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 and my great desire to have the hat. 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.
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” hat blocks out there, at least in my price range. I decided, since I didn’t need to pin the hat to a form, I’d just use my own ample head to shape it.
I began by taking lots of photos of the hat from many angles so 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 in that 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.
It didn't show up at all in the photo, but there is steam pouring out of the steamer
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 steamed the inside of the hat thoroughly.
To protect my hair I placed a very glamorous piece of plastic wrap as a barrier between the steamed hat and me. From that point, it was a process of smoothing the crown and coaxing it over my head, starting at the top and working my way down. 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!
I attached the new petersham to the inside, since the crown was now larger, and restitched the exterior ribbon 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!