How to Refashion a Hat

a woman wearing a white and black leopard printed sweater and a black wool fascinator hat with a flower

Today’s post is a revamped edition of one I wrote several years ago as a guest post for Jessica of Chronically Vintage about how to refashion a hat. I came across it again recently and decided that I wanted to revisit it with some new photos and give it a home here too. And, since Easter is this weekend, it’s the perfect time to share these techniques and inspiration in case you have a hat that you’d like to refashion! 

I don’t actually own very many true vintage garments, and many of my “vintage” garments are actually ones that I have sewn myself or altered from thrift store finds. I mostly rely on making or refashioning clothing to give it a vintage vibe (whether that means adding embellishments, changing buttons, hemming to a better length or altering the fit) and then adding in accessories for the final touch to get that vintage look.

The sad, but true, reality of vintage is that there is a finite amount of it left in the world, and as time goes on it just gets more and more scarce and, thus, unaffordable for the average person. This definitely doesn’t mean that those who can’t afford or find true vintage have to miss out on this fashion style, though! Just as with any other trend or style, as in centuries past, women have made for themselves what they couldn’t afford to buy or couldn’t find in the shops, and I live by this principle today too. Thrift stores are great places to rescue cast off pieces of clothing or accessories and then refashion and embellish them so they’ll fit your own style. 

Hats are great accessories for really pulling an outfit together, but sometimes it can be hard to find good hats that are not in disrepair (shattered veils, stains, moth holes…) and putting together a hat collection, when a hat that is in good shape costs a lot, is just not feasible for many of us hat lovers. This is why I have turned to making and refashioning hats: so I can get that unique vintage look, without spending a lot. If you pick up mildly damaged or ugly/boring hats that have potential, and are willing to use your creativity to alter them, you can easily build a hat collection for a fraction of the cost. This also gives you a chance to try out different styles of hats and see whether you like them before investing in the “holy grail of all hats” (whatever that might be for you). When I first started getting into wearing hats, I invested in some beautiful vintage ones that I didn’t end up liking on me. For example, over time I’ve discovered that I like my hats to have a higher crown like 1960’s style pillbox hats, rather than the flatter Juliet cap style of the 1950’s. I learned this the hard way, after I had already bought several beautiful vintage hats, and I ended up having to sell them because I just never wore them…at least they went to new loving homes! Now that I have an idea of what kinds of hats I like to wear, though, when I see one for sale at antique malls or second hand shops, I have a good idea of whether it will make a good candidate for refashioning.

My checklist for hats that I would be willing to take a chance on or pass by would be:

  • A hat that is not smashed out of shape, unless you think it can be steamed back into shape. If the hat is very crushed, it’s not going to turn out well. If you decide to try and reshape it, you’ll need some kind of hat form to do so, depending on the style of the hat.
  • One that doesn’t have large stains on it, unless there is some way to cover them up with new embellishments without it looking odd. While I don’t mind some “character”, I don’t want it to look dirty.
  • If the veil is torn, which is very common, see if it could be removed entirely. Most hats will look totally fine without a veil. Also, you can still buy Russian netting at many fabric stores, so you may be able to simply replace the damaged veil with a new one.
  • If the hat is lacking in embellishments, or the current ones are ruined, you can definitely make new ones (one example I am going to share today).

an ugly hat

I picked up this little black felt hat for a song, from an antique store, along with a couple other hats that really needed some help. I remember seeing this hat several years ago in West Edmonton Mall (I recognized the label) so I know that this hat is not actually vintage. When I saw it new, I thought the embellishment on it was so boring that I passed on it. It seemed like they had a good thing going with the veil and the leaves. . . and then ran out of ideas, so they just plunked a little brooch on top. However, when I saw it for sale second hand, in good condition and at a much better price point than it was new, I picked it up thinking, like Lydia from Pride and Prejudice, “Look here, I have bought this bonnet. I do not think it is very pretty; but I thought I might as well buy it as not. I shall pull it to pieces as soon as I get home, and see if I can make it up any better.”

philip treacy's 2015 collection mint green hat with a chiffon pompom on top

Soon after buying this hat, I came across this image from Philip Treacy’s Autumn/Winter 2015 collection, and absolutely fell in love with it. In case you are wondering who Philip Treacy is, he is a UK milliner who counts the Royal Family among his clients. I absolutely love this hat: it is so outrageous and over the top, and really what’s not to love about mint? As soon as I saw it, I started thinking about how I could make something similar, and I decided that a large flower on this hat base would be just the thing.

Here is how I created the flower, and how I styled the finished hat for an updated 1940’s look.

