Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Refresh Vintage Hats/Veils

Hello everyone! Today I want to share a quick and easy way to refresh vintage hats, or fascinators, that have been badly stored and are in need to new life. Be sure to look through all the photos and to check out the accompanying video at the end of this post. (Don't forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel.)

Lately I have been going through my vintage sewing and clothing items in an effort to de-stash. While sorting hats these pieces surfaced and I knew I finally needed to do something with them. I've had these vintage hats/facinators in my collection for several years now. They came to me along with some much nicer hats and had been badly stored by the former owner. I've never had much interest in late 1950s or 1960s fashions and because of their poor condition I really didn't know what to do with them. They were too pretty to toss so these sad little things have sat in a hat box unloved for the last couple of years. Until now!

Here are a few pictures of the hats before and after steaming. As you can see they were badly crushed and rather sad looking. These hats are all made from netting and have chiffon flowers and velvet leaves attached to the top, or in the case of the pink one, little velvet ribbons. So cute!

So, what will you need for this hat refresh tutorial?

- Vintage hat/veil
- Hat form or tailor's ham
- Iron with LOTS of steam OR a hand held steamer if you have one
- Straight pins (optional)

A few things to keep in mind as you work. STEAM IS HOT!!! I know that seems obvious, but please be careful! DO NOT touch or press your hot iron directly on the netting or flowers of your hat. The heat could melt or otherwise damage your item. Hold your iron several inches ABOVE the hat and LET THE STEAM DO THE WORK. :)

I practiced this method on the pink net facinator first as a test as it was the most damaged of the hats. I wasn't worried about ruining it. Your iron should be set on a middle to high steam setting. Let your iron heat up while your are placing the hat on your form.

If you don't have a hat form or hat block, a tailor's ham with work just fine
For this tutorial I used a hat form but you can also use a tailor's ham. Start by placing your hat over the form of your choice. Using your fingers, GENTLY pull/stretch the lace/letting. Do not pull too hard because you could cause the material to break.

TIP - To keep your hat from sliding around while you work place a couple straight to help hold it to your form.

Next, hold your iron several inches ABOVE your hat. Gently move the iron back and forth for a few seconds at a time to help the steam work its way into the flower petals and over the lace/letting. Let the steam to the work to relax the material and help fluff up the flower petals. It make take a few minutes so be patient.

If needed, use your fingers to lift up the flower petals then steam again. (DO NOT try and hold the petals with your fingers while steaming or you will get burned!!) Fluff, then steam. Save your fingers! :)

The flowers of the beige hat you see me working on in the video were really flat when I started. I found that several seconds of steam then using my fingers to lift up the petals followed by more steam worked well.

You may also find it helpful to tip your hat form as you work so the steam can really get under the flowers and around the netting.

That's it! What do you think? If you use this tutorial please let me know how it worked for you!

My apologies, the video is a little fuzzy at times. I think it's due to the lighting in my sewing room. I should note too, the video cut stops a little abruptly at the end because my camera decided to shut off. Silly thing. :p


  1. Thanks for the great tutorial! Just shared with all my hatty friends.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! And thanks for the share. :)

  2. Oh, great tips! I always look at crushed veiling and think that it can't be saved, but I'm glad to know that that is not the case. I really love how the green whimsy turned out, it's so pretty! ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  3. Great stuff, Emily! I actually did a whole series about this style of hat last year, after learning about them from my grandmother. One term for them was a "whimsy" which is part of the reason I fell for them!

    1. "Whimsy," I love it. I will remember that. Thanks!

  4. Incredible transformations. You breathed such fresh life into these beauties again. Thank you very, very much (from a frequent vintage hat wearer and seller alike) for sharing these awesome tips with us. I hugely appreciate it!

    ♥ Jessica

  5. Thanks, this is great...looking how to fix wrinkled old veils and flowers. I'm going to try this.

  6. I have three vintage hats, the tulle or netting is discolored and looks dirty and I would like it to be white again. Any suggestions. One is a flapper hat with a large tulle type poof on the side. The hat looks great but the tulle is dingy....Help please. If you could e-mail me @ I would be doing a happy dance. Thank you in advance Donnalee

  7. Hello there! Thank you for the hints here! I came across your website when I was about to try to refresh the veil of a vintage hat for a cousin's wedding. I was going to try your recommendation of the iron, but then I discovered that our iron doesn't give off a reliable stream of steam...

    So, I heated up a big pot of boiling water on the stove, then held the hat over the escaping steam. It worked great! A bonus is that the steam coming off the pot isn't as hot as a burst of steam from an iron, so it's easy to keep hold of the hat while you're working with it. Thought I'd pass that along!

    Thanks again!


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