a Vintage Los Angeles Lifestyle and Fashion Blog


Awhile back I fell in love with a hat that Jill from Adeline’s Attic Vintage was selling. We discussed the hat, a lovely early 1930s felt very reminiscent of something Jean Harlow would wear, in detail, including sizing.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the size of my head as my great desire to have the hat didn’t have me thinking straight.  I bought it, but, like many others, it was too small.  I’ve mentioned before about what a big head I have.  My noggin is 24+”. With most vintage hats in the 21-22” range, you can see my usual dilemma.  I couldn’t bear to resell it, so was left to figure out what to do.  I came to the conclusion that the only thing to do was to risk it and try to resize it.
Resizing a wool vintage hat

Resizing a wool vintage hat
It looks like I have a huge lump on my head
Since my head is so big, finding a hat block to try and stretch the hat over wasn’t really an option.  There just are not a lot of 24” blocks out there, at least in my price range. The only conclusion I could come to, in a pinch, given I didn’t need to pin the hat to a form, was to use my own ample head to shape it.

The process began by taking lots of photos from many angles.  In that way I could remember the shape and any trimming placement.  I also purchased some new petersham ribbon to have on hand.  Petersham is different from grosgrain ribbon.  It has a scalloped edge on both sides, allowing you to steam curves into it easily.  I steamed a curve into the new petersham sweatband so it would fit smoothly into the curve of the hat.

Resizing a wool vintage hat Resizing a wool vintage hat

Resizing a wool vintage hat
Resizing a wool vintage hat

I removed the existing inner petersham ribbon sweatband, but left all the trimmings on the hat in place.  Fortunately I didn’t need to remove anything else. Using my garment steamer, I carefully steamed the inside of the hat thoroughly.  Garment steamers get blistering hot.  Beware!

To protect my hair I placed a very glamorous piece of plastic wrap as a barrier between the slightly cooled, yet damp steamed hat and me.  From that point, it was a process of smoothing the crown.  Gently coaxing it over my head, starting at the top and working my way down, did the trick.  This was a slow and gentle process, as I didn’t want to risk tearing the damp felt. Then I left it on my head, smoothing it every now and then in case the wool decided to shrink.  After about an hour, I took the hat off, stuffed it full of a towel to hold the shape and let it dry fully.  Once dry – a perfect fit!

Resizing a wool vintage hat
I attached the new petersham to the inside, since the crown was now larger.  The exterior ribbon was stitched back in place, hiding the gap in the now too small ribbon in the folds of the hat.  A perfectly-fitting hat of my dreams. A professional milliner would likely shudder at my method, but it worked for me and for my pocketbook. I’ve since done it for another hat, a woven 30s hat. Fortunately my risk-taking paid off and this big-headed gal now looks pretty swank!

Resizing a wool vintage hat

I should add as a side note that I have since purchased a 24″ hat block.  And it still isn’t big enough.


5 comments so far.

5 responses to “RESIZING A HAT – JEAN HARLOW-STYLE 1930s HAT”

  1. tubby3pug says:

    Great idea and it worked beautifully

  2. Fashionista says:

    I love your innovation! Although can totally understand when the motivation is the need to wear a gorgeous hat. It looks fabulous.

    I have the opposite problem, I have some sort of ridiculous pinhead so hats are generally way to large. Hence when I do find one that fits I buy it! When I have long hair I put it in an up-do and that way I can wear some of the others in my collections that are normally too big.

    • admin says:

      The grass is always greener, isn't it! I bemoan I will likely never get to buy a horsehair cloche, as my head is as big as a satellite. But I hear you – find a hat that fits, buy it! Don't question it as, in my situation, they're so rare.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Go you! I hear you about too small vintage,and many modern,hats.

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