HSF/M #7: 1885 Straw Hat

This month’s HSF/M challenge is “Accessorize.” In preparation for the first wearing of a new 1885 outfit next month, I made up a hat to match.


I chose to make a flowerpot shaped hat, a style that is quite common in the mid-1880s. You can see other examples of this style and others on my 1880s headwear Pinterest board.

The straw base of this hat has seen multiple previous shapes that failed in creating a look I was happy with. (You can see one of the old iterations in this previous post from 2012. And as a side note, I really need to wear the other clothes in that post again–it’s been awhile and they’re cute!) So I was happy to reblock the straw into a new shape (that I am very happy with!).

IMG_2398I made my hat block out of packing foam stuff that I masking taped around a lysol wipe container–make do with what you have, right? To begin, I wet the straw, then used a paintbrush to cover the straw with a layer of my sizing (a bit of elmer’s glue dissolved in water–no formula, I just winged it). In order to keep the straw in place while the hat was drying overnight I used yarn tied and pinned in strategic locations to keep everything in place. I wanted to use twine, but we’d run out, so I made do again. As you can see, there is a random seam in the middle of the hat crown, because in the past it had made sense to have a crown separate from a brim, but for this hat I needed some of the old brim to become the crown. (The seam was later covered by the tulle trimming.)


My inspiration for the trimming of this flowerpot hat is this fashion plate. The lady on the left happens to be wearing an outfit in the same colors as my outfit and the fashion plate is dated only one year later. I used materials I had on hand, but was inspired in general by her trim placement and scale.

Side view.
Side back view.

Just the facts:

Fabric: A bit of blue silk shantung for binding and a length of 6″ wide tulle.

Pattern: None.

Year: c. 1885.

Notions: French crinoline for binding the straw edges, thread, millinery grosgrain for the inner hat band, elmer’s glue for sizing, and vintage millinery flowers.

How historically accurate is it?: As accurate as I can be using the research I’ve done and the materials that are available in 2015. It definitely passes Leimomi’s test of being recognizable in its own time.

Hours to complete: All hand sewn, so a few mostly on the brim binding. Then a whole lot of days debating over the placement of the flowers–actually sewing them on didn’t take very long.

First worn: Has not been worn yet, but I have plans to wear it in August.

Total cost: Free! All from the stash!

Successful Regency Face Framing Curls (Dolley Madison Ball 2014)

Portrait of Maria Theresa of Austria (1801–1855), 1817

You know those face framing curls that Regency women often sport in paintings and fashion plates? Modern ladies with bangs have it so much easier than those of us with all around long hair when creating this style! Unfortunately, I’m one of those modern ladies with long hair all around. The only short pieces I have are frizz! Nevertheless, I wanted to try to create this style at the Dolley Madison Ball hosted by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers earlier this month.

A scene from the Dolley Madison ball. More pictures of the ball can be found at Plaid Petticoats blog and Dames a la Mode blog.

I’ve been pondering how to fake these face framing curls with my long hair for awhile. I’ve contemplated hiding the bulk of my hair length under a turban and having the curly ends come out from under that (which I still think would work, though I haven’t tried it…yet). I had the fabric for the turban picked out from my stash, but then I decided to wear my 1819 ruffle dress and when I looked at images for turban inspiration I didn’t find anything similar to what I was envisioning for that particular period. But I did find a lot of cute buns with braids and flowers (like the painting at the beginning of this post, and this portrait from 1813, and this fashion plate from 1819, and this fashion plates from 1816). So I changed course and decided to go in that direction, instead.

Successful face framing curls surmounted by a braided bun and ornamented with a little flower bouquet!

All of the flowers and leaves used in my little bouquet are intended for millinery, meaning that each stem of blooms and individual leaf is wired. That makes it particularly moldable once it’s on my head! Originally, both flower sprays were bright white which I didn’t think would go with my ivory dress and lavender jewelry, so I decided to try dyeing the flowers to a more suitable color. After brainstorming for awhile I decided that going in a purple direction with the flowers would nicely complement the jewelry and make the entire ensemble look put together. So that’s what I did, using RIT. I wanted to be down and dirty about just getting the flowers dyed, so I used whatever colors I had (which included navy blue, wine, and purple). I made a few different cups of dye with different colors and then dipped the different stems in until I liked them, which also created variation within the sprays, which I think helps them look more lively. Unfortunately, some of the silk flowers lost their nicely cupped petal shapes after being soaked with dye, so the flowers do have a different style than before they were dyed. The more vertical sprays didn’t seem to droop at all after dyeing nor did they loose their shape. I’ll have to keep that in mind for next time!

