Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hat Patterns from the 1950s

While researching vintage hat styles in The Australian Women's Weekly, I also found quite a few sets of patterns and instructions for making some simpler hat styles. I've attempted one of them, and I want to share it here with you today.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 9 June 1954

It is described as a Butterfly Cap for teenagers for late-day or later. I found the teenage label unusual, because the woman in the article photo looks very sophisticated and grown-up to me. Once I made it myself, however, I found it looking much more youthful.

I think the hair and outfit styling will have a large impact on whether this little hat looks young and playful or elegant and sophisticated.

You can find the pattern and instructions for The Butterfly Cap in the 9th of June issue of Australian Women's Weekly, on page 30, which you can access here.

Like most vintage patterns, especially free ones squeezed into a small magazine section, the instructions are sparse and assume you can fill in the gaps. On the other hand, it's quite a simple one, so you would have a hard time going too wrong.

Tips about Materials:
  • Velvet or velveteen. (I used velvet from a second-hand skirt. The thickness of the fabric helps give the shape volume and hide stitches.)
  • Sparterie (It's hard to get your hands on this vintage millinery material these days, but there are plenty of substitutes. I used what we tend to call buckram or leno or 20/20. Any stiff-but-shapable millinery foundation material or stiff interfacing should do fine.)
  • Millinery wire
  • Thread and needles
  • Hair comb (Not called for in the original instructions, but mine didn't like to stay in place without. I added a plastic hair comb, cut into 3 pieces and stitched onto the inside. My advice - make the cap as instructed, try it on, shape the wire, and if more is required, try a comb.)

Construction Tips:
  • The good thing about this design is that it's nice and clear what look you are aiming for! If necessary, fudge it, as long as it keeps looking like a bow!
  • Experiment with the final shaping. Mine sits out like a more puffy bow, rather than sitting flatter like the magazine example. Both work fine, so play around to find the look you want.

The best thing about this pattern is that it "is guaranteed to highlight your hair and make you look prettier".

There are lots of other patterns and instructions for hats (and other accessories) in the pages of Women's Weekly, and even some newspapers. Here are some others from the 1950s that I like the look of:

And there are so many more. I found some of these while searching again for ones I had previously found!

What do you think of The Butterfly Cap and the other hat patterns? Anything take your fancy?

I'd love to hear if you try any of these, or of any other free patterns you recommend.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

My Somewhat Vintagey Maternity Looks

During the photoshoot with Ruanne, I put on some of my retro/vintage maternity outfits and did a bit of posing myself. This was at about 24 weeks.

I got this peachy-pink dress (I'm pretty sure it is meant to be a short dress, not a long top, as I'm wearing it) with peter-pan collar at the Endeavour Op-Shop in Penrith. They stock a lot of "retro" clothes, some of which they import from Europe. I don't know why, but it is fabulous!

Styled with a white belt borrowed from my model's husband, a black skirt and sunnies from Endeavour, and the white wool and pom-pom hat inspired by the sketch from Australian Women's weekly.

This is my one genuine vintage maternity top, purchased from etsy seller Edith Says, located in Melbourne. I would say it is 1950s or 1960s. It's a little shorter than I like my tops, but I can wear this black skirt quite high, since it has a lot of stretch.

Here I'm wearing it with this darling 1950s vintage hat in pale greeny-cream and some sunnies given to me by a friend. I don't think they suit my face well in general, but with this hat they do!

Back to the peach dress/top, this time with second-hand cropped maternity jeans and the genuine vintage 1950s blue corduroy hat.

I have some more retro looks in my maternity wardrobe, including some tops I made myself from a 1960s pattern, and hopefully I will manage to get some good photos of them to share too. I wanted to make sure I got these ones done while I still fit into them! There has been a lot of expanding since then.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

1950s pompoms, faux fur, and a bit of cheating

Continuing on with the recent photo shoot images, today I want to show you two of my own 1950s-inspired designs that my friend Ruanne modelled for me that day. (I'll be getting back to my genuine vintage collection later.) These are a couple of very wintery models, appropriate as we say goodbye to winter (although there is still time for more - that snow in October will not quickly be forgotten) and in the other hemisphere Autumn is beginning and maybe some are looking forward to cool-weather fashions.

