Putting a Feather in My Hat

badge.80The title phrase for this blog post is the literal truth – I put another “feather” in my sewing “cap” of projects under my belt recently by successfully making and fitting a vintage wool hat.  Not just any hat, mind you, but a hat designated to a certain style which was popular in a particular time period -the mid 1930’s to early 1940’s Tyrolean style.

This post is counted as part of my 1940’s “Agent Carter” sew along.

100_4093a Here I’m wearing my hat with a garment that hits the midpoint in the era of this Tyrolean hat –my 1940 “Gold Diggers” style suit dress and jacket.  My hat also matches well with my 1937 peacock blouse, for another option of pairing the hat with something from the very beginning of the Tyrolean style.

From all I can tell off of old fashion plates and catalogs, as well as what I have read from books and other bloggers, the Germanic/Bavarian/Tyrolean Cultural style lasted from about 1935 to the end of the war, 1945-ish.  There is a wonderful blog post here at “The Vintage Traveler” were this fashion is expounded upon and explained better than any attempt of my own.  I perfectly agree with the author of “The Vintage Traveler” that the Germanic styles lasted because of a very basic reason – it was popular before the war, then the war-time shortages forced it to stay.  If a lady had a wardrobe of these styles when WWII broke out, she wasn’t going to acquire many new styles and/or fabric for the next several years, so those were the clothes she had to wear.  However, I would also like to share my strong suspicion that this fashion prevailed before and around WWII because of the amount of fashion designers fleeing into America to escape ethnic isolation and persecution going on in their homeland territory.  See this link (or see We Sew Retro’s review) that will show you an exhibit about one such designer. Those designers seemed to strike a cord with the Hollywood industry (becoming popular with actresses like Marlene Dietrich).  The Tyrolean/Bavarian style was also regarded as exciting with its new, fresh styles of easy button front dirndl skirts, fun jumpers, and bright colored fashions bringing back a youthful ideal from overseas in our very own America.

THE FACTS:Vogue 8175, yr 2005

FABRIC:  My Tyrolean hat is made from an 100% wool felt, in a golden heathered yellow tan.

NOTIONS:  None needed to be bought; everything was on hand.  All I used was thread (the same color used for my linen 1920s tunic), a ribbon (which was easy, as I have a generous ribbon stash), and a feather I’ve had on hand for a while to use on a hat.

PATTERN:  Vogue 8175, year 2005, (now out-of-print).  Beautiful cover pictures, Vogue!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  With only three simple pieces in this pattern, it was together in the blink of an eye and took me only 3 hours from start to finish – 45 minutes to sew the crown and brim together, an hour to hand sew the brim’s hem, and just over an hour for the cutting out, sewing on the inner band, and other finishing touches.  It was completed on October 25, 2014.

TOTAL COST:  The full price of the wool felt, bought from JoAnn’s, was $20 a yard, but I had a coupon for half price, and I only bought half of a yard, so my total cost was only $5.00.  Making my hat only used up half of what I bought, so in reality I actually only spent $2.50!  How’s that for dirt cheap pricing for high quality?!

Millinery skills are my new ‘thing’…another world yet unexplored for me, at least as successfully as this time.  You see, I have actually made two hats before.  Several years ago, I had made a basic fleece hat, which did turn out very well, except the plaid print does not go with much in my wardrobe so I haven’t worn it.  That fleece hat did provide some faith in my potential for hat crafting.  Flashback to sixteen years ago when I had bought some very nice winter suiting fabric and planned on making a matching “tulip shaped” skirt and “bucket style” hat set.  The skirt half of the project was finished perfectly, and I still wear it nowadays.  The hat, however, was also made perfectly…only it didn’t fit.  Boo hoo!  It was lined and interfaced, and lots of time and details were put into that hat.   When I was done it was way too huge and too well made to be picked apart and salvaged.  Frustrated and devastated, I ended up giving it away (now I wish I had kept it), and have only now regained my hat making confidence again with my wool felt Tyrolean hat.  Enough said!

100_4070 With a pattern this easy and simple, at first I was doubtful as to how it would work out.  As you can see above, it takes only three simple, unusual shaped pieces to become something amazing in no time at all!  The rectangle sort of piece with the notch in it is the crown, and the crescent is the brim, and the tiny band is the loop for my feather.  The brim piece gets a dart along its length (if you look closely you can see it marked on the felt).  Then you sew together the long ends on each side of the square notch.  Next, that notch turns into the crown’s asymmetric side pleat/indentation by opening it up a different way and sewing it together.  That’s it!  It magically turns into the crown as you see it on me and the pattern envelope cover.  For the brim, the slanted ends get folded under before it is attached to the crown.  This part was tricky, but still much easier than expected with the brim and crown matching up and fitting perfectly.

