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Parlour Maid hat and apron

katiemo123 | Posted in General Discussion on

I’m looking for help with a parlour maid costume for a play I’m in, it’s mostly with the hat but would like some advice with the apron.  The style of apron I’m thinking about crosses over at the back but I’m not sure how you would get in and out of it and how it would tie.  I’ve looked on the internet but can only see front views.  I’m not keen on the soft gathered hats and would prefer one that sat up with some height.  Has anybody made anything like this before that could pass on some tips.  Thanks.


  1. User avater
    Becky-book | | #1

    The crossed straps in the back can be attached with  buttons on the inside of the waistband and the ties are just extensions of the waistband.

    Do you have a photo of the kind of hat you want?


    1. katiemo123 | | #2

      Of course, I didn't think of buttons for the straps.  I knew someone would come up with an answer.  As for the hat, well I was thinking it was probably similar to an old fashioned nurses hat.  I saw a photo recently and can't remember where I saw it now but I remember thinking that that was what I wanted.  I need to start writing things down now and not trusting my memory. 

      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #5

        The nurses hat described above sounds like a variation on the old Mob Cap that you sometimes see on maids.  You could make it out of starched organdy or cheap lace cloth that tends to be stiff anyway, and add a lace ruffle.  Experiment with different sized circles and different sizes of pleats or gathers until you have the look you want.


  2. Crazy K | | #3

    I'm not sure of a pattern but if you need a stiff hat, try using Timtex for a stiffener (is that a word??).  It's the stiff interfacing used for fabric bowls.  it would work great and is even washable.  Maybe using that and drafting your own pattern from your idea, you will have just what you need.  You can buy the plain and use WonderUnder fusible to fuse it to your fabric or now I believe they even sell two-sided fusible Timtex.....or maybe the same thing under a different name..........worth a shot!


  3. cafms | | #4

    Timtex was mentioned as a stiffener for the hat but that would probably be too heavy.  I think I know the type of nurses cap you are talking about.  It is just a light circle with a pleated crown.  My cap was not one of those but there were some at my hospital when I worked.  It would have been made with a circle of starched organdy.  You would take the flat circle and fold small pleats around the edges to bring it up then secure them with a length of narrow lace ruffle or ribbon.  It might be helpful to have a cardboard circle about two inches smaller in diameter to fold the pleats up around and keep the top even.  Or use a can the proper diameter, press the pleats against it and then put on the lace or ribbon.

    I think the maid in the stage scene in the movie Somewhere In Time with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymore wore a hat of that type and the apron also.

  4. Teaf5 | | #6

    The other posts are right on; you don't really need a pattern for the apron, but if you'd like a size and yardage guide, you can use a pinafore pattern (almost all pattern companies have Raggedy Ann costume patterns) if you can't find an appropriately shaped retro apron pattern in the books.

    If you have a photo or website that shows the type of hat you want, someone on this forum is likely to have suggestions for you!

    1. katiemo123 | | #7

      Thanks for all your replies and suggestions.  I think I'll be ok with the apron now, I've got an apron at home I'll take a pattern off.  Still can't see any hat styles I like on the internet but I found this picture and I think I'll probably go with that style.  Any ideas on how to construct it though?  Hope I've managed to upload the picture, never done this before.

      1. User avater
        Becky-book | | #8

        Thanks for the photo!

        Try working with a shape like the one in the attached pic.

        The line A-C-B is the distance on your head that you want the hat to cover.

        The distance from C to D is the amount you want it to stand up in front.

        The longer line A-D-B could be made wavy, like your picture, but it was easier to draw smooth.

        Materials to use...

           Possibly white broad cloth with craft fuse interfacing to stiffen it

          cheap lace with "Stiffy-stuff" liquid stiffener to make sure it stands up

        the photo hat might be stitched to a black ribbon that is tied under the hair, might also have a small lace ruffle on the other side of the black ribbon.

        Hope this helps,


        PS if this pic is too big, try opening it in a new window or new tab. (right click first)

        Edited 7/6/2007 9:12 am ET by Becky-book

      2. Ralphetta | | #12

        For the head piece, you might try looking at plastic placemats/doileys. sp ?  They are somewhat stiff and have decorative scalloped edges and some look like eyelet fabric.  The audience wouldn't know it wasn't fabric.

