Crafty stuff

A 1910s-20s hat re-re-re-re-make

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

Welcome to a long, involved story about how a hat went through many design permutations before it finally became a lovely thing that I enjoy wearing!

I originally (all the way back in April 2017…) started out wanting to make this Lily Elsie mushroom hat to wear with my Miss Muffet dress:

Lilie Elsie, ca 1912
Lily Elsie, ca 1912

I began with a fairly generic straw sunhat I’d found at an op shop. I soaked it and re-shaped it over a hat-block and towels to get that mushroom shape. Somewhere there are photos of the process, but I just can’t find them.

Update: I have found one of the original re-shaping photos! The curved-up back brim is based on a catalogue image from 1913:

And…it looked terrible on me.

So it went in the naughty pile.

And then I needed a hat to go with the 1918-19 Not Another Blue Dress, so it came back out, and I re-shaped it again intp a shape halfway between this painting:

Charles Courtney Curran, The Boulder, 1915
Charles Courtney Curran, The Boulder, 1915

And the bottom left hat:

Hats, 1923
Hats, 1923

And then added a dark blue ribbon under the brim, and started trimming it with flowers all over the crown like the hat worn with the blue gingham dress:

The Delineator, Fashions for July 1921

And it looked really cute, but not with the Not Another Blue Dress – which happily did look amazing with my Tricorne Revival hat! (so at least one costume orphan got another use!).

So half finished, it went back into the naughty pile.

With the Waitangi Day garden party coming up I decided I needed a really good garden party hat to wear with my new dress. Something lovely and spring-y. This hat was the right shape, but the dark blue ribbon and flowers weren’t right.

So I pulled them off, and went back to the drawing board!

I assembled a pinterest board of mid-teens hats, and one of 1920s hats, and then started finding elements that I liked, and that I had the materials for.

I decided I really liked the fabric covered crowns you see with some teens & 20s hats. They are mostly shown with fabric brims, like the blue one in the top right, but there are definitely examples with straw brims and fabric crowns.

Hats, 1923
Hats, 1923

I had a scrap of silk crepe de chine from an end-of-bolt. It had tape marks and writing on it, but by cutting carefully I could cover the crown and make some lovely lush decorations.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion
A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

The rosettes are made by cutting wide strips of crepe de chine on the bias using scalloped pinking shears. I then hand basted along one edge, gather the ribbon in, and then sewed a second line of stitches a bit out from the centre one, to create a floral centre, and to control the fullness of the ‘flower’

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

I went through my entire ribbon stash, and couldn’t find a better match for the under-brim ribbon (which hides the millinery wire, and is a very 10s-20s touch) than a satin ribbon.

1920s dresses

The colour was right, but the satin ribbon looked terrible eased around the crown, because viscose satin simply doesn’t ease. You can see every wobble and tiny sewn in crease in it.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

The trip to Fernside Gardens gave me another chance to wear the hat, and a chance to fix the brim ribbon – and re-trim the hat to be a bit more 1910s instead of 20s.

I searched every store in Wellington, and finally found a cream petersham ribbon for the poor much-unpicked and re-sewn brim.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

With the help of judicious amounts of steaming, pinning, and the assistance of a hairpin (my favourite finessing tool for really delicate sewing), I got the 3cm wide petersham tape to go on smoothly and perfectly:

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

It’s one of those things that you can only achieve through the wonderful shape-ability of natural fibre petersham.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion
A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

And how do you get a hat to look more Edwardian? Add feathers!

I had some vintage brown ostrich feathers in my stash, and the pinky brown hues worked perfectly with the peachy crepe-de-chine.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

A swoosh of them across the back and up one side of the hat added just the right touch.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

If needed, I can take them off again, and restore the hat to its more 20s look. I love it either way though!

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

Many thanks to Miss A for additional pictures of me at Fernside Gardens (anything with a tiny logo is Miss A’s)

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

Best of all, the hat fits perfectly into the Historical Sew Monthly February Challenge theme of ‘Re-Use’

“Use thrifted materials or old garments or bedlinen to make a new garment. Mend, re-shape or re-trim an existing garment to prolong its life.”

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion

What the item is: A teens-early 20s hat 

How it fits the challenge: The hat is re-shaped from standard sun-hat, bought at an op-shop. The millinery wire was repurposed from another old hat. It’s trimmed with an end-of-bolt silk remnant that had tape glue and pen marks on it, and vintage ostrich feathers. The only totally new thing on it is the petersham ribbon.

Material: a straw hat, silk crepe de chine

Pattern: None, inspired by a bunch of 1910s & 20s photographs and fashion plates

Year: 1913-23

Notions: millinery wire, grosgrain ribbon, thread, ostrich feathers

How historically accurate is it? It’s inspired by the general shape and trims of teens and 20s hats, but not based on a specific example. The construction is much more basic than most (although not all) hats of this era, and mostly I just kept tweaking and adding stuff till it looked good. A few elements are very accurate, but the overall look is plausible rather than totally accurate.

Hours to complete: 5-8, depending on whether you count all the re-shaping and trimmings before I got to a good result!

First worn: Feb 6, Waitangi Day, to a garden party at the Governor General’s residence

Total cost: $12-ish. All bits were from stash and purchased years ago from op-shops, but that’s my best guess.

A 1910s-20s hat re-fashion


  1. nofixedstars says

    it’s lovely! i think you have definitely got your money’s worth from this hat… and you can’t get more period correct than re-trimming a hat to suit a new season or outfit.

    • “If you can’t get a new hat, at least get a new ribbon for it.” – Amálie Kutinová, Czech writer, according to her daughter. 🙂

      The final result is lovely and definitely finishes off the period look perfectly (if not 100% accurately – but it works wonderfully for photos!).

        • I thought of Lydia Bennet with her “I shall pull it to pieces when I get home and see if I can’t make it up any better,” but yours is even more spot on!

          I feel like the lady on the top left in the “The New Shades Are Beautiful” panel could have done with Bennetting her hat a bit. It has a somewhat unfortunate resemblance to a large red blinged-up snail. (Of course, for all I know, escargot was totally the millinery fashion – the natural successor to fruity flowery hats?)

          But this re-re-re-re-make (more patience than Lydia, methinks) is beautifully trimmed and a pleasure to look upon.

  2. I love seeing the various iterations of this hat! And I admire your honesty on projects that don’t work the way you’d wished.

  3. ceci says

    So it looks like the hair pin is stuck in front of the needle and smooths out little creases and pleats, and retreats as the needle advances?

    Wonderful hat – re-trimming hats makes me think of Jane Austen characters, you fit right in!


      • Great idea, thank you very much förmlich sharing this – i will sein this immediately, having some applications on silk to bei done. Greetings fromme Germany, Tily

  4. A hat is what makes any outfit look fancy, it brings everything together. I wish much health to you and to your loved ones, thank you for your very interesting blog!

  5. Elise says

    You always read about our heroines “remaking a hat”, and it’s neat to see you do it, and then talk about how this hat can be “remade” to different fashions across the beginning of the 20th century. What a swell post. Thank you.

  6. Dano says

    Sorry for delay with this – as the (brand new) saying goes “Inspiration knows no schedule”. Or, in this case “A haiku in the hand gathers no lichen.”

    Permeate through holes
    Permutate again again
    Clarity unfolds

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