Guidelines for Finishing a Straw Hat


I am calling this post “Guidelines” because there was a good bit of variation in how straw hats were finished and trimmed. Because of this variety, it is difficult to say “do this” because there are options. I am going to try to address the questions I get most often:


How do I keep a hat on my head?

There were a few ways original hats were kept on the head – narrow ribbon, wider ribbon, or narrow elastic. In each case, the ribbon or elastic was attached to the inside, side-walls of the crown. Placement is just above the ears. This could be tied under the hair in the back or under the chin. In photos showing wider ribbon as ties, the ribbon seems to match the ribbon used for decoration.

Le Follet, August 1861

Where can I put the ribbon?

Ribbons can be found in a wide variety of placements – The most common being around the base of the crown. They are also found as bows in the back, arrangements in the front, occasionally arrangements on the side, and as a binding around the brim edge. There are a few other placements seen in originals and photos such as “tabs” running from the crown to brim.

Magasin des Demoiselles, September, 1861

Where do I put my flowers or feathers?

Most flower or feather arrangements are center front with an attempt at balance if not symmetry. This is most, not all. Some hats have asymmetrical arrangements running from the front along to one side. The trick here is to visually move they eye while physically maintaining the weighted balance of the hat. Heavy flowers can cause a hat to be difficult to wear.

Magasin des Demoiselles, July, 1861

Can I wear a veil?

Yes. There were veils particularly made for hats. They would tie and pin to the hat. Another option is to have a deep lace circle the hat brim draping over the edge. Note: you want a natural fiber lace for either a veil or lace fall. These will allow you to breathe. Synthetic laces can make it difficult to breathe, especially in the heat.

Things to Avoid:

I generally don’t like to list things of what not to do. But, in this case, because there is so much leeway that could lead to foggy temptations, I think this may be helpful:

  • Nylon net (this is a heat and fire danger as well as an inaccuracy)
  • Obviously synthetic lace (if you have any doubt, skip it.)
  • Flowers with plastic (there are just better options)
  • Overly dyed feathers (On an overly humid or foggy day, the dye will come off and stain your hat, possibly your clothes.)
  • Wired ribbon


Magazin des Demoiselles, June 1861

The Queen, July 1862

Le Follet, October 1861

common 1

common 2

common 3

Published in: on March 12, 2019 at 9:28 am  Comments (1)  

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This has been wonderful info that you have shared. Enjoyed your posts on the straw hats.
    Thank you!

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