From a 1960's Era Dress to a Pink Edwardian Hat ------- a Wire Frame Project
skirt motifvintage wireframeconstructioninprogressPhoto of Edwardian Hat
Inspiration-Research-Construction-Progress-Photo Shoot-Web Page

padded bias tube


The inspiration for this hat was a dress that Steph brought into work saying, “Could you do anything costumey with it?” I fell in love with the couched silk bias tubing on lace, vine and leaf work. I thought about it for a day or so and then it came to me I knew it had to be a large wire frame hat with lots of fabulous plumes. Steph remembered it as being a dress of her Grandmother's but while asking around for family pictures of her in the dress it turned out that it was a dress of her Great Aunt's. I hope to get some pictures of her in this late 50's-60's dress to add to this page.

I would like to say something about cutting up Vintage pieces for costumes. I would not have cut apart this dress if it had been museum quality. It had many moth holes and small rust stains all of which made it suitable to re-work. One of the major pluses was the fantastic silk lining. It was a peachy pink silk taffeta that was also used to make the bias tubing to create the pleated leaves and couched tendril design. All of the detail had been done with a machine stitch but it was such high quality work it was not easy to tell.

To the left is the motif on the lower part of the dress that will make the brim of the hat. To the right is the full dress and on the bottom right is the neckline that will be the center front of the crown sides.

BYW if you see any one at Burning Man with the matching belt to this outfit, it's OK because I couldn't use it Steph passed it on to Jane. I think it will be a great addition to some of her costumes.


Wire Frame Hat

Wire Frame Hat

Wire Frame Hat

Wireframe hat

I have several books on making wire frame hats from this period.
1) “Skeleton Foundations, Part 1 Women’s Institute of Domestic Sciences” pub. 1920.
2) "The Art of Millinery" by Mme. Anna Ben Yüsuf pub. 1909.
3) "Millinery Theoretical and Practical" by C. Hill pub. 1900.

In fact, there is nothing like seeing the real thing and being able to get measurements and look at the construction methods. The hat pictured on the left is a wire frame hat made between 1906 and 1908. The hat was made by Evelyn Schade, as an apprentice milliner. She was born in 1890 so she was between 16 and 18 when she made the hat. It suffered some smoke damage in a fire and that is why it is so dark. The original color of the netting was white or cream. The flowers where once very colorful and the velvet ribbon a nice teal. Evelyn Schade was Feather Tippetts-Rosica's Grandmother, Feather is a costumer as well and I would like to thank her for sharing it with me.

Upon viewing this hat I learned several things and it reinforced several other things.

1) The fashionable diameter and height of the crown.

2) The numbers, the spacing and gauge of the wires.

3) Both the crown and brim are covered with net and not backed with a solid fabric.

4) The brim has two layers of netting, the fancier pattern one on the upper brim and a plain one on the under brim.

5) The small head opening and the right angle bend of the wires before the two small head opening circle wires.

6) There is a good deal of edge trim.

7) The crown and the brim where worked separately.

Feather told me that the hat was originally even and not out of round as it is now. You might notice that I took the pictures on paper with a 1" grid. This can be very helpful if in the future I want to go back and get measurements on something else.

I never planned to make the pink hat the same proportions as this hat but I did use the crown measurements (height and diameter) and the head opening measurements on the pink hat.


skirt fabric

fabric Cut


I separated the lining from the lace overdress and picked the seams of the lace until I could lay it flat over the hat pattern. This made it possible to figure out where the decorations would end up. It also help me decide just how big I needed to make the hat to include as much of the motif as was possible.













I trimmed the lace and moved one of the vines and a leaf because it would have been lost under the crown. I had to cut the leaf and the lace under it so the hole had to be patched with a scrap of matching lace. I decided to make an oval hat and also to make the opening off center that way there would be even more area for the design.






This is a picture of the cut lace that will cover the top of the wire frame when it is done.
Wireframe Construction


wire frame

crown wire

finished wire crown

To the left is a picture of the construction of the wire frame brim.

Before the picture was taken I overlaid a small circle of paper on the pattern this let me know the size and placement of the head opening. The opening is off center so the pattern didn't have the correct size and location for the head opening. I then laid four straight wires to form 8 spokes. I taped these down with office tape and cut them apart with wire clippers at the very centers. The spokes where bent to a right angle at the head opening.

