Thursday, August 20, 2015

Madcap Millinery

Elsa Schiaparelli wearing her "mad cap" design.
Photo courtesy

In 1930, Elsa Schiaparelli designed a head-hugging "mad cap" which was wildly popular well into the late 1930's. It was a simple knitted cap with distinctive pointed ends that could easily be pulled into any shape. The style was copied in all types of fabric and was extremely versatile. It could be dressed up by adding rhinestone pins or buttons, yet it was the perfect complement to daytime suits and dresses.

Katherine Hepburn in a "mad cap". Photo by Ernest Bachrach.

The "mad cap" was so easy and economical to make that instructions were included in the Home Arts - Needlecraft Magazine in 1936. "Cut a piece of fabric 10 inches by 22 inches (or whatever your head measurement is) plus a 1 1/2 inch seam allowance. Fold in half crosswise. Sew up one side and one end [creating a pocket]. Finish the open end with a strip of grosgrain ribbon. Turn this under and hemstitch in place. Place on the head, having the seam run front to back, or side to side. Pleat, drape, or twist whatever way most becoming. Pin and stitch in place."

The "mad cap" worn with the seam running side to side.
Photo courtesy Dorothea's Closet Vintage

"Mad Cap" Diagram courtesy

Singer/actress Violet Waters shows four ways to wear a "mad cap" as interpreted by The Couture Touch. A "pocket" of bias-cut, vintage silk is fashioned into pure sophistication with a touch of whimsy.

Sunset Serenade Violet Waters (newly coiffed) is from Integrity. She is wearing an Ashton Drake recreation of a Marsha Hunt costume worn in the 1936 film Easy To Take from the 2004 Annual Gene Marshall Convention in Hollywood.

Collectible Fashions of the Turbulent 1930's by Ellie Laubner.

The Art Deco Society of California

Thursday, August 13, 2015

1940's Style Sculptural Wool Felt Hat for Gene Marshall

An easy DIY project.

Gene Marshall

Madra Lord

These sculptural winged toppers are fashioned from two simple geometric shapes: a circle and a triangle. They are made from wool felt, one of the most commonly used material in the millinery industry. Wool felt can be blocked, steamed, and stretched in any direction; and it retains it's shape beautifully. 

Here's what you will need:

Wool felt  [See the end of this tutorial for resources]
Sewing needle and matching thread
Dressmaker chalk or other marking tool
Emery board
Ruler or tape measure
A glass or other round object for tracing a circle
Assorted trims
Glue (optional)

For the base of the hat, trace a 2 1/2" diameter circle on wool felt and cut out. Cut out a 1/2" wedge as shown. The decorative wings are formed from a 3" triangle. To give the wings a sculptural look, cut along the cutting lines as shown above. To mark the curve, you can either eye-ball it or measure in approximately 5/8 - 3/4" on the diagonal side of the triangle. Draw the curve cutting line with a marking tool. Trim off the excess felt. Make a cut to the point of the triangle leaving 1/4". Soften all cut edges of the felt by lightly sanding them with the finer side of an emery board. Note: If desired, you can adjust the size of your hat depending on the hairstyle or the size of the doll.

Overlap the circle 1/4" and off set the edge 1/8 - 1/4" as indicated by the arrow above. Hand stitch in place. This creates a little bump in the center of the circle which helps shape the base of the hat.  For the wings, twist the triangle shape 3 times and tack in the middle with a needle and thread to secure.

Place the wings over the overlapped portion of the circle and tack in place. Now you can decorate your hat as desired. For Gene's hat, I cut a second pair of wings from charcoal felt for contrast. The 1/2" wedge cut out from the circle was layered on top and beading was added. Madra's hat is decorated with feathers, berries, and beading. The hats are attached to the hairdo with hatpins. You can make your own decorative hatpins using corsage pins or extra-long dressmaker pins and add various beads.

Here is an easy, whimsical cocktail hat variation for Miss Marshall:

Gene Marshall

Cut out a 2 1/2" diameter circle in wool felt. Cut out a 1/2" wedge. Fold up one side of the circle keeping the outer edge even as shown in fig.1. Make a tiny snip with scissors as indicated by the arrow. 

Pull the opposite side of the circle through the slit. This will provide shaping for your hat. Fig. 2 shows the top of the hat and fig.3 the underside. The secret is not to cut the slit too long. You will want the felt to fold as shown above. Decorate your hat as desired.

Miss Gene Marshall

Resources and Credits:

Wool felt is available from Edinburgh  They offer an excellent weight felt for doll hats and it comes in a wide assortment of yummy colors. The felt can be purchased by the yard or by the piece. The piece size is 9 x 11 inches. Wool felt may also be available at some fabric and craft stores such as JoAnn Fabrics or Hobby Lobby. Be sure you purchase wool felt, not the synthetic craft felt.

Symphony in G Gene Marshall and Black Widow Madra Lord are from Ashton Drake.
Cocoa Crisp Gene Marshall is from Integrity.
White Orchid Gene Marshall is from JamieShow.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Felt Follies

Ivy Jordan
A witty and daring hat adds spice to a tailored ensemble. Actress turned director, Ivy Jordan, looks fashionably chic in a simply divine pumpkin felt hat worn with a tweed plastron and matching guantlet gloves, all from The Couture Touch. Black dress is from Madra Lord's "Dark Desire" costume by Ashton Drake.

A quartet of fabulous late 1930's, early 40's felt hats courtesy

An unusual shaped hat with yummy trim, probably late 1930's.

Gene Marshall
Wine felt is molded and shaped into a delightful rose hat, accented with a band of black straw and miniature flowers. Worn with a great suit and fabulous fur, Miss Marshall is ready for late-afternoon cocktails with friends. Jacket and gloves are from Ashton Drake, fur and necklace is from miniature furrier PD Root.

Madra Lord
Miss Lord wears a molded green felt Art Deco inspired hat with marvelous wings and feather detailing for height. The charcoal grey dyed "Croquet, Anyone?" jacket/dress ensemble is from Ashton Drake. Fur from Integrity.

Ivy "Vee J." Jordan and Cocoa Crisp Gene Marshall are from Integrity.
"Azure Elegance" Madra Lord is from Ashton Drake.
All OOAK wool felt hats are from The Couture Touch.