turn up or down. Plus there are all the variants in trim. All of these help to balance your face, and the look and period of your outfit.
Start with your straw hat:
Cut off the top of the straw hat about 1.5″ above the point where the brim turns in to the crown. If your crown is really shallow you can work with it as it is, if it’s a bit deeper (like mine) cut off another 1.5″ strip, and discard it.
Now, time to reshape your brim and crown. Wet them both with hot water.
Flatten the 1.5″ rise of the brim down towards the centre hole so it is flat with the rest of the brim, and dry it flat. I put mine beneath a heavy book slipped in a plastic bag to protect the book from the damp.
Reshape your crown by molding it over the bottom of your flat bowl or pan, so that it has a flat top and a crisp turn, rather than the rounded bowl shaped crown.
To keep the cut inner edge of the brim from unravelling and scratching you, bind it with some bias tape.
Now, check that your crown is the height that you want it to be, and trim a bit more off if it is too tall. Once you are happy with the height, attach your reshaped crown to the brim with hot glue, ensuring it is firmly secured together.
Cover the join with trim – I used a tube of fabric sewn into ‘puffs’ (my favourite trim technique), but pleated ribbon, ribbon puffs, and florals and foliage are all options.
Add any extra trim or decoration that you desire, and sew some loops or ribbons to help hold it on if needed.
Ta da! All done!