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Millinery TLC: Caring for Your Hat

Your hat will give back to you what you give to it, so take good care of your special chapeau!

Stains on Felt Hats

  • First try to sand your beauty with a really fine sandpaper (80 to 120 grade), depending on the level of damage.
  • If your stain is stain is stubborn, apply steam and try to pick it out like a blackhead, using a straight pin or a soft brush. Think of this as a facial of your hat.

Stains on Cut-and-Sew Hats

  • Dirty cut-and-sew hats should be taken to the dry cleaners, especially if the hats are made with buckram.
  • You can hand-wash hats without buckram or the silk scarf you made for the sun hat yourself.
  • However, it's important to let all cut-and-sew hats dry in their own time.
  • Drying your chapeaux in the dryer could shrink them, wrinkle the fabric near the seams, or fade the brilliant colors over time.

Upkeep for All Hats

  • It's also a good idea to dust your hat occasionally with a soft brush.
  • For darker colors, a lint brush or even double-sided tape works wonders!

To Make Your Hat's Head Size Smaller

In case you've made yourself a new hat and your friend who has a pea-head keeps eying your original, you have a few options:

  • You can wet the grosgrain ribbon and it will dry tighter overnight. For faster results and a smaller head size, stick the hat near the radiator.
  • You can pinch and hand-tack the grosgrain ribbon at both the left center and right center to tighten the ribbon.
  • If you're OCD and can't sleep at night unless everything is your idea of perfect, you can sew in another grosgrain ribbon atop the existing one for a sleek, clean look.

To Make Your Hat's Head Size Bigger

If you want to stretch your hat up to 3/4" (2cm), do it yourself with a little patience and steam.

  • Apply steam around the rope line several times non-stop. Do not be afraid, as steam can never damage a felt hat (unless it's a card-carrying member of your vintage collection).
  • Once you've loosened up the fibers, hand-stretch your hat by carefully pulling it outward from all angles so as not to warp its shape. Don't be too rough though; you wouldn't want to have to make it smaller if you stretched it too big.

Keeping It's Shape

  • If your felt feels limp after a season, simply pull out that cap of spray sizing you bought when you made it and stiffen that sucker back up again.
  • If your C.F.F. sits on your hat in the back of your boyfriend's 'Vette (which is a terrible place to store your hat, by the way), all it takes is some steam and gentle hand-blocking.
    • Steam will soften the fibers and immediately bring it back to life.
    • You'll have those creases fixed quicker than you can spread warm butter on Grandma's Saturday morning biscuits!
  • Don't ever wear your hat in the rain - unless it's a rain hat of course!
    • If it starts to rain while you're trotting about, take off your hat quickly; otherwise you'll ruin its shape.
    • Once you get home, you can dry it on low with your blow dryer. But you don't want it so dry that it becomes brittle either - that's just as bad as leaving it in the sun!


  • A hat box is a wise investment. It only takes a few moments of your time to pack up your hat, but this will ensure a lifetime of wear. You can even stack hats with similar crowns on top of each other to maximize your storage space.
  • However, if your chapeau is in season and you know you'll be wearing it frequently, you can hang it on a hook or coat rack for safekeeping and easy access.
  • If you can't even find the time to acquire a hat box, you can at least stuff the crown with paper and store the hat in a bag to protect it from the elements and from being your mini-Maltese's next chew toy.
  • If you're on tour with the band, cruising in Cozumel, or any place you want to take your hat off, be sure to put your hat on a soft surface when possible.
  • If the brim of your hats slants down, make sure you let the slant hang off the surface when you set down the hat. Placing it on a hard surface will warp the brim over time.

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