I made my flower out of chiffon, since we had a bunch left over from a past project. You could use stiffer organza too- which would give you the rounder pompom shape that Treacy’s has, or tulle or netting, which would be softer. I cut out a ton of circles, 5 inches in diameter. You will need 30-50 circles depending on the material and stiffness, and how full you want the flower to be. Don’t worry about being too precise, as the edges will be melted and the pieces will be gathered for the final flower. And definitely do cut your circles through several layers at once, to save yourself time!

singeing the edges of chiffon circles to finish them

I didn’t want the fabric to fray to pieces, so I singed the edges to finish them. Singe the fabric by CAREFULLY holding the material over a candle until the edges start to melt and curl. Be very careful with this, since you are holding a meltable material over top a flame!

You will need to hold the fabric about 6 inches away from the flame and slowly dip in and out and across so the heat starts to curl it. You don’t need to bring the fabric very close, otherwise the heat will start melting the entire circle, rather than just the edge. (Voice of experience. . . ) You should probably do this in a well ventilated area too, by the way. 

folding chiffon circles to make a flower

Once you have singed the fabric, you will be left with curled lily pad shaped petals. Take a circle and fold it into quarters. Stitch through the corner of the folded piece, catching all 4 layers, and loop to tie a knot so it won’t pull through the fabric. 

Continue to string together the folded circles using the same method, until the flower is at your desired fullness.

stringing chiffon petals to make a flower

Once you get a fuller shape, you can gather some of the centre petals so they are fuller, as the soft fabric likes to “flop”. If your fabric is stiffer, you can continue stringing until you get a pompom shape. For mine, with the softer chiffon, I gathered the entire flower together in my hand and stitched through the entire bottom of the flower to give it some shape. Just play around with the fabric and arrange it into a nice shape- there isn’t a hard and fast method.

gathering the chiffon circles into a petal shape

If your flower is softer and going to lay open, you can sew a button, a bead or other embellishment in the centre of the flower to cover up the stitching. If your fabric is stiff, you can just keep adding to it and you will get a lovely round shape and won’t need a button at all.
Sew a little round felt disk to the bottom, to keep the flower in shape. If possible, do not glue the flower onto your hat, since the glue may seep through the light fabric. 
sewing the flower onto the hat

Sew the flower onto the hat with cotton, or other natural fibre, thread. If possible, don’t use a polyester blend thread, as over time polyester can cut natural fibres, and you will be left with holes. You could also add a brooch pin to the felt disk, instead of sewing it directly to the hat, so it is removable, in case you want to use the same hat base for multiple embellishments. And then you’re done!

woman wearing a black felt hat with a large flower on it

I don’t have a before picture of this hat on my head, because it was severely unflattering, but here is the after! A giant flower is really what this hat was missing. Mine turned out a lot smaller than I was originally planning for and less pouffy because of the fabric I chose, but I think it works well for the style of the hat. By simply adding some embellishment, this hat is now completely transformed! 

Here are some other ideas for how to refashion a hat with a different look, which might work for you if a giant pompom/flower isn’t really your thing. 

Vogue patterns

From Chapeaux Élégants, 1942

  • Bows. I’ve seen this kind of hat with a giant stiffened bow, upside down bows, bows made out of contrasting fabric or coordinating, ribbon bows, right side up bows or a myriad of smaller bows…the sky really is the limit when it comes to bows. I’d really like to make a giant sculptural bow one of these days! 

  • Loops and twists made out of wool, or sculptural ribbons. This is a really simple, yet architectural embellishment. I’ve also seen where the wool is looped back onto itself in all sorts of different shapes. This is a much simpler hat decoration, but one with a lot of impact. If you can find a similar colour of fabric, or a contrasting colour, this is a very easy embellishment to create.

Sears Catalogue 1947/48

  • Feathers. You can use smaller feathers, or even large curled ones. I have a pheasant feather that I want to steam into a curled shape and attach to a hat, but I haven’t got a hat yet to put it on!

  • A cluster of artificial flowers. You could either group purchased flowers, or make your own ribbon or fabric flowers. I’ve seen so many different types of flowers on hats, it all depends on what you plan to wear the hat with.

If you’re looking for some hat inspiration, here are my favourite places to look:

  • Online vintage shops. This is a great place to look for true vintage inspiration.
  • Pictures of the Royal Family, the Duchess of Cambridge in particular, who are often seen sporting beautiful hats.
  • Allport Millinery is an Australian milliner with such amazing hats- her website is just full of gorgeous pieces.
  • A new-to-me designer, Rachel Trevor-Morgan Millinery, who I stumbled across while browsing on Pinterest.
  • Of course, we can’t forget Philip Treacy, where I got my original inspiration from.
  • And if you’d like to see more “hatspiration”, I’ve created a Pinterest board of the lovely hats I come across while browsing!

woman wearing a black wool skirt, leopard print sweater and a black hat with a veil and flower on the top

I love how this hat turned out; I’ve styled it in many ways over the past few years. This outfit I paired it with is one that definitely has a Classic vibe to it, rather than overtly vintage, but I’ve worn the same hat here and here before. It’s quite a versatile accessory! 

