19th Century

A hat re-make for Polly / Oliver

It’s Re-Make, Re-use, Re-fashion fortnight on the HSF, and I have so.many.things that need re-fashioning, because I’m always buying hats and shoes that look historical – if only I re-trim and re-shape them, and old clothes made out of historically plausible fabric that need to be re-fashioned into historically plausible garments.

I’m starting with a simple re-fashion.  I took this broad-brimmed wool hat:

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

And re-made it into this spiffy number for Polly / Oliver:

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

Now, I know you are thinking “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you post pictures of you in the completed Polly / Oliver outfit, with a hat a month ago?”

And yes, I did:

The ca. 1885 'Polly / Oliver Perks' Terry Pratchett inspired ensemble

However, much as I am ashamed to admit, the hat in the Polly Oliver photoshoot was entirely held together by an elaborate collection of safety pins.  Naughty me!

So this week I got my act together and actually finished the hat properly.

My inspiration for the hat, in an attempt to combine 1880s accuracy with the aesthetic of a tall military shako, were this swish little black number:

Hat Mme. Mantel  (French) Date- ca. 1885 Culture- French Medium- fur, wool, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat Mme. Mantel (French) Date- ca. 1885 Culture- French Medium- fur, wool, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And this tall straw number:

Hat, 1884-86, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat, 1884-86, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat, 1884-86, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat, 1884-86, Metropolitan Museum of Art

I started with a broad brimmed wool felt hat:

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

I got the crown wet with hot water:

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

And then re-shaped it over a tall conical bowl, using elastic to hold it on snuggly.

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

As I reshaped it, I turned up one side of the brim:

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

Once the hat had dried, I trimmed the brim down to a narrower width.  Then it sat for a month, then got trimmed with safety pins for a photoshoot, and then this week I finally sewed on a feather, some gold cord, and a gold insignia bit-thingee.

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

I half love the gold insignia, and half think it makes the hat look too Western.  On the love side, I managed to cobble together something that, if you know what you are looking for, and squint your eyes, looks like a flaming cheese (see the round cheese with a wedge missing?  And the flames).  I’ll have to take a photo of the back of Monstrous Regiment so that you can see what I am talking about.

Polly Oliver hat remake thedreamstress.com

On the too Western side, I’m not sure what to do about it.  Any suggestions?  Maybe I should put the tassel I had in the photoshoot back on…  Or make a full on shako, and re-make this to look more directly like my first inspiration hat.

The Challenge:  #18  Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion

Fabric:  One broad brimmed wool hat ($6).

Pattern:  None

Year:  ca. 1885

Notions:  1.3m gold braid, gold badge, gold button, ostrich feather, thread.

How historically accurate is it?  Not.

Hours to complete:  3.

First worn:  Not yet.

Total cost:  NZ$10 for hat and trims.


  1. To reduce the Western aspect – which I’m not seeing when it’s on your actual head – you could either trim the brim down, or make it into a tricorn? I know a tricorn isn’t a shako…I just have a weak spot for tricorns, and they certainly aren’t Western.

  2. I have nearly the same hat! I bought it to complement a parson’s outfit for a friend’s Halloween costume. It looks much more flattering with the taller crown you molded, but a flat hat is just dandy for a parson! 😛
    The Western vibe you’re getting is from the silver concho oval. It’s a traditional Southwestern American ornament that everyone around here (and by here I mean Santa Fe and Dallas) wears to ride horses or go to art festivals. If you painted it brass or replaced it with a cockade, you might get less of a cowgirl vibe from it. I also like the tassle idea a lot, probably because I am addicted to them myself!

    • I’m with Liz, I think it’s the concho that’s giving it the Western feel. I really thought the tassel was cute so I’m all for adding it back in.

    • Look closely. The concho is brass 😉 It was the only gold one in Wellington, and then I antiqued it just like I did the buttons – I really didn’t want to use a silver one.

    • Elise says

      I like the tassle, too, but not if it gets in your face and is annoying. But if it feels good on, then Go Tassle!

      (Liz, are you in Santa Fe? I’m in Albuquerque! Let’s meet at Revolution Bakery soon!)

  3. So bummed because my refashion project isn’t going to work. My “before” garment wasn’t as big as I thought it was…. But I did find some other stash fabric that would work for the project I had in mind so I still got a finished piece done even if it doesn’t work for the challenge. So, I guess that still counts as a costuming win.

  4. Terese says

    Are those *gasp* bra straps re-shaping the hat? I kinda want to snap them! What a fabulously great idea. (The straps. Not the snapping.)

  5. I have the habit of ‘collecting’ hats I’m *going to* alter to look historical…problem is I like them too much to change them. lol!

  6. And I’m thirding or what the tassel. It goes nicely with the cord (which goes nicely with the spirit of the costume), so yes, if it’s not annoying to wear it, return the tassel!

Comments are closed.