Tuesday 10 February 2015

A Guide to Buying Vintage Whimsies

Today as part of the #bringbackthewhimsy campaign, I'll be giving you some tips for buying a genuine vintage whimsy. We'll look at what sort of hats count as whimsies, where to get them, search terms to use when looking online.

What to look for

So a whimsy is going to be primarily veiling and trims, with no hat foundation. Ring hats can also be considered whimsies, and some other wire-foundation hats.

They wouldn't have had modern "fascinator" bases, or a significant solid base of any kind. There is a difference between whimsies and hats that are just small and have a veil. (Not that I'm trying to be a whimsy-snob or anything. Wear whatever you want. I'm just telling you what my research says!)

Where to shop?

I was happy to hear in the comments last time that people are finding whimsies at vintage and second-hand shops. That seems like the best option for being able to check out the condition yourself and possibly get a bargain too.

I've been browsing them online for a while, mostly through Etsy and Ebay. I have seen some "lots" of a few whimsies together, and these are usually great value. Sometimes the individual ones are getting up to a very high price for simple designs, so be cautious. There are, however, some really fancy ones that would be worth the price tag. I've also seen quite a few with original boxes, possibly unworn, which would give you a good chance of them being in excellent condition.

I've got a list on Etsy for #bringbackthewhimsy, which has some great examples. Some of the items on there are sold already, but I've included them for inspiration purposes for those who want to make their own.

I've also got a #bringbackthewhimsy Pinterest board, with more examples, including some pattern envelopes!

Search Terms

I think we all know how fraught with difficulty searching for vintage (or anything, really) online can be. Many sellers won't know that what they have is called a whimsy. Others won't know that what they have is NOT a whimsy.

Plus, of course, the other meaning of whimsy comes up a lot, and you might get a lot of results that are just whimsical.

I think it is often easier, if you have the time, to search for vintage hats and find the ones that are clearly whimsies. Adding 1960s and/or veil to the search helped narrow it down on Pinterest. Other terms that might be helpful are "veil hat" (another proper term for whimsies), "ring hat" (if you like that style), veil, birdcage veil (a modern term but possibly used by sellers) and fascinator (likewise). I also had some luck searching using "whimsey". And I saw "snood" used a few times on whimsies!

A word on modern handmade whimsies...I rarely look at the work of other milliners online, but I wanted to see what a search on Etsy for handmade whimsies would unearth. The results? I found a few amazing handmade whimsies that are totally true to vintage style, a lot of floral headbands and modern fascinators that I think they were suggesting counted as whimsies, and a lot of hats that are apparently whimsical.

Next time, guys, I'm going to do an actual tutorial on making your own whimsy. I'm aiming to make it flexible, so that you should be able to work with materials you are likely to already have, if you craft or sew at all.

The main material you'll want to make sure you have is veiling. One book I have suggests one yard of length, but I don't find I need that much. We should be able to make something work with less. You will also want a hair comb, or some kind of clip. See you next week for the crafting!


  1. Aha! Then I'm fairly sure "Afternoon" (see my comments on the last post) is not a whimsy.

  2. So fun! I don't have the veiling, but if I ever see some I'll pick it up and have a go styling it 'whimsy' style. :) ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    1. It turns up at Spotlight occasionally, depending on your store. :)

  3. Sometimes I have trouble to search things up on the web, because I don't know the right terms in english. But I found out that many times people don't know what they have for sell is a whimsy. I learn many things about hats with you Tanith! :o)

    Thank you so much for the links to Pinterest and Etsy list! You are a star ;-)

    Beta x

    1. You are welcome! Regardless of language, it can be very hard to search for things online when others are using such a wide range of terms!

  4. You already know I think this is a really awesome, really fun idea. ;) Thank you for a very informative post! I'm still on my shopping ban, so no new whimsies for me anytime soon, but I will keep an eye out for them for the future.
    I don't know if this is really your forte, but one thing I always love is seeing how women styled their hair with particular hats. It would be great to see some photos of women wearing whimsies, and the sort of styles they might have chosen to pair them with.
    Jessica, Zella Maybe

    1. I will try to find out what I can about hairstyles! Great idea :)

  5. This is really helpful info. So looking forward to the crafting!

  6. Thank you for such an informative post!! I was searching for Whimsies last night, and kept hitting 'whimsical' items. Now I have better search info, thanks.
    I'm super excited for the tutorial you'll be posting. Time to look for netting!

    Carla, Tiny Angry Crafts

  7. While in Seattle this weekend on a getaway, I found a Whimsy in a vintage shop and instantly thought of your blog post (I even mentioned it to the shop owner). I did not buy it (even though it was fantastic) because it was expensive, but it was sooo cute!

    The hunt continues, thanks for the tips :)

    1. How fun! Shame it was too expensive, but I'm sure there are cheap ones out there :)

  8. Whimsies truly live up to their name! They're such an underrated, marvelous element of yesteryear millinery. I have a small handful myself and usually sport them most often during the spring and summer, when the heat of a hat (and in recent years, of a hat and a wig) is often the last thing one wants, but you do desire to dress up your noggin' all the same. I'm so loving all your posts about whimsies lately. Thank you for shining the spotlight on this delightful vintage accessory.

    Big hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. They do seem like an ideal accessory for warmer weather, especially warmer nights when no sun protection is need. I'm glad that you are enjoying the current focus on whimsies. I'm enjoying it a lot myself :)


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