I hope this has inspired you to look at the garments and accessories you have, with an eye towards how to make them work for you. Maybe it will inspire you to pick up that ugly hat or other item you would usually pass up in the thrift store, and refashion it to become your new favourite piece. Maybe all it needs, like this hat, is a new embellishment!

woman twirling outside

woman walking away outside wearing a skirt, sweater and hat

Five Garment Care Tips For Your Spring Wardrobe Transition

woman looking into her closet

Now that Spring has officially arrived, it is time for the seasonal wardrobe transition! I always enjoy the changing of the seasons, and all of the things that go along with that… packing away my cold weather garments and then pulling out my warm weather ones always makes for a rather fun afternoon task- it’s kind of like opening presents! Switching your wardrobe around for a new season does take a bit of time, but it is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of garment care and maintenance as well. Here is how I go about switching around my closet, as well as some of the tasks that I like to do each season to keep my clothes and shoes in good condition.

Depending on where you live, transitioning your wardrobe might not be very drastic, and if you don’t live in a climate with four distinct seasons, it might not even be necessary. (Or if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll be pulling out your fall and winter clothes) Here in Alberta we definitely do have four seasons but, while it is now officially spring, we certainly will have some cold days left, so I am not doing a complete wardrobe switch.

There are some etiquette “rules” that I like to follow for my closet, just because they make sense for me and the climate where I live. According to Miss Manners, here are some seasonal wardrobe rules:

Straw should not be worn before Easter nor after Labour Day. 

-Velvet should be worn between October 1 and March 1.

-Furs should not be worn between the months of March to September

-White should not be worn after Labour Day, nor before Memorial Day. (This one is rather archaic, and a better rule to abide by, rather than colour, is judging the weight of the fabric you are wearing. Gauzy white linen is not appropriate for fall and winter, depending on the climate of where you live, of course, but a white wool coat or stockings is a completely different matter!)

clothes laying out ready to be packed away

I moved my strictly winter garments, such as my fur collars, winter coats, berets and lined boots into storage and then rotated my lighter spring and summer items into my closet. While I might not wear some of them right away, because we do still have cool days ahead, I brought them out so I have something to look forward too! I most likely won’t wear my straw hats until Easter, but it’s still nice to take them out and hang them up too. I also don’t have that much space, so I have to trade the items in and out, to fit them all back into my closet. I keep my in-season clothes hanging in my bedroom closet, and put the out-of-season clothes in a suitcase.

I did leave some of the more “seasonally ambiguous” items in my closet, such as my brown Oxford pumps. Rather than moving them out with the winter wear, I decided to keep them in since I might be able to wear them while the days are still cool.

straw hats hanging on a peg rack

Before I put each item into storage, I made sure to look it over and see if it needed any cleaning or other repair. There’s nothing worse than pulling your shoes or clothes out in six months for the next season, and then having to wait to wear it until you can repair it, or even worse than that, it has become irreparably damaged from sitting. So, here are five of my garment care tips to do before packing your winter clothes away for the season.

Doing Laundry

handwashing clothes in a basin

Depending on the soil level, I don’t wash my clothes after every single wear. Some garments can be worn a few times before they need laundering, and if your clothes are delicates then they will actually benefit from less washing. Before you pack the clothes away, though, make sure to clean them so they don’t sit with dirt or odours for months. Dirty clothes in storage can attract moths or other pests, and any light stains on the fabric might set over the months and become a much bigger issue for you later on.

If you have “dry clean” items, you may be able to spot clean them yourself. I don’t like dry cleaning my clothes, because it’s not actually really cleaning and the chemicals are so pollutant and unhealthy. Thus, I prefer to do most of my own washing, though sometimes dry cleaning is a necessary evil. You can often spot clean your wool or hand wash delicate items. If you do decide to wash a woolen item, and it ends up wrinkled or out of shape, you can take it to the dry cleaners for a “press only”. I have done this before with pleated skirts and they come back looking so much better than I could ever get them to look with my iron at home. Once you’ve cleaned your items, make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you are storing your out of season clothes in bins or boxes, you can also add in cedar sachets to keep pests out.

Brushing & Shaving Your Woollens

brushing a wool coat with a lint remover brush

Brushing wool is a new habit for me, and I learned this from the book How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. She talked about brushing wool clothes rather than washing them in order to clean them, and I had never heard of that! So, I have ordered myself a clothes brush with natural bristles (that is what she recommends in order to not damage the fabric over time) and once it arrives, I plan on brushing all of my winter coats before putting them away.

In the mean time, I will go over my coats with a velvet lint brush, as well as a pill remover/shaver. It’s amazing what a difference a brushing and shaving can do! A clothes brush works so much better than those sticky lint rollers, to take out the dust and dirt that collects. This is a good practice to get into a regular habit of doing, to keep your clothes in good condition, but it is especially important to do before you store your clothes.

Cleaning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes

cleaning your leather shoes

This is such a simple thing to do to keep your leather in good repair, but it’s the one task that I always neglect. I am trying to get better at doing this more frequently, but I always seem to procrastinate and put it off for far longer than I should. (This is probably because shoe polish smells like death…and probably brings you closer to death as well…?) Every time I do get around to polishing my shoes, though, I am amazed at the transformation and vow to do it more often! I haven’t tried any of the more natural leather conditioners yet, but I’ve ordered one to try on my purse. I think it’s a natural wax that doesn’t smell as bad as regular shoe polish, so maybe I’ll use it more often!

shoes ready to be polished

Cleaning and polishing or conditioning your leather is a good thing to do regularly, but is also very important to do before your put your winter shoes away. Salt stains from ice-melt burn leather and if left untreated can ruin a good pair of shoes (I’ve had that happen before!) and other stains will only get worse over time.

First clean your shoes with a leather cleaner and a soft rag. (I clean mine with a suede cleaner solution since that is what I have on hand, and it works well.) Once your shoes are dry, you can polish them with either a cream or wax polish in a matching colour. I’ve heard different cobblers recommend both options, so I’m not sure which is better!

polishing and shining shoes

I’ve also just started using a shoe brush that we got from my Grampa, and I have no idea why I was using just a rag before- the brush gives such a nice polish! I like to finish the shoes off with a little sponge for a nice shine, and then they are done.

polished black high heeled shoes

In the image on the left, the shoe on the left is unpolished, and the shoe on the right shows the difference that polishing makes! The final result is in the photo on the right.

For any shoes that need more serious repairs, you can take them to a cobbler for fixing. I am so hard on my shoes, and have really done a number on some of my favourite pairs (such as ripping the finish off the toe of the aforementioned Oxford heels!) but it’s amazing how cobblers are able to restore them back to – almost- as good as new!

Storing Your Shoes 

shoeboxes with shoes wrapped in tissue paper for storage

Once all of my shoes are polished and clean, I put them into shoe boxes with tissue paper in between to keep them from leaning on each other, and then put them back in my closet. I stack all of my shoeboxes on the top shelf in that inconvenient corner of the closet that you can’t quite reach, since it isn’t useful for storing things you actually need to access on a regular basis!

shoes in fabric shoebags

I don’t have quite enough boxes for all of my boots and shoes, since I only keep the shoeboxes with aesthetics. There were a couple of pairs of boots and shoes that I didn’t have boxes for, so I made some fabric bags to store them in, to keep the dust and dirt off, and they work just as nicely as boxes do.

Using Garment Bags

garment bag over coat hanging on a peg rack

Coats can get so dusty while hanging in the closet over the summer, so I put a garment bag over the top of them- especially after having gone to the trouble to brush them clean! It is important to use cloth garment bags, not the plastic bags that come over dry-cleaning, because plastic can trap in moisture and cause your fabric to get musty. Instead of purchasing garment bags, I made some for myself out of vintage pillowcases. I’ve been using pillowcases as garment bags for a few years now, but had never gotten around to actually sewing them into the proper shape, so I decided it was finally time to do that.

tracing a hanger to make a garment bag

To make your own, all you have to do is take a pillowcase and sew it into the shape you need. Pillowcases are easily found at thrift stores, or maybe you even have a few extra in your linen cupboard (or you can, of course, sew a rectangle of fabric to the width you need). Trace the hanger you will be using onto the wrong side of your pillowcase, and make sure to double check your tracing with a ruler, so you don’t end up with a lopsided angle. Curve the seam where it meets at the sides.

sewing a garment bag out of a pillowcase

Sew along the line, then open a little hole in the seam at the top, for the hanger to go through. I hand stitched the top edge around that hole to keep it from unraveling, and then trimmed off the excess fabric with pinking shears. Flip it inside out and pop it over your coats, and that will keep them nice and clean until next fall!