I was wary of the sizing, and actually terrified I was going to choose the wrong size.  I looked up about how and where on the head to measure your head size for hats and measured my head accordingly.  I ended up with a measurement of about 22 or 22 1/2 inches, which was no big surprise as I have noticed labels on the inside of my vintage hats listing the same sizing.  This Vogue #8175 pattern is divided into small (21 1/2), medium (22 1/2), and large (23 1/2) sizes.  I went for the medium size and – bingo! – perfect fit.

100_4103GoodGirlsGotoParis cafe scene-a After much discussion together with a sewing friend of mine who knows about hat making, I opted for a wireless brim edge and I am quite happy with my decision.  As an example, the actress Joan Blondell wears a Tyrolean flared hat very similar to my own in the 1939 movie “Good Girls Go to Paris” (see her in the middle of the left picture). Joan Blondell’s hat was rained on, smashed, rolled up, and generally beat up, but she would pull on her hat, fold it into shape, and it still looked good.  Now, I’m not saying I want my hat to go through the treatment her hat received, but I get the general idea that these hats are supposed to be easy care, easy wear items that have shape, but do not keep that shape by means of stiff, constrictive support.  Besides, the wool felt fabric I used for my hat is so very luxurious, tight, and finely made that it is supple yet able to keep its shape at the same time.  Hand sewing under 1/4 inch hem on the edge of the brim took me longer than sewing the hat together, but I ended up with a very nice appearance, especially after it was ironed.  This hat’s edge is the perfect lightly stable finish to match with the rest of what the hat has going for it…effortless style!  Vintage truly does things right!

100_4097a I did fudge a bit on the inner ribbon band.  Proper vintage hats should technically have Petersham ribbon, which gives the correct flexibility and fiber content to provide the best support and authenticity.  Apparently you’re supposed to iron the ribbon into the curve of a smile as pre-shaping before sewing it into a hat – this way there are no wrinkles in the close of the curve which you get with ribbon or grosgrain.  However, I was impatient to have my hat finished and be able to wear it, especially when it was coming together so quickly.  I did not want to wait the amount of time necessary to order some Petersham ribbon, and find myself agonizing at the mailbox every day just so I can wear my new hat.  At some point, I do want to order some Petersham ribbon and do an inner crown’s band properly.  For this hat, I chose some wide ivory satin ribbon and hand-stitched it on, easing in the wrinkles.  It still looks nice inside, but like I said, I’ll do better on my next hat.  Hey, listen…I’m talking about making more hats!  Keep watching my blog.

100_4101 My hat’s feather comes from a mystery bird, as far as I know.  I’m guessing it’s a turkey feather.  I bought it from a vendor’s tent at a “Lewis and Clark” 1812 Historical encampment which we visited a few years ago.  I had bought another, second, even more interesting feather, to be added onto a “Jane Austen” era bonnet of mine.  Only thing is, that second fancy feather had been eaten up by an insect, and this smaller one I used for my hat was the one I have left.  I didn’t know bugs liked feathers.  If anyone can recognize the bird my hat’s feather comes from, leave me a comment and enlighten me, please.

Once you feel that you can make hats, it opens up a whole new facet of the vintage world.  Now you can perfectly compliment and complete that vintage garment you sewed up with a hat that suits the individual’s taste, wardrobe needs, and sizing.  No more biting the bullet to fork out a lot of dough on an old original for sale – most vintage hat patterns I have seen take about 1/2 yard or less, so you can generally get some very nice fabric for a decent (if not cheap) price.  Making something yourself is sensible in more ways than one.

From my experience, I think hats seem so much more intimidating than they really are, and once you actually get into making one (as long as the sizing is right) you’ll be happily surprised.  After this Tyrolean hat was finished, I know I found myself saying over and over again, “This was it?  It’s done already?  Look at how great it looks!  I can’t believe I made a hat!”  Everyone deserves to have a sense of this proud amazement over what they make.  I have a suspicion it comes from successfully completing a challenging and unusual sewing project.  By overcoming my fear of not being able to do a certain skill, I have found a way to indeed add another “feather in my cap”…the first of others, hopefully!

There are more views of my wool Tyrolean hat on my Flickr page.

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