HSF #16: Eugenie Inspired 1857 Straw Hat

I recently participated in an outdoor mid-century dance performance for which the weather was an un-obliging 90-something degrees + humidity. Yup, not kidding. It was HOT! And we were dancing on asphalt. Luckily, we were out on an island in the Boston harbor and had a breeze. But it was HOT!

Anyway, more on that performance soon, because it involved a new cotton print day dress made from one of my recently acquired historic cotton prints! In addition to the dress, I also restyled a straw hat to go with the outfit and keep some of the sun off of my head. The hat has been used with various other clothes (1780s and Regency come to mind), but I had only ever added a simple ribbon to it rather than really styling it. This was the perfect opportunity to really make something of the hat!

I wanted to keep it simple and in the 1850s/60s, so I started by adding inspirational images to my pinterest board for this project. I visited the board many times before making a decision that I loved the shape of Eugenie’s straw hat in this painting. The hat has that nice downward curve in the front that sort of frames the face and accentuates the fashionable heart shape. The gauzy/tulle trim was a little whimsical for my purposes, so I opted for a more subdued and practical trim style on my hat.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–1873) Eugénie of Montijo, Empress of France Date 1857

I started by wetting my hat in the bathtub then tying it with string so it would dry with the curve that I wanted to achieve in the brim. I also wanted the back to curve under a bit, so I let the hat curve on both sides.

Tying the hat to create curves.

Once the hat had dried all that was left was to trim it! I chose to use green silk left over from Evie, my 1864 ball gown, and some silk millinery flowers. The silk is narrow hemmed on both sides and the ends are fringed, showing gold threads (the fabric is green/gold shot taffeta). The long ends hang down the back while the hat is worn, a style like the one below which you can see in the images on my pinterest board. I also added a bow on the front like you see in the images. Turns out that the bow is not quite centered… whoops!

LAPL, Magasin des Demoiselles, August 1858

And here is the result of my labors, and my fulfillment of the HSF Challenge #16: Separates. “Make a non-matching garment which can be paired with other items in your historical wardrobe to extend your outfit choices.”

You can’t see the curve since the hat is sitting flat on the table… but you can see the trim!

Just the facts:

Fabric: A 4″ width of green silk 60″ wide plus a few scraps.

Pattern: None.

Year: 1850s generally, 1857 specifically.

Notions: Straw hat, silk flowers, thread.

How historically accurate?: I give it 98% (and that’s pretty high for me!). Straw, silk, more silk… The sewing machine was even invented by 1858, so the machine sewn hat isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. The -2% is for the polyester thread.

Hours to complete: 2, not including time for the straw to dry.

First worn: July 20 for a vintage dance performance on George’s Island in the Boston harbor.

Total cost: I bought the hat a few years ago for probably about $25, the silk was leftover from another project, and the flowers cost some small number of cents since I got them as part of a large box for only $5! Let’s just say $26 total.

Back view of the hat on my head. See how the front dips? This is also a sneak peak of my new gown, Georgina, to whom you will be formally introduced soon.
Front view. See the dip?

At first I thought I had made the curve too pronounced, but when I look at the pictures again, I think I was pretty darn spot on! Woo! Completed new separates accessory for my historic wardrobe: check. Oh, and did I mention I’m in early on this project? The deadline is August 12!

11 thoughts on “HSF #16: Eugenie Inspired 1857 Straw Hat

  1. A perfect summertime headwear! It’s fun to work with straw, isn’t it? The hat matches the dress beautifully and it’s such a treat to see the sea (undergoing very hot temperatures here right now).
    I love your little black parasol, is it an antique/vinatge one?
    Looking forward to being introduced to Georgina 🙂

    1. Thanks! Straw is lovely, indeed. The parasol was loaned to me by a kind friend. It’s actually a very well done reproduction. Of course, she can’t remember where she bought it, so I need to search the style out and get one myself, because it was quite fantastic!

  2. Me too, from this portrait of Eugenie, I made a hat for this type of output Compiègne(France) June 29.

  3. You hat came out just lovely. I don’t know what I like better – that the weight of the plait is right or that you are wearing a seaside appropriate hat at the seaside.
    One tip – Wiring the inside edge of the brim will help keep that nice shape. You can cover the wire with a piece of straw plait or a narrow twill to hide it.

    1. Thanks on lots of counts! 🙂 Wiring the brim is a good idea and perhaps one I’ll invest time in sometime in the future. This is an accessory that came together at 12:30am the day of the performance… so getting the trim on was an accomplishment! 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on If I Had My Own Blue Box: and commented:
    Here is a lovely example of how to do a seaside or recreation appropriate hat. She chose a hat with a fine, narrow plait. The shape she gave the brim allows it to dip down nicely in the front.
    A job very well done.

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