You may remember a couple of fashion illustrations in my 1952-1954 hat fashion trends post that featured pompoms. Very shortly after posting that, I had a go at a hat inspired by these shapes.

After the fun I had starting to re-use my old favourite red coat, I decided it was time to retire my white/cream coat as well. Some bits were not so white anymore, even after cleaning.

Between some of the whiter parts of the coat fabric, a couple of its buttons, and a bit of lovely white faux fur I had left over from cossack-hat-making, and the crown from an old synthetic straw hat (that's one lazy and quick way to get a crown to start draping on), I put together this homage to the pompom hats of the 1950s.

Despite being a very wintery hat, it managed to pair well with some very colourful dresses on an unusually sunny and warm winter day.

I wore it myself the other day to the Norman Lindsay gallery with my grandmother for an exhibition of World War I photographs. It was fun and cute hat to wear out and about. You can't help but feel cute with a pompom, I think.

This second hat is where the cheating comes in.

I'll start at the beginning. I love the big flat or slightly rounded fifties hats trimmed with fur or feathers that hang like a fringe over the wearer's face. One example, although from the sixties, is the fabulous hat from the first scene with Deborah Kerr in Marriage on the Rocks, which I talked about here.

I found a lovely big round wooden bowl for a few dollars at an op-shop, and I knew it would be a great shape to block this type of hat on. I also found the fabrics I needed by op-shopping - a long-pile fur from a vest (oh yes indeed, it was really something!) and a long velvet skirt.

I had one thing I wasn't sure of though. I didn't know how best to shape this hat, on the underside. How would it actually be worn? I debated a variety of ideas, and in the end just made the thing and hoped for the best.

This turned out to be not such a great idea. Being flat on top, it is almost impossible to wear!

So why did I continue and take it to the photoshoot?

I guess it is a test-of-concept. I wanted to know if it would be worth altering or re-making this hat, and how best to do so, by seeing it in action, with the right outfit, model, makeup etc. I could see how it looked at different angles.

A hat often doesn't show its true strength and beauty without being worn. As tricky as it was to play around with this awkward hat on the day, it was worth it.

Although it is always going to be a statement piece, I love some of these photos so much, that I believe I can make the hat work after all. And if I can't, I got some beautiful images from it anyway!

What do you think? Do you think the fur hat is worth an attempt at redemption? Would you ever actually wear it?

And how desperately do you want a hat with a pompom? It's ok, you can admit it.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Millinery Trends of 1956-1957

I'm back with more 1950s millinery fashion research, courtesy of the pages of the Australian Women's Weekly. I do look at other digitised Australian publications, but, although they often have good written trend reports, the picture quality is usually too poor to share.

Also, this instalment should have been from 1955-1957, but apparently I didn't like anything much in the 1955 issues!

So we start on the 25th of January, 1956, with some advice on "When to wear a hat" from Betty Kemp, the AWW's fashion advice columnist.

"A Hat should be worn to the races, to a formal lunch, and to any afternoon or after-five function in a public place."


"It is much better to have several hats to suit changing moods than one expensive all-purpose model."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

In the previous instalment covering hat fashions 1952-1954, it was all about small hats. By 1956, the tables are turning. This poppy-red hat is representing the new "heavy" autumn look.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

This feathered cocktail hat from Madame Vernier is just too delicious not to share!

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st Feb 1956

At this stage of the 1950s we are already starting to see hat shapes that I have long associated with the 1960s - flowerpot and "upside-down-basin" shapes. And also vibrant colours like yellows and oranges appearing a lot. The caption states: "New millinery note for next winter: Little hats have bigger proportions."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 29th Feb 1956

Is anyone else seeing a millinery Charlie's Angels here?

This photo accompanies an article about "The New Bulky Hat."

"Hats have reached a turning point in fashion. After years of shrinking, they have suddenly blossomed into bulky importance. The advantages are seen quickly. For one thing, a deep or wide brim makes the face beneath it look deliciously feminine or piquant. It also gives eyes an extra look of allure. And, finally, bulk is the logical counter-balance of a slender silhouette - and a real flatterer to bared or fur-covered shoulders."

So as our tiny half hats were paired with cocktail dresses with large flaring skirts, thinner lines of dress bring with them a trend for bigger hats to provide a contrast.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 1st August, 1956

"There is no disagreement on two fashion items: the slender super-elegant line and the bulky hat.", states the 1st of August edition.

