Retro Revival: Thinking Outside the Pillbox

A 1950s pillbox hat tutorial. Image via  Click Americana

Now, here’s a handy how-to straight from the vintage vaults! This pillbox hat tutorial from 1950 had some pretty clever ideas about how to upcycle a worn and weary bathrobe, and we loved it so much that we decided to try this DIY out ourselves! Here’s how to make a no-sew pillbox hat using just a few household items.

No-sew Pillbox DIY

You’ll need:

  • An item of clothing ready for reincarnation (we used an old plaid cape)
  • Shoelace, piping cord, or your trim of choice
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Cardstock (we recycled some old snack boxes)
  • A bowl that fits your head nicely
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Hair combs


1. Find a bowl that fits on the top of your head nicely. Trace it on the cardstock in two separate places, so that you’ll get two circles.

2. Cut one circle right along the line, and the other with about a 1/2-inch ‘halo’ around it.

3. Cut tabs into the halo, then fold the tabs down.


4. Use a ruler to draw about four or five 2” thick strips, long enough so that two of them will fit around the circle with a little overlapping. The strips and circles will soon become the side band and crown for your hat form!


5. Carefully glue one of the strips to the tabs around the larger circle.

6. Do the same with a second strip. Before you do, cut off any excess length from the strip so that there’s just a little overlap when they meet.


7. Cut your clothing item into sections of fabric that will cover the remaining strips and circle.

8. Glue the fabric to each piece, taking care to keep them straight and flat.


9. Glue one fabric-covered strip directly over the side band. Do the same with the other, snipping off any excess length so that they meet perfectly in the middle.

10. Glue the fabric-covered circle to the top of the crown.

11. Use a shoelace, cord, or any trim you like to add a more finished detail around the area where the side band meets the crown.


12. Glue two small combs along the inside. You may choose to line the inside of the hat with more fabric before adding the combs. You can also go crazy with the embellishments – netting, flowers, whatever your heart (and hat) – desires!


About Cindy

Pun intended. Cindy loves dreaming up witty quips and groan-worthy wordplay. In fact, you could say this girl just wants to have puns. As an avid fan of the written word and a librarian at heart, she also loves used bookstores, especially ones that harbor cats. A lover of all things old, she takes every opportunity to nerd out on nostalgia.

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  1. Avatar
    Nadya N. 04/05/2013 at 9:18 am #

    so that’s how the hat stay in place..

  2. Avatar
    Julie C. (ModCloth) 04/05/2013 at 10:22 am #

    I love how this turned out, you crafty minx, you! 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Amy Laun 12/18/2013 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks you so much for this great post! Just made on last night and I am in love!

  4. Avatar
    Amy Laun 12/18/2013 at 9:31 am #

    made one* 😉

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