Have you ever found a dusty, crumpled vintage hat that you knew had potential? Now you can convince them to go portable. Here are some tips and tricks that I have used to care for my own vintage hats. Try them on your own vintage ornaments to refresh and renew, but use common sense and exercise caution when working with any vintage clothing piece.
Dusty hats are often listed as a prized find at a flea market or sale. Clean them with a baby hairbrush or an old shaving brush. The bristles are soft and there is less chance of damaging the hat. Brush in a circular motion, or if the hat has a nap (a fabric with a nap is one that has a fur or rough surface) brush in the direction of the nap. You can also use tape or a slightly damp towel to gently lift dust or lint off the surface. And don’t forget, hat boxes were invented for a reason – packing your hats in a box with tissue paper will help keep them in good shape to enjoy.
Do you know how to fill in withered flowers or ribbons? A little steam will enliven sad flowers or fabric ribbons. Use long tongs to hold the hat in the steam from a kettle or pot of boiling water on the stove. Be sure to keep your hands out of the steam as you carefully twist the hat so the steam rises up onto the flower and “unrolls” before your eyes. Keep the hat in the steam long enough to get the job done, but not so that it gets wet.
Every now and then a vintage hat loses its shape. If it’s a cloth hat, you can try steaming it briefly over a pot of boiling water to make it flexible. You can also put the hat on an ironing board and use a steam iron. Do not iron the hat; just hold the steam iron over the hat to allow steam to enter the fabric. Then, fill the hat with white tissue paper in the shape you want and let it dry or cool. You can also shape it on an inverted plastic container if you find one of the correct size. A large plate can help shape a felt beret or tam.
Feeling mysterious enough to wear a veiled hat but your veil doesn’t cooperate? Here’s an old trick my mother taught me that helps shape or smooth a wrinkled veil. First take a white paper towel and place it on an ironing board. Next, place a piece of waxed paper on the paper towel. Next, lay the veil carefully smoothed to the desired shape. The last layer is a white cotton towel. Set the iron on low heat and iron the layers for a few seconds. Work slowly in small sections at a time, moving the veil to a new place as you finish each section. This helps to smooth and stiffen the veil. You will have to experiment to find the best heat and time setting to safely iron the layers. Be cautious and use very low heat at first.
From simple berets to floral ornaments, take care of your vintage hats and you will enjoy them for years to come. Remember, a good hat tops a great outfit.
“If a woman rebels against high heels, she must be careful to do so with a fancy hat …” George Bernard Shaw