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93/122/12D Hat stretcher, mens, aluminium, maker unknown, Europe / Australia, used to make hats by McDougall Bros, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1940-1950. Click to enlarge.

Men’s hat stretcher used by McDougall Bros

Made by in Australia, Oceania, 1940-1950.

This hat stretcher is part of a collection of hat blocks and millinery equipment owned and used by Sydney milliners, McDougall Bros. The McDougall Bros, twin brothers Matt and Jim McDougall, had a millinery studio in Sydney making hats for Sydney ‘high society’, including Winifred Hurt. Betty Viazim , a specialist milliner who began her apprenticeship to Mark Foys department store in 1922, recalls the McDougall Bros as having : ‘a very nice little boutique in about Rowe Street, I think. I didn’t...


Object No.


Object Statement

Hat stretcher, mens, aluminium, maker unknown, Europe / Australia, used to make hats by McDougall Bros, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1940-1950

Physical Description

Hat stretcher, mens, aluminium, maker unknown, Europe / Australia, used by McDougall Bros, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1940-1950

High crowned metal hat stretcher divided in two parts with a large screw in the base and numbering panel and pointer on the right. The pointer, body of the screw and two side pieces have rusted and the base is hollow.


On the right side of the stretcher is a numbering panel giving the various hat sizes. From top to bottom it reads, '19 1/2 / 20 / 20 1/2 / 21 / 21 1/2 / 22 / 22 1/2 / 23 / 23 1/2 / 24 / 24 1/2 / 25'.



255 mm


260 mm


300 mm



Australia, Oceania 1940-1950


Europe 1940-1950


This hat stretcher operates by a large screw in the side which enables the milliner to move half the head away or closer to the fixed part, with a pointer on the right hand side showing the measurements of the head.
Hat blocks were introduced in the late 1920s. Blocks were used interchangeably, and could be assembled in a variety of ways to create different shapes and styles. The shape of blocks varied and developed throughout the years to reflect fashion and styles of the day, along with changes in technology. Hat blocks would first be covered with tissue paper to prevent dye from transferring onto the blocks and potentially staining future materials. Later, plastic bags or washable fabric 'hat socks' were used. Fabric, straw or felt would then be shaped onto the block, pushing along the grain of the material, and secured using string which was tied into a 'blocker's knot'. The material would then be steamed, and shaped into the desired style. In the 1940s aluminium blocks, or 'hot blocks' were introduced. These blocks were placed over an electric cone and heated in order to shape the hat.



The McDougall twin brothers, Matthew and James, were born in Ipswich, Queensland (28/12/1915). Their leisure interests were theatre and costume design and Scottish dancing. Matt was involved in the theatre and his partner was English actor, Max Oldaker . Jim joined the army from 1941-1946 and his partner was Wes Eaton.
In the late 1940s the brothers started their millinery business in the old Daily Telegraph Building, 147 King Street, Sydney. They soon gathered an elite Sydney clientele for their beautifully designed hats.
In 1957 they bought Carisbrook, an historic house in Lane Cove, which they renovated in great style. In 1966 they sold the greatly improved house to the council. Millinery was in slow decline after that and they closed the business. Matt died 16/9/1983 and Jim 14/10/1984, both sudden and unexpected deaths in the UK where they had gone to visit Scotland, the land of their ancestors.
Lindie Ward 15/1/2013
ref: Chris Carr, Carisbrook House newsletter


Credit Line

Gift of McDougall Bros, 1993

Acquisition Date

29 March 1993

Cite this Object


Men's hat stretcher used by McDougall Bros 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 12 November 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Men's hat stretcher used by McDougall Bros |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=12 November 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}
This object is currently on display in Collection Gallery 2 at the Museums Discovery Centre.

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