Have you ever found a dusty, crumpled vintage hat that you just knew had potential? Now you can coax them into wearable shape. Here are some tips and tricks that I have used to take care of my own vintage hats. Try them out on your own vintage toppers to refresh and renew, but please use common sense and take care when working with any piece of vintage clothing.
Dusty hats often pop up as a treasured find at a flea market or sale. Clean them with a hair brush made for babies or an old shaving brush. The bristles are soft and there’s less chance of damage to the hat. Brush in a circular motion, or if the hat has a nap (a fabric with nap is one that has a pile or rough surface) brush in the direction of the nap. You can also use sticky tape or a slightly damp towel to gently lift surface dust or lint. And don’t forget, hat boxes were invented for a reason – packing your hats away in a box with tissue paper will help keep them in good shape to enjoy.
Do you know how to plump up wilted flowers or ribbons? A little steam will perk up sad fabric flowers or ribbons. Use long tongs to hold the hat in the steam from a tea kettle or a boiling pot of water on the stove. Be sure to keep your hands out of the steam as you carefully turn the hat so that the steam rises onto the flower and it will “unwilt” before your eyes. Keep the hat in the steam long enough to do the job but not so that it gets wet.
Once in awhile a vintage hat loses its shape. If it’s a fabric hat you can try steaming it briefly over a pot of boiling water to make it pliable. You can also put the hat on an ironing board and use a steam iron. Don’t iron the hat; just hold the steam iron above the hat so the steam goes on the fabric. Then stuff the hat full of white tissue paper to the shape you want and let it dry or cool down. You can also shape it over an inverted plastic container if you find one that is the right size. A large dinner plate can help to shape a felt tam or beret.
Are you feeling mysterious enough to wear a veiled hat but your veil is not cooperating? Here’s an old trick that my mother taught me that helps to shape or straighten a wrinkled veil. First take a white paper towel and put it on an ironing board. Then place a piece of wax paper over the paper towel. Next, place the veil carefully smoothed out to the desired shape. The last layer is a white cotton towel. Set your iron on a low setting and iron the layers for a few seconds. Work slowly in small sections at a time, moving the veil to a new spot as you finish each section. This helps to smooth out and stiffen the veil. You’ll have to experiment to find the best heat setting and the length of time to safely iron the layers. Err on the side of caution and use very low heat at first.
From simple berets to flowered finery, take care of your vintage hats and you’ll enjoy them for many years to come. Remember, a good hat tops a great outfit.
“If a woman rebels against high heeled shoes, she should take care to do it in a smart hat…” George Bernard Shaw