Back in 2004 I posted about the bizarre-looking hatmaking device called a conformateur; most of the links are now dead, and they weren’t that informative anyway, so I am now linking to Oh Joy! My Conformateur, by hatter Tricia Roush, explaining how she got hold of “something that’s been on my ‘fantasy hat making’ list for a long time- a conformateur set. … They’re quite rare to find, and almost never seen with more than one piece of a set together.” She provides all the pictures, diagrams, and explanations you could possibly want, including the all-important formillon, which uses a paper pattern to recreate the customer’s head shape. If only I had a a pattern with my name on it at a hat store!

And if that doesn’t sate your hunger for hat-related links, here’s a Guide to Buying a Top Hat by Charles Henry Wolfenbloode, explaining and illustrating all the main types. (Don’t allow yourself to be suckered into getting a non-collapsible shiny fabric shell hat, “a pale imitation of a collapsible topper” that “should be avoided at all costs.”) There’s an extensive glossary at the end (coodle: a shellac based paste used in the process of making goss; goss: linen, cotton calico or chessecloth that has been soaked in coodle and left to cure for a few months on a frame; used to make the shell of top hats). Thanks, LobsterMitten!


  1. LobsterMitten says

    Glad you enjoy that link; I certainly did.
    Also, for proper attibution, I got it from this Metafilter thread posted by unliteral.

  2. marie-lucie says

    I love it. At one time I worked as a historical costume designer and maker, but hats, like shoes, are very specialized, because it is harder to fit heads and feet than bodies. The pictures of the individual head patterns are quite unbelievable, with some heads looking almost deformed. No wonder people wanted hats to wear in public.

  3. I liked very much Woolfenbloode’s first picture of a mourning hat. Talking of hat fitters, I’ve always wondered how boys at Harrow School keep their oddly-shaped straw boaters on. I think there’s a strap around the back, like the US military yogi-bear style broad-brimmed hat, but it doesn’t look adequate.

  4. Buying a top hat? One inherits one from one’s pater.

  5. marie-lucie says

    But one doesn’t necessarily have the same head shape genes.

  6. Some adroit head-binding in childhood would doubtless remedy that.

  7. Wonderful! Now I know how to get my tin foil hat fitted!

  8. @marie-lucie: Re: “The pictures of the individual head patterns are quite unbelievable, with some heads looking almost deformed”: That’s because of how the device works; it hugely exaggerates any irregularity in transferring from head to pattern (and then reduces it again in transferring from pattern to hat). If your head were an absolute perfect sphere, the pattern would be a circle, but if not, then it would be nowhere near one.

  9. marie-lucie says

    Ran, I see. Of course a pattern, being flat, looks different from a finished garment, let alone a part of the human body. Thank you!

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