Top Hat Construction

I buy my felt hat forms locally - you can probably find them on eBay, too. You'll need two strips of sequin fabric about 8" wide across the width of the bolt, and another piece for the top of the hat. I try to to get the top piece from a scrap while cutting out the matching Tail Coat. You'll need a handful of pins, too (to hold things in place while they dry).

You may need to reshape the top (depending on the hat you have). I do this with varying widths of felt spray-glued onto the hat.

Top Hat (Shaping Top)

I begin covering the top hat from under the brim, in the center back. I have a heavy-duty machine that I can actually sew right onto. I sew on the inside where the side turns into the brim, gathering the fabric slightly as I go (because it will have to spread to fit around the outside of the brim). If you're going to apply this by hand, I recommend running a gathering stitch 1/2" from the fabric edge, gathering slightly, then folding it under along the stitch line and applying carefully to the underside of the brim.

Top Hat (Stitching to Brim)

The fabric is then stretched around the brim, then has to be gathered slightly up against the sides. Glue in place. and trim the excess fabric. Glue the top piece on and trim, too (leave about 1/2" hanging over the top edge).

Top Hat (Trimming Brim)

Starting in the center back, fold the fabric strip over and wrap the sides of the top hat. You may need to pull it taut around the top to get the sides to lay flush against the hat - use pins to hold in place as you work. Trim any excess on the bottom.

Top Hat (Covering Sides)

Go around the top of the hat and tuck in any wayward sequin strands with a pin. You'll also want to secure this seam with a few drops of fabric glue. Fold over the back seam and you can glue or hand-sew it closed (I prefer to sew).

Top Hat (Glueing Top & Sides)

And finally, apply grosgrain ribbon and bow - the ribbon will cover up the fabric from the brim and sides.  Click here to see my Blog Entry on making the ribbon and bow.

Top Hat (Side)

Top Hat (Inside)

To adjust the fit you can add layers of felt to the inside and secure with fabric glue. Built the layers up until it fits - but you may not need a strip all the way around.


  1. Hi Mina,

    My name's Craig, and I'm the director of the Sydney cast production.

    We're upgrading the cast's costumes and props, and I have a few questions, but want to address them separately if I can. Just the first of what I am sure may be quite a few questions regarding Columbia costumes. Firstly the hat. The description you have here is that you use a locally purchased felt-hat-form. Here in Australia that refers to the form you build a hat on, like a hat-block, as opposed to (perhaps) a finished felt/foam blank hat.

    Could you let me know what the brand of 'hat-form' is that you buy? as I can't seem to find one online which resembles the shape of the one/s you have on the site.

    Many thanks (for this and in advance)


  2. Hey Craig - I know I already caught you on FB but I'mma reply here for anyone else's benefit, too!

    The top hat is from Southern Importers, located here in Houston, TX. It's $7.95 and I recommend the Large size to fit over a wig (super easy to size them down with adhesive felt strips). I'll find out the brand next time I'm in town - doesn't seem to be on their website, and they are closed today (Sundays)