Trimming a hat with a silk stocking, ’20s style

I came across this tutorial for making a hat from an old silk stocking in my Feb 1928 issue of The Women’s Magazine, and I thought it was rather fabulous and something that you might enjoy.  What a great re-use idea!  It’s also a great insight into the colours and aesthetics that were en vogue on the eve of the Great Depression.

Now, if only I had any old silk stockings to re-use 😉

The Women's Magazine, Feb 1928 thedreamstress.com

The Women's Magazine, Feb 1928 thedreamstress.com2

The Women's Magazine, Feb 1928 thedreamstress.com3


  1. “…a little hat shape…” Ha! So one could buy already shaped hats and cover them in fabrics of choice. How useful. And to have a selection tucked away!

    And the colours. Powder-blue silk stockings! Now that would have been something.

    • That’s what I noticed, too. I have (more or less) powder blue tights, but I don’t wear them much; they’re not silk and they’re of the rather see-through variety that doesn’t work as well with the colour as I thought they might look when I bought them…
      So I stopped to think about it, but, alas, it’s not silk and it would probably always look like tights, no matter what I would do with them.

  2. Barbara Stevens says

    You could still buy hat shapes up until the late 60’s at Milne and Choyce in Auckland, as well as felt forms which you had to shape yourself. If you had a hat block of your size, a kettle (for the steam to dampen the felt), nimble fingers, and lots of millinery pins you could make your own hats quite easily. And the flowers and feathers and ridiculous bits of stuff to do the final decorating could be found at department stores, haberdashers ( now there’s a word from the past!), florists – lots of places. It still would never occur to me to buy a fancy hat for a fancy occasion ( should I have the requisite invitation). It’s amazing what you can conjure up a hat from! And I see chemists and others selling basic shapes now – buy some and get inventing folks, there’s nothing so satisfying as making something gorgeous from something quite ordinary – and nobody else will turn up in the same hat.

    • There are still places you can buy hat trims (e.g. Spotlight, if you can bring yourself to go there), but alas, the hat forms seem to be limited to cheap & nasty straw things. Time for a millinery revolution! I have my grandmother’s hat-pin and I’m not afraid to use it…

  3. HoiLei says

    The cultural contrast between the “Women’s Magazine” then and women’s magazine’s now is striking. I can’t imagine a modern women’s mag with an article about recycling your stockings to trim a hat, nor can I imagine a magazine of that era with headlines about “10 tips to make him scream in bed”, or why we’re all supposed to covet $700 shoes. So much for modern feminine empowerment.

    I love the tone of her writing, especially her remarks about saving a pile of silk scraps for 7 years until eventually finding a use for them!

  4. Laurel Parker says

    I have antique silk stockings (including the most gorgeous chambray blue ones, which came with a black pair with knit in eagles and a black pair with a clock of embroidered daisies), I also have a lot of milinery experience, so I was eager to read this. The stockings don’t add anything to the mix really – it was just a cheap resource for fabric that has good drape. wouldn’t be now, since stockings from that period are much more valuable than they were when she was playing with them. You can achieve the same thing with any knit or with silk cut on the bias.

    The hat forms are still available, and you can make them out of buckrum. That is what they have been made from since horsehair went out of fashion at the end of the 19th century. It is vile nasty stuff I won’t touch as a milliner or wearer, but it’s been used as a foundation for cloth hats for forever.

    This author may have been refering to an inexpensive straw hat though. Sometimes you see fabric hats over straw or felt. Ha – no such thing any longer, ‘straw’ is now made of polypropoline or paper ( called toyo) . The natural straw I always worked with ( parisisol) is only made in one factory now and is almost never seen in ready made hats now. The straws of the past – especially the gorgeous novelty weaves – are long gone, and the straw braids are all plain now – and mostly synthetic. I always recommend people by a cheap used hat and reblock it – both straws and felts can be reblocked so long as they aren’t brittle (straw) In fact they historically were not just retrimmed but often reblocked.

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