        Edited 7/6/2007 10:35 pm ET by Ralphetta

        1. user-51823 | | #13

          that's not a bad idea, depending on how small the venue is and now close the audience.
          i would just caution that a maid's cap and apron are a set, a uniform, and they should match. if the cap is made from or trimmed with lace or batiste eg, the apron should have a ruffle or other visible trim from the same.
          don't forget to stitch on some wide matching cuffs if the dress has long sleeves. it completes the look

          Edited 7/7/2007 11:31 am ET by msm-s

          1. Ralphetta | | #14

            You make a good point about "matching."  I might also suggest that you can use a plastic headband and slide the casing with ruffle/trim/ribbon onto it and you don't have to worry about pinning it to your head.  You can only wear it in one position, but that looks like where the one in the picture is worn.

          2. user-51823 | | #15

            if a cap is to be worn in a more horizotal position, over the brow (which is how i read the illustration), you can use black elastic instead of ribbon and you shouldn't need anything else to keep it in place. or it can be pretty black ribbon up front, sewn to elastic across the back.

          3. Ralphetta | | #16

            I didn't realize that it came down that far onto her forehead, but you're right it does.

      3. mygaley | | #18

        Becky-books pattern looks good to me. Do you think the ruffle in front is a self ruffle; that is, the entire piece gathered and then the black ribbon sewn over it? By the way, for inexpensive projects, diluted elmers glue is a cheap way to stiffen anything, dip, dry, dampen, iron and you're good to go. For a quality garment, do use the commercial stiffener. Galey

      4. Teaf5 | | #19

        My first impression is of an upside-down white foam tennis visor or a plastic tiara for the base under a scalloped length of heavily starched linen and/or lace.  While neither is truly authentic, any stage actor will appreciate wearability and comfort, especially if you have to take it on and off frequently.  If not, starched linen/lace held on with bobby pins (or stitched to a wig, if you're wearing one) will probably work.

        I would caution, however, that stage lights are very, very hot, so do anything you can do to achieve the look you want without any extra weight or bulk.  A heavily starched fabric on top of a steaming head of natural hair may wilt quickly; you can test the wearability by wearing the costume and hat in a steaming bathroom for however long you expect to be onstage.  (And you could get the bathroom really clean, too...)

  5. BernaWeaves | | #9

    RE: Apron

    The one I had when I was younger had loops at the sides of the waistband, and the straps coming of the top front of the apron came over the shoulders and were very long.

    You crossed the straps across your back, threaded them through the loops at the waist, and then tied the ends in a bow behind your waist. 

    The advantage to doing the straps this way is that the apron fit everyone perfectly. no matter what their size or shape.




    1. katiemo123 | | #10

      Thanks again for these ideas,  I'm going to have a go tonight with the cap.  I like the idea of the black ribbon and ruffle underneath so will attempt that.  Can't wait now to get started.  The suggestion about the apron going through loops at the side and then tying in a bow I will do rather than buttoning it because it may be used again in another play by someone a different size.  I'm so glad I found this site, your experience is wonderful.  Thanks again.

      1. user-51823 | | #11

        coming to this thread late, and it sounds like you are good to go now.
        here's some thoughts i had while reading: do you have a quick change? if so, the apron can be sewn directly onto the dress, straps lightly basted at shoulders to appear loose.
        hat- for a hat that fits more like the one in your illustration, all you really need is bassicaly a rectangle of fabric or lace. it depends on the style you want and how much attention the director wants you to draw: the pattern that becky posted will ruffle nicely at the top,whereas a straight bottom edge will stand up straighter. best look probably lies somewhere in between. thread a black ribbon through (it's good if the ribbon shows through at intervals). you can round the top corners. this style is worn over the forehead, bottom edge at brow level. i used to have loads of vintage pictures and patterns of this sort of thing but they are packed away. when you see a few hats like this from the front, you can see how easy it is. have fun playing with it and please post photos when you are done!"

        Edited 7/7/2007 2:07 am ET by msm-s

  6. user-51823 | | #17

    i'm so peeved that i can't find any really good pictures on the web of the sort of hat i'm describing; i know that tons of images exist and i just can't call them up.
    i've tried googling images of maids in marx brothers films and various other movies of the 1920's and 1930's, but either i don't get scenes with maids, or i get - ahem- contemporary sexy maid costumes. i feel certain that Upstairs Downstairs had some maids wearing these during the episods that took place in the flapper years, but i can't find them. anyhoo, here's the only images i could find of the low-on-the-brow style that you should be able to see in movies from the art deco area and thereabouts. (i love the image of the slightly frumpy maids taking a cake break!)

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