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Mad Cap

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The Mad Cap

By Karol Hosking


In 1930 Schiaparelli introduced the head hugging mini cap she called the “Mad Cap”. The original cap was constructed from a knit but as more women began to copy the design it turned up in all types of fabrics and enjoyed widespread popularity. Many of Hollywood’s leading ladies of films in the 30’s can be seen wearing a version of this versatile cap. Montgomery Ward catalogs even featured a version.

Mad Cap Front
Image courtesy of Dorothea's Closet Vintage

It is so easy to make your own and they look great with casual outfits, suits and dresses.

The following instructions for creating your own Mad Cap appeared in the Home Arts – Needlecraft magazine in 1936.

The basic cap:

Determine your “hat” size. Take a soft tape measure all the way around your head just above your ears. That is your hat size. Cut a piece of fabric 10 inches by whatever your head measurement is) plus a 1½" for seam allowances.

Fold in half crosswise (the fold will be on the short side - see diagram below)

Sew up the short side and one long side leaving the other long side open (creating a pocket). Press seams open. Finish that remaining open edge with grosgrain ribbon or seam binding ( I like using a one inch wide piece). Turn this under, press and hem stitch in place.

If you are considering some kind of top stitching - perhaps in a contrasting color thread (very popular on cuffs and collars in this era) you could top stitch the hem in place as part of the overall stitching design.

Mad Cap Back
Image courtesy of Dorothea's Closet Vintage

But there is more! As the photos show, you can wear the basic shape side to side or front to back (with seam in back). You now have a nondescript piece of fabric so try rearranging the fabric and adding embellishments. 

You can tie, twist, pin, pleat or drape the top in any manner you desire. If the resulting shape needs to be secured take a few stitches in critical places as needed or insert a feather through overlapping parts, secure folds with a hatpin or Bakelite or Lucite pin. Add grosgrain ribbon in a bow, or folded in pleats. Fold over and attach a tassel for a fez look.

If this is for a evening cap, add rhinestone button(s) or lightweight rhinestone pins for bling.

Personal variation: When I set about to make my very first Mad Cap, I decided that I probably wanted more fabric to work with at the top. I cut it for my head size (23 inches) plus the seam allowance but I added 6 inches to the 10 inches called for. My starting piece of fabric was 23 x 16 inches. I ended up with a higher cap that allowed me to tie it once (not a full knot) and let the tied ends droop down a little. I used a knit fabric mostly because that was what I found that best matched one of the colors in my suit. If I was making my dress or suit I would save a remnant of the same fabric for the hat!

Instructions excerpted from the book: Collectible Fashions of the Turbulent 1930’s

*Head measurements used for determining your hat size is taken using a soft tape measure wrapped around your hear just above your ears. This is the circumference of your head and your hat size.






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Updated: 6/15/11

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