Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Hat Patterns from the 1950s

While researching vintage hat styles in The Australian Women's Weekly, I also found quite a few sets of patterns and instructions for making some simpler hat styles. I've attempted one of them, and I want to share it here with you today.

The Australian Women's Weekly, 9 June 1954

It is described as a Butterfly Cap for teenagers for late-day or later. I found the teenage label unusual, because the woman in the article photo looks very sophisticated and grown-up to me. Once I made it myself, however, I found it looking much more youthful.


I think the hair and outfit styling will have a large impact on whether this little hat looks young and playful or elegant and sophisticated.


You can find the pattern and instructions for The Butterfly Cap in the 9th of June issue of Australian Women's Weekly, on page 30, which you can access here.

Like most vintage patterns, especially free ones squeezed into a small magazine section, the instructions are sparse and assume you can fill in the gaps. On the other hand, it's quite a simple one, so you would have a hard time going too wrong.


Tips about Materials:
  • Velvet or velveteen. (I used velvet from a second-hand skirt. The thickness of the fabric helps give the shape volume and hide stitches.)
  • Sparterie (It's hard to get your hands on this vintage millinery material these days, but there are plenty of substitutes. I used what we tend to call buckram or leno or 20/20. Any stiff-but-shapable millinery foundation material or stiff interfacing should do fine.)
  • Millinery wire
  • Thread and needles
  • Hair comb (Not called for in the original instructions, but mine didn't like to stay in place without. I added a plastic hair comb, cut into 3 pieces and stitched onto the inside. My advice - make the cap as instructed, try it on, shape the wire, and if more is required, try a comb.)


Construction Tips:
  • The good thing about this design is that it's nice and clear what look you are aiming for! If necessary, fudge it, as long as it keeps looking like a bow!
  • Experiment with the final shaping. Mine sits out like a more puffy bow, rather than sitting flatter like the magazine example. Both work fine, so play around to find the look you want.


The best thing about this pattern is that it "is guaranteed to highlight your hair and make you look prettier".

There are lots of other patterns and instructions for hats (and other accessories) in the pages of Women's Weekly, and even some newspapers. Here are some others from the 1950s that I like the look of:

And there are so many more. I found some of these while searching again for ones I had previously found!

What do you think of The Butterfly Cap and the other hat patterns? Anything take your fancy?

I'd love to hear if you try any of these, or of any other free patterns you recommend.
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20 comments

  1. Oh wow, thanks for the free pattern links! I'll try to do some of these during a school break. I like the butterfly cap you made, I want my own version in red!

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    1. Oooh red would look so nice! I look forward to seeing the results of some of the others if you do them!

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  2. Love that hat! It's like a bow on steroids. I was wondering how you kept it in place, I don't know how it would work without the comb.

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    1. "A bow on steroids" - love it! I think if you had a smaller head or scaled it up a bit, the wired sides might be strong enough to hold it on, but I'm not sure.

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  3. I looked up the Gene Tierney beret...just love the advertisements and 'hints' on the same page.

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    1. I didn't even look at those - they are great! I hate it when the billycan blackens the rest of the things in my picnic basket! :)

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  4. How enchantingly pretty!!! My first thought (after "Love!!!") is how stunning a matching row of these butterfly caps would look on the heads of the bridesmaids at a wedding.

    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Oooh that would be so lovely. Simple but elegant!

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  5. very pretty I love how it looks with her slightly undone hair

    retro rover

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  6. This is gorgeous, I want one! Thanks for providing the links.

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  7. this hat is wonderful. i would wear it right away!

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    1. Thanks! I could see this working with many of your gorgeous outfits!

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  8. Just a note for anyone that decides to make one of these - many of these articles are still 'uncorrected" on Trove, so the plain text to the left hand side of the screen is still OCRd text. If you get a chance to correct some text, this improves the search results for later users of the site!

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    1. I should do that! I don't pay much attention to the plain text at all, but I should probably start giving something back :) Thanks for the reminder.

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  9. Hi, the link to the original source is broken. Any chance you can point me in the right direction?

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    1. Oh no! How strange. Thank you so much for letting me know.

      The article is here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/51398309 and I've fixed the link in the post as well.

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  10. This is my fave. I might have to try it! Thanks for the link. These are so cool! Two-coloured cloche and braided toque (1952) Tweeeted about this one! YAY!

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    1. Thanks Tam! I hope you do give it a try, it's a lovely pattern :)

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