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How to make an Edwardian Costume hat in an hour by Lisa Schnapp on 09-29-2009

Every so often, there will be an opportunity or surprise costume occasion that you do not have the time to make a proper early Edwardian hat from scratch, so you need to put together an easy Edwardian style hat quickly for Halloween parties, weddings, Victorian teas, "The Somewhere in time" weekend besides other events that may quickly come up. This article is to help you make a very early Edwardian looking hat (1900-1906) with a strong antique flair in a very short amount of time. (The one shown here only took one hour!) This article can easily be altered to late Edwardian (up to 1912) by using a large brimmed hat/ longer feathers, larger flowers, bigger bows, etc. Always plan carefully before permanently tacking anything down so you can make changes if necessary.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy


Suggested items to gather for this project:

  • Medium-large vintage straw hat with wide, flatish crown (or modern, floppy straw hat )
  • Milliner's fabric covered wire, or paper covered wire (medium gauge) type for flowers
  • Large piece of old ivory, ecru, beige, deep tan vintage looking lace, or old looking fabric/ small scarf
  • 3-4 large, thick and full 5-6" long ostrich feathers ideally deep ivory/ tan/ black
  • A few yards of 2" wide silk taffeta or silk satin ribbons (velvet or satin too.)
  • Goodly amount of small various vintage looking flowers (avoid most modern silk flowers)
  • Needle and ivory/ tan/ black thread (or if in a hurry, use Hot Glue Gun)
  • Scissors (large pair and having a small embroidery pair for fine tuning can be helpful.)
  • (Optional) Silk tulle, cotton net, (avoid plastic tulle if possible and time permits.)
  • (Optional) Styrofoam Wig Head to see progress

(As a side note, this Edwardian hat shown was made to be c.1900 Edwardian in style, and needed to look OLD-- not much like a modern new costume as it will be featured in a current popular TV soap opera with an authentic gown.) That is why the use of tans/ ivory/ gray/ ecru or soft shades with natural fabrics were used- these types of colors and fabrics were prevalent in the early 1900's.

How to make your Edwardian Hat:

Edwardian style costumeStep 1.
Assemble together the materials you will use to create your hat. A good Edwardian style hat should showcase it's wearer's personality, so many looks can be created using one hat with these materials to give effects the way you wish it to appear.

Make sure you have plenty of room to work, good light, and a Styrofoam Wig Head can be of use (or you can just try the hat on as you progress along, and check in the mirror as you go along.) Old hats can be good for this project. Ignore any blemishes and bumps on your hat as if you plan your fabric and feathers wisely, they will be covered.
Edwardian CostumeStep 2.
Most of the early Edwardian styles lay upon top of the head (rather than around) and are often flat in shape- rather than having the domed, curved crown we are used to seeing (these hats were nicknamed "pancake" hats", but in this project you can use a hat that will fit around your head as well.). You can "squash" the crown down flat if you prefer, then tack the edges down in a few places to keep the crown down flat.

If you are using a vintage hat base (with wire already on the edge of your straw hat) you can bend and attach a length of milliner's wire (or paper covered flower wire) to fit around your brim edge. I had wire built into my hat already, so I pushed the rear area of my hat brim upward in back, as this was often seen downward in this period. If you are adding one, you can cover your added wire with ruffled lace, ruching or net edging if you desire as it gives a nice period effect, but sew/ tack the covered wire firmly down to hat edge so you can bend your brim how you wish. This can be left out if you prefer to have your hat remain circular and you do not need to bend it.

Edwardian Costume HatCostume Edwardian HatStep 3.
Lay down materials until composition appears how you want it to be. Then, take a rectangle of your vintage or old looking lace (or fabric, small finished edge scarf, etc.) to be used, making sure the length drapes about 5" past crown on a katty-corner edge (1/2 covering front crown edge.) only partially covering crown. In the left photo, I am showing you how I decided to lay things out for my hat.

Then, cut your lace/ fabric so it reaches these dimensions (see photo to see how your lace/ fabric should look in effect). Finish edges (if it is not already finished) you can sew them by machine or hand (adding lace, etc. is always pretty but will add more time to your project.). Instead, if you need to keep your hat moving quickly, you can "pink" edges on fabrics that unravel and just iron edges firmly down so they aren't seen.

