A couple of years ago I bought a very simple cloche style hat from Marks and Spencer in the sale for about £8. It’s made of black felt and has a trim of chunky gold coloured chain around the front which is finished at the sides with a gold coin button on either side. I don’t wear this hat at all and I’ve been trying to figure out why.
Having sat down and really scrutinised it I came to the conclusion that the trim looks cheap, tasteless and very modern. Ughh! Thankfully it is stitched on and not glued so can be removed. Well done M&S for not taking the cheap route on that part. This has left me with a very plain but very wearable 1920s style hat, which is great, but I want to make it look more authentic.
So what sort of trims did they have on their hats back in the 1920s?
Feathers are a very quick and easy way to add adornments to a hat and can be done in so many ways. You can simply add a couple of long feathers at the side that sweep forward to add drama or stitch shorter ones tight against the crown for a more subtle look. A huge gathering of marabou feathers in bright contrasting colours is another great way to simply add interest.
A great tip of somewhere to find unusual feathers is fly fishing shops. Fly tiers use all sorts of different feathers to create their flies and these can often be much cheaper than from a milliners or craft shop. I used to buy a lot of feathers this way when I was dating a fly fisherman!
Florals are a common theme for 1920s hat embellishments and many are made from scraps of velvet, probably left overs from evening gowns and opera coats. Simple petal shapes can be cut and placed together to create an abstract floral look or templates can be used to cut out complete flowers which can be stitched in the centre and pulled to create a more authentic flower shape.
There are plenty of velvet flower tutorials online such as the Fabric Rose Tutorial on the A Gilded Life blog and the flowers made for this purse on Art E-Zine. I’ve got tons of scrap velvet of all sorts of colours in my fabric boxes I could use to do this.
I adore bows, it’s a plain and simple fact, and the bigger the better! A classic bow can add interest to any garment very quickly whether it’s in a matching colour or a completely contrasting one and when placed in an unusual position like the top one can be seen as quite unique.
Different fabrics will also create different styles of bows with soft velvet making floppy, looser bows and milliners grosgrain ribbon making a stiffer prominent shape. This great post on Wiki How shows different techniques to make a bow, including a double one like the bow in second photo.
The overhanging embellishment was a classic of the 1920s Flapper as it often drew instant attention to her face with its constant movement. They work brilliantly well on hats without brims or very small ones so they are free to hang down. My cloche has no brim at the back but gradually forms a brim from the sides to the front which would allow for an overhanging embellishment if it was carefully placed.
Tassles and trails of flowers work really well as you can see above but things like ostrich feathers, especially long lengths of it that drape over the shoulder, can create real drama. Phryne had an amazing black one with huge plumes of ostrich feathers in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries that would be amazing for a glamorous night out.
Buckles are so simple but add a really unusual feature to hats as they are not normally something you would imagine to see on such a garment. Buckles are usually used to tighten something or hold something in place but on a hat they don’t serve any purpose, they’re just decoration.
There are so many different types of buckles available and vintage ones in particular can be really incredible. The choice is endless, from classic jet and mother of pearl ones to incredibly unique bakelite ones and from delicate rhinestone ones to enamel Art Deco motif ones. I’ve purchased quite a few vintage buckles over the last year so may have to raid the buttons and buckles tin.
There were lots of different appliqué embellishments used on 1920s hats from cord, sequins, lace, beading and more. These created amazingly intricate designs which could be applied either in one particular area or right across the whole brim and crown.
I personally love the idea of doing this, even though it would take forever, because they just look so luxurious and extravagant. A hat with decoration like this would always cost a lot more due to the materials and time put into it and it would make me feel like it was from a couturier of the era.
After doing lots and lots of research I’m still unsure of what to go for, mainly because I love them all. However, I think because it’s a felt hat in black I want to make it look autumnal, so want to use colours that reflect this. I think I’ll have a play with my scraps of velvet to see if I can come up with a design and maybe add in a small amount of appliqué to create something more deluxe looking. Hell, I may just do a combination of them all! Any suggestions would be gratefully received.