After encouraging readers to make their own hats in July and September of 1917, in November The Ladies’ Home Journal sent a staff member to buy nine fashionable hats and then make her own copies — and compare the costs.
I have included larger images of all the individual hats, later in this post.
The article does not have a by-line, but readers could address inquiries to the Millinery Editor.
“NOTE — If you would like to learn how to make your own hats, the millinery lessons will help you: “Hat-Frame Making,” “Covering a Velvet Hat,” and “Trimming a Hat.” They cost ten cents each. Descriptions of the hats pictured on this page and a list of the various articles used and their cost will be mailed upon receipt of four cents in stamps to cover the service. Inclose [sic] a stamped, addressed envelope to the Millinery Editor, The Ladies’ Home Journal, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with your request.”
Presumably, the photos show the originals, not the copies….
The purchased hats cost between $30 and $15. Making them was cheaper, of course, but the Ladies’ Home Journal made it clear that these store-bought hats were not overpriced:
“You may think, upon comparison of these prices, that the profits of the milliner are overwhelming; but in all fairness to the milliner, the figures which signify the cost at which these hats were copied at home do not include the salaries paid to the high-priced designer and the assistants, nor the wages of the dainty model who so alluringly pictures to you how you will look in the hat [!], or those of the saleswoman who serves you. It does not include the rent for the salon in which you comfortably relax while trying hats on, nor the many other expenses incident to the final delivery of the hat.”
Dover’s Women’s and Children’s Fashions of 1917: The Complete Perry, Dame & Co. Catalog shows eight pages of ready-to-wear hats with loads of trimming; the most expensive is $6.49, and most can be purchased for between two and four dollars. The Ladies’ Home Journal Millinery Editor must have thought her readers would be impressed by the idea of copying a $25 dollar hat for $5.
Here are larger images of the individual hats.
If you can read the words “trimmed with gray vulture” and not think of Neville Longbottom’s grandmother — or Professor Snape dressed in her clothes — where have you been? The position of the feathers reminds me of a skunk on alert….
This hat style, with the brim rolled up on one side, was recommended for “matrons” in July.
The hat on the left is trimmed with a “smart hackle fancy.” Clusters of feathers, sometimes known as hackle pads, can be found online. Here is a large selection of hackles from the Zucker Feather company (a wholesaler.)
The wings on this hat are made of moleskin (a brushed cotton) and velvet — and it cost $12.25 to duplicate at home, more than any of the others.
Hats that required special navigational skills — hats which were extremely tall, or extremely wide — were often illustrated. I showed more 1917 hats in a previous post: click here.
The hat on the left, below, is quite wide, and has a very high crown, too.
The “rolled quills” are probably long feathers that have been trimmed to have short barbs. This was not a good time to be a bird (or a woman with an aversion to wearing parts of dead animals), although by 1913 the Audubon Society had succeeded in passing legislation to protect native and migrating birds. (Read a good account here. (“Mama, there’s a woman with a dead body on her hat who wants to see you.”)
However, there are plenty of delightful 1917 hats to copy without looking like a taxidermist’s shop.
If you were persuaded to make your own hats, and you wanted to learn the milliner’s craft, the Woman’s Institute was ready to help with a correspondence course: