Measuring for Mid-19th Century Hats

There are two factors for finding a comfortable fit: Size and shape.


The difference in wear or placement means we measure for a mid-nineteenth century had differently than we do for a twentieth or twenty-first century hat. The modern hat is measured just above the eyebrow. (This is also where many of us measure for bonnets. We want to keep you on your toes.) For mid-nineteenth century, we measure higher, at the hair line. In this illustration, we can see the difference between where the two measurements would be.


These higher, hairline measurements are often smaller than those taken at the eyebrow. A hat worn at this point can be slightly smaller to slightly larger for comfort. So, add and subtract an inch to your hairline measure.

For example: I am 22.5″ around at my eyebrows and 21.5″ at my hairline. The vast land of the internet tells me that the average woman’s head measures 22.5″ to 22 5/8″ around at the modern measuring point. So, I am about average. I comfortably wear a mid-nineteenth century hat that is 19.5″ to 21.5″

Here is my head with the tape showing where to measure. This is where I wear most CW era hats. This is the circumference of my head. My measurement is 21 1/2″. (Note: this is a full inch smaller than the modern measurement take lower.)

General guidelines I use:

  • Small = Less than 21″ at the hairline (crown less than 20″)
  • Average = 21″-22.5″ at the hairline (crown 20-21.5″)
  • Large = Greater than 22.5″ at the hairline (crown greater than 22″)


It is helpful to know whether your head is more round or more oval.When looking from above, some people have rounder heads while other have more oval heads. I have an average oval head. Very round hats don’t work for me without adding to the lining.

round ovalHat blocks can be more round or more oval with the same circumference. To illustrate: Both of these shapes to the right can have a circumference of 22.5″. Yet, the same hat would fit each head differently.

Published in: on January 10, 2019 at 9:01 pm  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You’re welcome.
    I think I need to repost it a couple times a year. I don’t know why it doesn’t want to come uo in searches.
    I know just the hat you mean. I keep looking for more straw.

  2. Take a photo from the top or ask a friend to see if you are more round or more oval.
    Do recheck your measurements.
    It has been a while since I made your bonnet. My memory does get foggy. (more stress=more fog)
    You are right. Head size and body size are independent.

  3. I am beyond thrilled that you printed this (head measuring) info again. I have been looking for it in vain! Thank you. Please know that my large head and I are still interested if you ever come across any more vintage two tone straw. The one you made a while back, with a shape that reminds me of the Musketeers, was exquisite! Be well.

  4. How do tell if you have a round head or an oval head? So if my head is 23″ around for modern measurements it might be smaller and I might be able to wear a smaller hat? That means I need to remeasure my head and it also means I might be able to wear more hats I thought were too small, maybe. I usually ask you if you think it will fit my head since you made my bonnet for me and it fits perfectly. I trust your judgement. I think there are more women with bigger heads than people realize. You don’t have to be a large person to have a large head. Also, some large bodied people have small heads. I have a friend who is a small to medium size bodied person, but, her head is bigger than mine. She doesn’t look like she has a big head until she tries on hats.

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