I've Been Framed

How to Make a Hat with Wire Frame Foundation

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Language Science Institute (LSI) Classrooms
Berkeley, CA

Samples of vintage wire frame hats were on display for everyone to examine and study.


We are lucky to have Ms. Lynne teaching for us! It was also nice to meet put faces to the names I have been keeping on my excel spreadsheet for this class over the last couple of months. Everyone's hat looked great and I hope when you finish your hats you'll send us some pictures we can put up on the web page for the class!
~Jana Keeler

In the years prior to 1930, it was common for a Milliner to make hats with a wire frame. The wire skeleton was made first and formed the the foundation of the hat. The wire gave the hat its shape and stability. It also allowed the Milliner the freedom to choose semi-transparent materials for covering the frame. This transparent covering was very popular in the hot summer time as it produced a hat that air could penetrate. It was also very pretty and delicate looking. In the winter heavier fabrics such as velvet could be used over the wire frame to produce a striking winter chapeaux. In the late 1920's this type of hat making died out. The popularity of straw in summer and felt in winter was over-whelming and covered wire frame hats fell out of favor.

After seeing many period examples of hats made with wire frames, Milliner Lynne Taylor-Seavers became intrigued. The wire frame making art is virtually lost. Antique books describe the process but, the period jargon and wording is hard to interpret; yet, these exquisite hats are hart to ignore. Lynne set out to copy one old hat but, soon ended up with several versions; thereby, learning how to make this type of hat. Period books on millinery and the correct vintage materials helped to complete her education.

The first step was learning how to work with the wire (strong hands required) and create the wire frame: a combination of wire cutting, twisting and wrapping.

JoAnn Peterson models the wire frame in a early (and admittedly odd) stage. At this point, we all realized this technique would be perfect for the headdress of a Statue of Liberty costume.

What a delightful class! Thank you again, Lynne. When I got home, I proudly showed my ruffled hat frame to (my husband) James Langdell, and he exclaimed, "Hat tutus!"
~ Danine Cozzens

Lorraine Carson begins the careful process of adding the fabric creating a semi-transparent hat brim.

Most of our hats had a completed (or almost completed) brim by the end of class. Lynne gave instructions and a demonstration of how to create the fabric crown of our new hats.

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