M2000.48.5 | Hat form

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Hat form
1900-1925, 19th century
26 x 56.5 cm
Gift of Mme Aline Desjardins
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Form (1)
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Keys to History

For the hatmaker or milliner, this type of mould proved indispensable in fashioning a new hat. This one was used by female milliners.

The material for a hat-in-the-making (including fabric, felt, fur skins and straw) was placed on the mould and, with the help of steam jets and iron presses, would assume its form. A finish would then be applied to allow the new hat to hold its shape. The hat was finally ready to be adorned.

The years from 1890 to 1920 represented a great period for the craft of the milliner and for a style of women's headwear that featured spectacular proportions and ornamental design. While a great many women were employed in workshops and small factories that produced headwear, the industrial production of women's hats was slowly taking shape. During the1920s, the introduction of the bell-shaped hat, with simple lines and ornamental trimmings, facilitated the industrial production of women's hats.

With access to machines at every stage of production, the industrial manufacturing of hats differed from the work of the milliners. For the latter, products were generally hand-made by a single person at work with traditional equipment such as the wood or metal hat-making form.

  • What

    This wood hat-making form is made of two large vertical pieces with rounded tops. Between them, three narrow, removable parts served to adjust the shape.

  • Where

    Between 1900 and 1940, many Quebec women were employed in small workshops that did sub-contract production for the clothing industry. In such workshops, hats were produced alongside clothing and other accessories.

  • When

    Bit by bit, the mass production of hats would lead to a declining number of traditional hatmakers. In Toronto for example, their number fell from 1,215 in 1911 to 441 in 1921 despite a significant increase in the overall population.

  • Who

    This hat mould was used by two milliners: Artémise Goucy Desjardins (1867-1939) and Laura Lajoie Desjardins (1894-1990). They were the grandmother and mother of Aline, the artifact's donor.