Once I finished these garment care tasks, my seasonal wardrobe transition was done. Doing these tasks adds some time and is not as much fun, but it is worth it! Keeping your clothes and shoes in good repair will reduce your wardrobe costs over time, since you won’t have to replace your items due to damage. And, not only will it save you money in the long run, but your clothes will look better too; wearing a pair of freshly polished shoes is always going to elevate your outfit!

Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? What sorts of garment care or maintenance do you do for your clothes each season?

Social Saturday | March 20

tea in a floral china cup on a lace tablecloth

Happy first day of Spring everyone! We had such a lovely warm day here, it really did feel like Spring. My sister and I went for a walk, one of my mom’s geese laid her first egg (maybe we’ll get goslings this year), and we had a little spring tea party today.

I made lemon squares, chose out three of my favourite tea cups and then my mom and my sister and I enjoyed a nice cup of tea and a visit. It was so lovely that I think we are going to make a habit of it. Sometimes life can get so busy that you can forget to stop and take a moment to enjoy the nice things in life. Afternoon Tea is one of those habits for me that has fallen by the wayside, as I usually just grab a cup of tea to sip while I’m working on something else (I’m drinking a cup while I type this), but there is something nice about taking a purposeful break, isn’t there?

table with teacups a fancy teapot and a tray of lemon squares

So, what else did I do this week? I listed a few more clothes, from my closet clear out, in my Poshmark shop, and also spent a few days sewing. I altered a circle skirt that I didn’t love the fit of into a wrap skirt- just in time for warmer weather!

a stack of clothing with a hat on top and a polka dot skirt hanging from a peg rack

I also did a bit of crafting for Easter, since that is only two weeks away! And finally my mom’s Christmas cactus is blooming again…maybe it thinks it’s an Easter cactus?

Did you do anything fun this week, dear Reader? And how was your first day of Spring?

crafting easter eggs and a pink christmas cactus bloom

 

Afternoon Tea, With Peonies, for the Arrival of Spring

bouquet of white and pink peonies beside a cup of tea

Spring arrives this weekend, and with it the hope of sunny days, warm weather and flowers…well eventually. We’ve still got quite a wait before anything green starts to grow, and it’s all looking a bit cardboard brown out there now while the snowdrifts recede, but that doesn’t even matter because deep down inside, we still know that it’s Spring!

This photo set is one that I took a few years ago but then never ended up posting…but that’s OK, because they are the perfect cheerful photos to post now for the arrival of spring!

a bouquet of pink and white flowers, and a teacup atop a stack of books

a cup of tea and a bouquet of peonies, an antique book cover

a table set for tea with a bouquet and floral teacup

I have been thinking lately about having a proper tea party. Even though I drink tea all the time, there is something different about “afternoon tea”, isn’t there? It’s just nice to sometimes go about setting the table, pulling out your favourite floral teacup, brewing up a pot, and serving it with a special treat. I think that this weekend is the perfect time to have one in celebration of the arrival of Spring!

Do you have any special plans to welcome the arrival of Spring? Do you like to have afternoon tea parties?

top view of a cup of tea in a floral teacup

closeup of a peony bouquet, and a floral teacup on top of antique books

a china teacup with a bouquet of pink and white peonies

a cup of afternoon tea

a bouquet, stack of books and a teacup atop a table

a cup of tea

a closeup of a peony bouquet and a teacup on top of books

a bouquet of pink and white peonies

Social Saturday | March 6

bouquet of orange and yellow tulips

Happy Saturday everyone! It’s been so warm and sunny this week, and I’ve been enjoying having the windows open and going for walks. I didn’t do very much this week, just work and boring things like that, but it was not a bad week.

My mom bought a bunch of tulips last week, and they have added a lovely spot of cheer to the house.

bouquet of bright orange and yellow tulips

I also recently discovered a new blog and Youtube channel, “The Daily Connoisseur” and it has been an absolute delight to watch! (Though I’ve might have spent a bit too much time watching this week…) She focuses on elegant homemaking and lifestyle, which is just the sort of thing I like.

agatha christie novel and a cup of tea

I also like a good murder though, so not sure where that leaves me…doesn’t an Agatha Christie go so well with a cup of tea though?

In other news, Brittani from Untitled Thoughts shared her wedding photos a couple of weeks ago. She had shared a lot of behind the scenes photos of sewing her dress as well as their low waste plans for the wedding last fall, so it was exciting to finally see the big reveal! Her wedding looked lovely, and is just the sort of thing I would choose to do if I was getting married.

Well, that’s all I have to share for this week. I hope you have a lovely weekend!

a snow covered lane on a sunny winter day