Vintage hats are beautiful to look at and, in many cases, more intricate than first meets the eye. Many collectors wear their hats to accent their wardrobes, but displaying and storing these artifacts -- whether they were prized finds at a thrift store or expensive wins at an auction -- takes care and is truly a labor of love.
Clean Before Storing
If your vintage hat has been on display or you've worn it, make sure it's clean before storing it. Perspiration, dirt and grime all degrade a hat over time, even if it's correctly packed for storage. Gently brush away surface dirt and particles with a large, soft brush. Use a damp rag with gentle, pH-balanced soap to clean stains or water spots. Never put the hat away if it's still damp. Allow it to dry completely -- overnight or longer if necessary -- before storing it.
One of the most common ways to display a vintage hat is on a mannequin head. Don't use one that's larger than the hat's inner circumference or the hat will stretch out or fall off the form and be damaged. If the head is too small, wrap some acid-free tissue paper around it before displaying the hat. Keep the display away from air vents and sunlight. For a hat with a lower front brim -- such as a fedora -- don't display it on a flat surface because it stresses the brim.
Before storing a hat, use acid-free tissue paper to fill the head space and any areas where tulle, feathers, velvet or other attachments hang so they don't crease. Rumple the paper loosely and form a blanket of support around the hat before storing it. If you need to stack several hats, group hats of similar size and shape. Pack a few layers of acid-free tissue paper in between each hat. Ornamental or elaborate hats should be stored alone. Don't let insect repellents touch the hats; they can stain whatever they touch.
Traditional hatboxes are a good choice for hat storage, and they can be purchased new or in antique versions in antique stores or the Internet. Lightweight, plastic drum cases are an alternative, as are sturdy square gift boxes. Whatever form of storage you choose, optimize the longevity of the hats by storing them in a moisture-free atmosphere that's not too hot or cold. If you opt to display the hats constantly, consider an acrylic cube or a deep, rounded-glass plate cover for protection.