It’s not every day that you get to see a hat which once belonged to Edward VII, but that is exactly what happened when I went to visit the Musee du Chapeau (Museum of the Hat) at Chazelles-sur-Lyon in France, last year.
The museum is located in buildings which formed the premier hat-making centre of France right up until 1976 and was in its time a major employer; there were more than 300 people working here.
The hats (like the king’s) were generally made from felted rabbit fur. A film at the start of the tour showed the whole process, then displays in various parts of the former factory illustrated the various stages. All the hats began as a large felted cone shape.
The shape was placed over a wooden form – there were a variety of forms, as you can see below.
Steam was used to heat-press and shrink down the felted shape.
The cone ended up at about a third of its original size.
The ‘trims’ room, full of sewing machines, was a delight. The work here certainly looked preferable to the heavy, hot work amongst the machines that manipulated the felted shapes.
Marie Curie’s hat was also on display.
The entrance hall to the museum explained that the 1960s fashion for going bare-headed ruined the hat-making industry. Quite a shame really – I do love a good hat!
Do you have a favourite textile museum?