This lace/ fabric should be loosely billowed at crown sides so that it appears the fabric made the crown look wider, and only shows a portion of the straw crown. Finish tacking down with 2-3 stitches, or daubs of carefully placed hot glue, attaching at lower crown (connecting to brim at each side). One or two more stitches or daubs on brim will secure it enough. The effect you are going for should look slightly loose on the crown, slightly unstructured. Edwardian hats were almost never tightly sewn down.

On the far left side of hat, I've added a garland of tea darkened cuttings of vintage silk organza flowers to extend toward back turned up edge. This "fills out" the silhouette, especially when viewing from the side. On your own hat, you can add ruched silk, organza bows/ flowers, ivory or tan cotton or silk tulle (avoid the modern plastic type if you possibly can- the colors rarely look old.) or garlands of tiny flowers or berries. Tack fabric area down at both beginnings of the cloth onto brim, then once or twice in center. Add a bit more tack downs if necessary, but don't overdo it, that's the mistake most people make for making a costumed hat this period. Remember, keep the lace/ fabric area slightly billowed and not taut.
Step 4.
Pick out 2-3, lush 5-6" ostrich feathers (or cut your feathers to a uniform 5-6" in length- you do not want them to be long- not correct for this period.) then, sew them together 1" from tip, one in center, and one 1/2" from feather end. Tack this down by taking a piece of sewing thread or string (color of feathers or hat) and carefully wrapping and wind string 2-3 times around (careful not to get tiny feathers caught within winds), then take both ends and finish making a firm knot so the combined feather is pleasantly thick.

Now you can curl feather ends and edges by CAREFULLY rubbing against a scissor edge (like you would on Christmas wrapping string). Take in small areas working your way around feather tips, but do this as a single feather unit (not three) so you have curl uniformity. These should be small curls. If you are breaking off more than a few tiny feathers, you are holding it too tightly, or using too much pressure rubbing against the scissors.
Step 5.
Edwardian Hat with flowersTake lengths of the 2" silk taffeta (satin, velvet, etc.) ribbon (more than one bow was used in these examples.) and tie large bow tightly. Crumple bow in hand if you do not want it to be "too" perfect, and place bows in different areas until you like the composition. One was placed sideways, longside on the crown and brim, then another of moire' was placed directly behind it. Move and crumple ribbons until you like the effect. (Remember, this Edwardian hat is supposed to look old, not brand new.) Tack down bow centers and/ or a few edges if you wish to maintain them.
Step 6.
Tack down any vintage flowered trims, or make your own flowers and place them on different areas of the hat. The ones shown here are old stock from the 50's dyed in tea and well rinsed, then dried outside. Try to avoid plastic, or nylon or poly modern large flowers over 2" diameter... most just don't have an authentic feeling. If authenticity is not an issue for your project you can keep your flowers in subdued tones to help evoke a feeling of the era. Many modern flowers can be tea dyed and dried and shaped to have a brownish "old" appearance as well. Always test any tea dyed effect on one before dyeing them all so you are sure that you like the overall effect. 1930's-60's vintage trims can often be easily found nowadays...in a grandma's craft drawer, or for next to nothing at a local thrift shop or yard sale!
Step 7.
You can use pearled hatpins to help hold your Edwardian hat in place, or tulle or ribbon straps (for under the chin). Straps can be needle and thread tacked (stitch with carpet thread for permanent placement.) or, for time constraints, safety pinned for a temporary stay, or just hot glued into place if authenticity isn't necessary.
or just hot glued into place if authenticity isn't necessary.
Edwardian Hat with flowersEdwardian Hat with feathersFinal result:
Now is the time to try on your creation! If you can try it on with your gown to be used, that can be helpful to determine if your elements are all in harmony. Now is the time for any last minue changes or additions... On the right, here's another costume Edwardian hat where the straw was painted beige, then vintage, straight edge ostrich feathers were added over the crown to conceal the base, then a ring of vintage velvet poppies were tacked down over the feathers.

To test the look of your Edwardian hat, tilt your hat slightly to one side for the "French" effect, and wear a hairstyle that should resemble a full, bouffant, Gibson Girl pompadour.

Add corset, petticoats, tiny (1-2") bustle, pigeon fronted gown, fan, purse and umbrella, and you should be well on your way to being the best dressed Edwardian lady in the event!
Bustledress.com would love to see your Edwardian hat projects! Send your compressed, 300 DPI photos (or smaller) to lisa @ bonnet@interx.net and please add a bit of information about your hat. (Where you wore it... what you made it of, any tips or tricks used, etc.) Happy Hat making!

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