DIY - Hats & Headpieces

Hats for Music Man - the Pick a Little Ladies.

1912 was a very good year for story telling.  Historically speaking, was the year that the Titanic sank.  On stage, it was the temporal setting for Music Man, Hello Dolly, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins.  It was a huge time for fashion changes for women and the cut of dresses varied wildly, but the most iconic fashion accessory was the HAT!  Women's hats have never been larger, fancier or more varied than the per-prohibition, wild and crazy days at the turn of the last century when the Women's Rights movement was in it's infancy.  Ladies everywhere were throwing out the corset and trying to move a man's eyes upward.

These are currently rather simple, but when I get time to fancy them up a bit, I'll add more information.


To get started, you are going to need a basic hat. These are made on Bridal Hat forms from Beauty and the Beast, $10, but any basic wide brimmed hat, including less expensive straw hats will work.

I'm using Anita's Acrylic paint and Tulle ribbon by the spool from Hobby Lobby.

Use brush on acrylic paint, but go lightly.  If the hat form gets to 'wet' it will 'melt' and become misshapen as shown here.  You can use spray paint on hat forms, but the prettier colors are often price prohibitive.  Paint the under side of the brim first and allow to dry.  You don't have to paint the inside of the crown.  Flip and paint all of the top side. 

PRO TIP:  If you are using a Straw Hat, DO NOT use spray paint!  It will chip off in time.

Next, you're going to want to ruffle up the Tulle.  This will be used along the edges of the hats to make them appear larger.  Fold the tulle in half and gather along the selvage edges. 

You can do this the normal way with a needle and thread or a machine basting stitch to hand pull the ruffles.  However, I like to use my Ruffling Foot.  If you don't have one of these, you might want to invest in one.  They are great for crafting and sewing anything that requires a lot of ruffles.  It's difficult to calculate exactly how much materials you will need to gather up to the proper lengths, that's why it is best suited for gathering less expensive lace, tulle or netting for making decorations or crinolines / tutus.

For this sized hat, I found that about 2 meters of gathered trim will make two rows around the brim.  That's a lot of ruffling, even with the foot, but it's a lot less expensive than purchasing gathered lace.  The tulle is also stiff enough to stand out straight instead of flopping over.  So, it's kind of up to you, would you rather spend TIME or MONEY on your project?

Now it's time to glue the ruffled tulle trim to the top side of the hat brim.  Starting at the center back and going slowly, spread a light bead of hot glue about 4 to 6 inches around the edge.  Gently press the gathered edge of the trim into the glue.  Be careful!  The hot glue WILL come through the netting and stick to your hands.  It will also burn you if you use to much or go to fast.  To slow, and the glue sets before the trim attaches.  Hot Glue use is a skill that is well worth learning, but normally involves a few blisters before you master it.  When you get all the way around the hat, move in a fraction of an inch and repeat.

When you finish with the hand ruffled trim, you will still have a rather ugly edge showing.  Cover that with a narrow piece of purchased trim.  Here, I'm using the trim from the dresses, but any narrow, flexible trim will work. 

PRO TIP:  Ribbon Trims normally do NOT work as they are difficult to glue around curves.

If you are making just one hat for yourself, you may have a hat that fits well enough to skip the chin straps.  However, if the hats are intended for use in a play, I suggest you add 1/4 inch elastic bands to help keep the hats from slipping off on stage.  Simply measure a piece of elastic long enough to go from the side crown of the hat, under the chin and back up.  Using a generous bead of Hot glue, attach 3/4 to 1 inch of each end to the inside center of each side of the crown. 
These are simple hats ready to go!  At this stage, they stack nicely for storage or transport.  You may want to add matching Tulle Bows, silk flowers or feathers for a fancier look.  Just remember, extra decorations make the hats impossible to stack and real feathers break easily.

This is an older straw hat that was made for a prior performance of Music Man.  These were decorated with artificial flowers and tulle bows.  This one was stored on it's side in a box for quite some time.  I think the bent brim makes it more attractive.

PRO TIP:  Do not use gloss spray paint on straw hats.  It tends to flake off over time.

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