In the same issue, Betty Kemp's Dress Sense column gives the following advice:

"I am planning a spring ensemble in a floral material consisting of a frock and jacket, and would like your advice about the hat to wear with it." 
"I suggest a hat of self fabric. This matching-hat-to-complete-the-costume look is very new in Paris spring fashions."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 24th October, 1956
Coming into the spring of 1956, hats are still large, but now are also "Laden with flowers and extravagant with color, the hats are designed to wear above an understated dark day dress, a late-day, or little dinner dress."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 27th February, 1957

I think we know by now that I love fur hats. This black fur hat and muff paired with a red plaid is by Jacques Fath, and is pretty much to die for!

Back in Autumn fashions in 1957, fur is everywhere and in every shape.

"The kind of fashion era coming up is full of clothes for the fashion adventuress, some startling enough to knock the sunglasses off your nose right now. It is also a romantic feminine season in which ethereal chiffon, white fur, black velvet all help to create the clinging-vine illusion."

The Australian Women's Weekly, 27th February, 1957

"Every woman will be fascinated, too, by autumn millinery. Hats this season are quite a power in fashion..."

As well as fur, turbans are mentioned, and we are told to expect a lot of jewels, feathers and veils in hat trimming.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 20th March, 1957

In March, 1957, we see evening headdresses from Paris (and they are quick to point out that this is not a "hat") that look to me like the classic whimsy, and may be the start of their fashion introduction. This one is just roses and veiling. I think that whimsy styles reached greater fashion heights (if not physical heights) later, based on the examples I've seen, but this is still an elegant look if you have the right outfit to match it with.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 20th March, 1957

I wanted to share this photo particularly because I feel this would be such an easy look to recreate. It is an "After 6 p.m." look, and described as simply a chignon up-do decorated with velvet ribbon and a drop-pearl-and-diamond ornament. Maybe something to try with some spare ribbon and a nice brooch or elaborate pendant?

The Australian Women's Weekly, 10th July, 1957

The July 10th issue of AWW is all about Turbans. Ok not really, but this stunner features on the cover, and the fashion feature article shows an immense range of turban shapes and styles, in all kinds of materials, including self-fabric to match the dress. Again, we're seeing the exaggerated heights that we go on to see in the 1960s begin their journey here.

I hope you enjoyed this continuation of our ramble through the hat fashion trends of the 1950s. Which styles are your favourites here? And do you prefer the bulky hats of 1956-57 or the small caps of earlier in the decade?

As we speak, I'm being kicked from the inside to remind me to tell you all that I'm starting to gear up for maternity leave. I'm working hard on preparing blog posts to continue throughout, but it does mean that some of my recent work will be shown to you in a very drawn-out manner, as I try to make it last until I start up making again next year (I hope). I'm still making things now, but I'll be slowing down, and probably stopping at the end of September, for a break of at least 4 months. Don't worry though, the Travelling Hat project should be out in the world by then, and I still have lots of other things to share!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Another 1950s Photoshoot: My Genuine Vintage Collection (Part One)

While I'm focusing on the 1950s, I wanted to share with you not only my own creations, but some of the genuine vintage pieces that I am privileged to own.

I had a wonderful day of modelling fun with my friend Ruanne, and there will be more from this day over the coming weeks.

One of my grandmother's friends and neighbours, and a lovely woman, showed me this 1950s cocktail hat that she owned and wore when younger. I admired it, and took lots of photos so I could attempt my own version someday, but then a few weeks later, she gave it to me!

The veiling is very badly damaged, but I don't feel ready to take the step of replacing it! I'm a bit sentimental about this generous gift. I think I will replace it one day, when I find the right pattern of veil.

This one came in a lot of 1950s hats that I bought recently. Most of them are damaged to some extent, and I bought them to fix up and sell. This is one of the few that are still in near-perfect condition (only general wear and fading, and maybe a bit of damage to the feather).

It looks almost white, but is really a very pale mint green, with trim in a pale peachy apricot colour.

I think that between us, we wore this hat a lot during this photoshoot! It is very comfortable and easy to wear, and more flattering than I imagined when I first unpacked it.

