One of the things I love in late Victorian fashion are the lovely, stylish (and occasionally outrageous) hats. I have played a bit with hats in 18th century, but I am in no way good with them. Nevertheless, as one is not properly dressed without a hat I wanted to try my best and maybe learn a bit along the way.
|My new 1870's
polonaise dress urgently needed one, preferably
something light colored, cute, suitable for spring and
summer wear and with flowers and feathers.
I chose a few fashions illustrations from 1877 as my main inspiration. Both have the brim turned up on one side, revealing flowers underneath. It's a charming, coquettish look that I felt would go well with the frilly dress.
Many hats of the era were made from straw, and as the color is just right for a light blue dress that was a natural material choice.
|Unfortunately most of
the cheap straw hats you can buy nowadays are made from
wide plaits of rather coarse straw, much heavier than
was used in the delicate period hats (or at least the
high-end ones). This is, of course, a recurring problem
with most modern materials. Anyway, I decided to use one
of those from my stash.
|I took apart most of
the hat and reassembled it into a smaller hat with a
rather low, slightly conical crown. Figuring out the
right proportions for a hat has always been difficult
for me until I can really try it on, especially if its
meant to be worn with a high or puffy hairdo.
I sewed the straw plaits by hand this time, because machine tends to break straw. The joins are not terribly neat because the straw is so wide, but they can be mostly disguised under decoration.
|I first tried to
steam and iron the brim to turn up on one side but it
didn't really want to take a lasting form. My plan b was
then to turn to metal wire.
Many period hats have the underside of the brim lined with fabric, and I thought this would be very convenient for hiding both the wire, my less than elegant stitches and the messy ends of the straw plaits. So, when I dyed the bows for the dress I threw in a piece of the same silk for the lining.
|The final color ended
up being darker than I had planned, so the hat too had
more contrast than the pastel-toned look I had
envisioned. I guess I could have used white silk
instead, but as I wanted it to match the dress I went
with the darker blue.
|I have never really
studied period hats up close in any detail, so the
constructions methods are mostly a mystery for me, so I
just improvised on what seemed to work for the purpose.
First I sewed a narrow bias tape into a channel for the
wire and joined the ends to match the brim edge.
I had cut the lining piece in bias and joined it to a a bit shorter length than the brim circumference. I pinned it on the wire casing by quarters, stretched it to fit and sewed it on the casing edge.
|Next step was to pin
the combined wire casing and lining on the underside of
the brim so that the lining turned on the top side and
the wire settled just over the edge. The wire works like
piping here. The bias cut lining settled quite smoothly.
|I fastened the wire
casing on the brim edge by whip stitching just next to
the wire so that the slanted stitches disappeared
between the straws. While working I turned the lining
away from the place I was sewing on.
|The final result was
quite neat and felt sturdy, and the wire really keeps
the brim in shape. When I had finished attaching the
wire casing I turned the lining on the underside,
gathered the other edge and whip stitched it on the
inside of the crown. As I had a bit of the material
left, I also lined the top of the crown.
|I curled three white
ostrich feathers and fixed them on the back side of the
crown. One was supposed to curl on one side and the two
others over the crown, but in reality they have a life
of their own and end up where they want to, especially
if there is even the slightest wind.
|I had originally
planned the polonaise to have two larger bows at the
back, but ended up using only one, so conveniently I had
an extra hemmed tape of silk for the hat. I wrapped it
around the crown, securing it with stitches here and
there, and made a large double bow from the ends at the
back to cover the feather stems. On the front I added a
small decorative hatpin and with tiny flowers.
|When making the ball
gown I had developed a newly-found enthusiasm for making
fabric flowers, so my original plan was of course make
the flowers myself for this too. However I happened to
come across some very cute tiny paper roses in perfect
shades of pale blue and buttercup yellow, so I used them
instead. From my stash I also found tiny paper flowers
in darker blue to add some contrast.
|I had made tons of
leaves for the ballgown flower wreaths, and still had
some left over. I assembled the flowers and leaves on
into some kind of bouquet which I fixed on the inside of
|The finished hat is
fixed on the hair with a pearl-tipped hatpin, and the
rat I used at the top of my head to give height to my
hair makes it especially easy and secure.
Like I mentioned earlier, figuring out the shape and the proportions of headwear while constructing it is usually a bit difficult for me. Placing the decoration is not really my strong point either, as I seem to be instinctively drawn to symmetry which just does not work where well-balanced asymmetry is the desired goal.
|So, the hat did not
turn out quite as spectacular as I had visioned, and the
most stupid thing is that I can't even really point out
why exactly, something is just a bit off. Also, the
coloring turned out to be stronger that I had planned,
and something in the contrast between the mid-blue and
the straw-color is slightly jarring here. Anyway, having
even a not totally perfect hat that goes with the dress
is much better than going bareheaded.
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