I added a wire for every 4 lines of the pattern or every 2". I first taped the wires in place over the pattern with regular clear tape and then anchored the circles to the spokes with fine thread covered wire.


To the left is a photo of the nearly completed wire frame brim. All that needs to be done is to add the very last circular wire the second one inside the head opening and to bend the ends around and trim the extra off. It might be a little more apparent that the brim is off center if the picture had been taken from another angle. All of the circular wires are even with each other except the two inside the head opening.




To the left is a picture of the beginnings of the crown. The first step is to arrange the first 4 wires to make the spokes and to bend them at a right angle. In this picture you can see the tape I used to keep the wires in place over the lines on the pattern.







In this picture the crown is almost completed. All that needs to be done is to bend the ends around and trim them.

Once the wire frame is finished it needs to be colored to match the lace. This can be done with floral spray paint or permanent markers. You might be able to match you lace perfectly with the spray since it comes in many colors. I couldn't, the pink floral spray was just too pink so I used a combination of the spray and the permanent markers. Sorry I didn't get a picture of the colored wire frame.

cutting the silk

To make the bow and bias trim for the brim edge I needed to press and cut strips from the dress lining. I used a zigzag rotary cutter blade. The extra strips made fantastic flowers; the flower I used on the blouse was made from the silk fabric.

Hat in progress
Here is a picture of the hat before the brim edge had been added and before the plain netting was added to the bottom of the brim. On the right side of the picture you can see the pink wires from the frame. I decided to use two layers of plain netting to make the wires even less noticeable.

To be ready for the photo shoot I needed to fix up this vintage blouse so that it would be OK for the shoot. I needed to baste some matching net fabric to back the collar and yolk. I basted on a row of gather period lace that covered a few holes that I think where created when the original silk lining was taken out of the blouse. I also needed to carefully clean the blouse and carefully press it. I added the flower because there was a stain and hole right there in the front. I did have some qualms about doing all this to the blouse but the blouse had been altered before it was ever given to me so, I didn't feel so bad about it.


 blouse collar

Because the lining had been removed I had to make a corset cover, you can see it in the photo shoot pictures below. Another problem with the blouse was that most of the collar supports had broken, there was one left. So I needed to come up with something I could use to keep the collar up. Period collar supports where made from an early clear plastic Celluloid. It discolorers and becomes fragile with time. As a quick fix I used the plastic from a large Catsup bottle. I figured it was clear and quite stiff so, I cut out the flat front and back sections with poultry shears and soaked it in water to get the label off and to my surprise each piece was three layers thick, two thinner and one thicker. I chose to use the thicker one. I figured it was thick enough so I cut out the 4 supports I needed and used a heavy needle to add the sewing holes at each end. In the picture if you look closely you can see the replacement stays.

swing tack

In this picture you can see the painted wire, the gathered bias edging on the hat and a swing tack. The feathers where shaped so that they could be sewn onto the crown sides and then bend down and hang over the brim edge. In any kind of a wind the feathers would be ripped off of the hat so it is important to sew them to the hat lower down their shafts. A swing tack is how it is done so that the feather can be held in place but maintain some movement. One other thing I forgot to take pictures of was the bandeau. A bandeau is important to keep the hat at a tilt. It was also made of wire and I covered it with the silk fabric and then added silk flowers. You can see them in the picture below among the curls of the wig. In some of my pictures it is difficult to tell the end of the hat and the beginning of the azaleas. The azaleas where truly more orange but the foggy day lighting made them seem almost the same color as the hat.

Photo Shoot

Below are the pictures of the hat being modeled by Claudine de Montigny. She is a great model we had to go thru three sittings with downloads of the pictures each time until I got things right.

I figured my lath house, after added some color with flowers, would be an OK setting. Between the early morning fog cover and the camera flash I think I got some good shots of Claudine and the hat. I used no reflectors but I would have if the Sun had been out a reflector would have been needed light up her face under the large brim of the hat. I did hold the camera upside down and was shooting from about brim level so I think that might have help to keep the flash shadow from dropping down too far.

The sun came out at the end of the shoot and I got a picture of the sun coming thru the hat. That had been one of my goals.

hat picture
another picture
left profile photo
another picture
sun shot

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Last Revision: 23 April 2009

Copyright Lynn McMasters, © 2007
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