And it goes with a range of outfits! I love the freedom of non-matching that the 1950s gives you. I seem to often see fashion photos and sketches with a range of bright colours worn together, and I love it! I tend to be conservative about colour, so I'm having fun stretching my wings a bit.

This adorable little blue corduroy cap I picked up at the Rock'n'Roll & Alternative Markets earlier this year, at Sydney University. It was one of a number of pieces (mostly jackets and dresses) that I got from some sweet ladies selling off a lot of their grandmother's (extensive) wardrobe. (The first time, their grandmother was there too, sitting out the back with a cup of tea. I told her what great taste she had!)

I thought I could draft a pattern from it, which of course I haven't yet done.

We had more trouble dressing to match this one, as it is a little more casual and not well suited to the floral dresses. Then Ruanne put together this pin-up style top and shorts combo and we had a winner!

I love the pheasant brooches on the top. I'm not sure if they are actually sweater clips, that this enterprising woman has put onto her hat, but that's my suspicion.

We took too many good photos in this shoot, so there will be a Part Two to the vintage collection shots, as well as some of my own 1950s-inspired hat creations, and some vintage-style maternity outfits with hats too.

Friday, 22 August 2014

My First Vintage Hat Repair Project: Before

Earlier this year, I floated the idea of adding repair of genuine vintage hats to my handmade millinery, and the suggestion was met with approval. Which is great, because I really wanted to do it, and probably would have anyway! It's nice to be supported by other people as well though!

I have since then obtained a significant number of vintage hats in need of varying degrees of love and attention. Today I want to show you the first project I intend to take on.

It's a bit of a doozy.

Perhaps I should have started with something easier...

The listing suggested this was 1930s or 1940s, but I would suggest 1950s is a better bet. (The yellow dots are my pins, by the way, holding it on to the head.)

The veiling is a bit limp and lifeless, but not in terrible condition. This whole job will be mostly mending, reshaping, cleaning, and reattachment.

I have to do my best to work out which way around it goes, and how exactly the shape and trims would have gone, which is not going to be easy. I'd love to hear your wise opinions!

The good thing at least, is that I can hardly make this hat too much worse! That's exactly the kind of project I love.

What can I say? Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Hat: Ideas and Intentions

Some of you may be aware of (and may be participants in) The Sisterhood of the Vintage Dress, hosted by Joanna at Dividing Vintage Moments.

The dress is going to travel the world, being posted from participant to participant, and each person wears the dress, takes photos, and posts it on.

I would have liked to participate, but I'm not in a great position to fit into regular clothes. I love the idea however, and I immediately thought about sending one of my hats on such a journey.

This is what I would like to do: Design and make a hat, and send it around Australia and the rest of the world, with people wearing it and sharing photos.

I'd love to hear whether this is an idea that appeals to people, and any suggestions or requests as to what kind/period of hat I might make for it. I'd like to do something vintage, as my main interest at the moment, but I don't know beyond that.

I'm going to try to make it something relatively small so postage isn't ridiculous, something that will fit any head size and be quite versatile with regards to styling. If I can find a small-but-pretty box, the participants can sign that as it travels, too.

Some thoughts about portable hat possibilities:

  • A small hat - e.g. a fifties half hat, small pillbox, small tilt hat

Hats in this style are not always tiny, but aren't too big. (AWW 1953)

Hat from Saks Fifth Avenue, 1940s (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Etsy seller MyVintageHatShop, sold. I've wanted to make one since I saw it!

  • A felt hat, but made with thermofelt, so it can be packed flat - e.g. a cloche, tilt hat
"Nita Naldi and Friends c.1927" (maudelynn.tumblr.com)

Nancy Carroll (1920s Writer blog)

  • A fabric hat, that can be packed flat - e.g. a fur hat, cap, beret

Maybe something similar to this black Dior number could be done in a flattenable form? (AWW 1952)

I couldn't find this except on Pinterest, but apparently it is actress Merle Oberon

  • A whimsy (I do like the name "Sisterhood of the Travelling Whimsy"...)

Etsy seller vintagehatgalore

Etsy seller foundundertheeaves

  • A headband - e.g. a 1920s beaded band 

Alma Bennett, 1926 (Valentino Vamp on Tumblr)

Etsy seller, AntiqueLaceHeirlooms

Would you participate in a Travelling Hat experience? What kind of headwear would you like it to be? Any other suggestions for portable hats?