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Topic Vintage Hat Repair...Help! Go to previous topic Go to next topic Go to higher level

By mishymisu On 03/24/02  

So I'm one of those vintage hat collectors that other collecters fondly hope will just die and stop snatching up the good hats. You see, not only do I wear the hats, I wear them to loud boisterous parties that usually end with me getting drunk and um "falling asleep" in the back bed of my boy's pickup truck. This classy behaviour has resulted in many hats acheiving a certain unbecoming "rustic" look. Does anyone have any ideas how I can clean up and reshape (No, I do not have a handy hat steamer) my cocktail hats? Most of them have feathers which are now winging out in all sorts of unexpected directions and are no longer as neat and shiney as they once were. Anyone else collect hats here?

By vicky_vale On 03/24/02  

yes yes! I am a hat collector and I just so happened to stumble upon a white angora kangol hat today. It is so cute but it is dirty on the inside rim. So I am going to have to figure out what to use to clean it.
I don't know about the feathers maybe some oil on your fingers while you preen them in the motion of their direction.
I probably wouldn't wear my favorite hats to the parties just incase.
Also do you have any dummy heads to place them on?
that should keep their shape, you can get them at wig stores.


By contessa On 03/25/02  

Okay, first of all, it literally pains me to hear about your lovely VINTAGE hats getting destroyed. I feel incredibly responsible to maintain, cherish and protect any vintage item that comes into my life. The fact that they have survived all these years is an achievement and it makes me feel so rotten when I accidentally ruin something.
Now on to what you can do to repair them....
Steaming is important and relatively easy to do. As you don't have a steamer you can fake it with an electric tea kettle - simply plug it in with water and when it starts to boil use the spout (that should now have a steady stream of steam) to aim and direct the steam to revive any wilted and mashed flowers (you'll be amazed at how they literally 'bloom' when the steam hits 'em) it's also great at molding the shape back into fur felt hats, raising the nap back on velvet and shaping straw hats.
Feathers will usually need to be replaced as they are very fragile. Unfortunately some feathers on vintage hats can be quite exotic and rare and impossible to replace. Sometimes a touch of steam will help but most times it's a lost cause.
To store your hats you should always put them on a wig head - you can usually get those ugly styrafoam kind for super cheap or at the very least use tissue paper to stuff and keep their shape. Hat boxes are also important as you accumulate more and more hats you'll find yourself stacking them on top of each other and destroying all your hard work of reviving them if they are not protected in cardboard. Don't ever wrap plastic around them to 'keep the dust off' as all you will do is trap the chemicals in the plastic with your hat and help speed up the deterioration of said hat. It needs to breathe while being protected. Again - hat boxes. In fact no vintage item should be kept under or in plastic - especially not those horrid dry cleaning bags. These items need to breathe. Use old pillowcases with a hole cut in the end to put the hanger through. Or old bed sheets.
If you want to clean the inside hatband you can use an old soft toothbrush and some mild detergent and water. Do it in small stages and do not soak the hatband as you may cause the material to bleed and stain. Basically use a slightly damp bristle to scrub and lift the grime off. Dab with an old clean towel as you go.
That's all I can think of at the moment as it's late and I'm exhausted from a long, long day in my shop. If I think of any other pointers I'll let you know. Good luck.
- Eva

By lumo On 03/25/02  

if the hats mean a lot to you, it might be worth your while to have them professionally looked after (and in the future pick ONE party hat for ALL your potentially-falling-asleep-in-it hat outings). i think it is very important to wear the items, such as hats, that you collect... but it's also important to respect their history...

there are a couple hat makers here in toronto that look after old hats and make new ones... hopefully there is one in your home town that you can (at the very least) go to for some advice. perhaps the ones that are worst for the wear can go to the 'hat doctor', and the others you can look after on your own... a gentle hand, some carefully matched thread, a bit of TLC, and you ought to be good to go.

~lumo (another hat collector)

By crankyisgood On 03/25/02  

mishy: i recommend keeping a hatbox in mr. mishy's truck and --this is the hard part-- learning to allow him to gently pry away the beautiful hat and place it in the hatbox for you before you go horizontal in the back.

then you won't have to fear these wonderful glitterati coming after you and taking your hats away!

and now to destroy some vinyl recordings...

yours in flagrant violation of the theory of putting beautiful things on the shelf, never to be used and loved again (okay okay i know you collectors love the hats in a different & totally valid-for-you way...),

cranky daphne

By donna dora On 03/25/02  

yay for wearing hats at completely inappropriate times! i once wore a little hat with a veil - over my face no less - to a disgusting, crowded, ucla, frat boy, kegger. it was a surreal experience. i don't think any other girl there was even wearing socks or shoes, just those cheap thong sandals.

By mishymisu On 03/25/02  

Whoa boy, thanks for the tips but I just wanted to reassure everyone that i am somewhat prone to hyperbole and my hats really arn't THAT mistreated, the feathers on some are just getting a litle wonky. But I will try to steam them back into lusterous shape, so thanks for the advice!

Donna Dora, I once, though bizarre twists of fate, ended up at a frat party (My one and only thank god) dressed as one of the three little school girls from the Mikado except in entirely sage green glitter fabric. I think every single drunken engineering student there made some sort of "hey, are you japanese? japanese girls are hot" comment at me. That was one weird night!

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