A better view of the bouquet.

So, how did I do it? First, I separated the hair at the front crown of my head to save for later. Then I put the rest of my hair into a pony tail. I curled bits from the pony tail (about three per side) and then pinned them along the top/side of my head so they terminated right below the separated crown bit I held out from the beginning. That took a lot of bobby pins… Once I was satisfied (which took a long time and included a melt down… sigh, it happens to even the best of us sometimes!), I parted the separated crown bit and brought those pieces down over the side of my head to cover all my bobby pins. Then I wrapped the ends of those bits up into the bun. I also braided some parts of the bun, though it’s hard to see that detail in the pictures.

I had fun helping a friend make similar face framing curls for the ball, too. Here we are, being curly hair friends!

Note: My friend has shorter hair than I do–it’s maybe shoulder length (mine is at least 6-8″ longer than that)–so we were able to use the same method for her hair, but without the added extra effort of putting the front bits into the bun and then running them back to the front of the face. Basically, with my hair I had to zig zag back and forth to make the pieces short enough, but with her hair all she needed was a curling iron and the front parted bits to cover the bobby pins!

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!

First Picnic Of The Summer: Part II

You might have noticed that my last post was titled “First Picnic Of The Summer: Part I” but I didn’t actually mention what the next part would be. While the last post had general pictures of the day and of our outfits, this post is going to be filled with more artsy, detail shots. We had fun playing with the cameras that were available and working on our photography skills.

First, my feet. I wore my blue silk stockings and Astorias from American Duchess.
These links contain an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of these products.
More feet. It’s fun to play with the focus of the photo in these detail shots.
The willow and the trained skirt have similar qualities that make this photo neat.
I enjoy how the branches fill in the background space and create complimentary curves with the skirt.
This was intended to be casual bench lounging, but it looks very Sleeping Beauty c. 1900 to me. Where’s a prince when you need one?
I love the longing reach for the reflection of the willow. That’s a good metaphor for life sometimes… reaching for reflections.
This is pretty, too, with the skirt and tree having similar qualities. Also, I love the pop of red on the ground. Could be that those are flower petals… but I actually think they’re the remains of some child’s balloon animal.
Playing with the focus on some lovely roses.
Baby ducks! I enjoy that they are not what your eye is first drawn to in this photo and I like the super bright green of the tree.
My favorite: a close up of the allium flowers!


Annabelle, adorned with flowers

Over the summer I built Annabelle, a white flounced 1860 ball gown, in order to have an alternative to my dark blue 1860 ball gown. My intention was to adorn Annabelle with flowers, as in my inspiration fashion plate from Godey’s Lady’s Book (Annabelle is based off of the gown on the far right); however, I did not have time over the summer to add the flowers.

September 1860 "Dressed for a party" (Fitting title, don't you think?)

I decided to wear a be-flowered Annabelle to the Commonwealth Vintage Dancer’s German Cotillion last week. My original plan was to hand make the flowers from hand painted pink silk organza. I started on that endeavor, but the process was time consuming and so I have only made perhaps 100 flowers (first: cut 5 rounded point shapes, second: fray check the edge all around, third: gather the center of each flower). Each flower is about 1 1/2″ across. When I went to sew the flowers on the dress I realized two things that made me change my mind about using them: the flowers were too small for the scale of the dress and I would need so many more hundreds to make the look work. In the end I used purple millinery flowers, from the fantastic stash I mentioned in the post about my 1860 hair crescent, to adorn the dress. I actually really enjoy the purple flowers and the scale is far better for the overall look as well.

Annabelle with flowers!

I used matching flowers plus a few others in the pink family to create a wreath for my hair to match the dress.

Annabelle back
Matching hair wreath

If you would like to see what Annabelle looked like without the flowers, you can visit the following posts and see pictures: Of Flounces and Dance Cards: Part I and Ochre Court 1860s Ball 2011. And, to finish off this post, here are a few pictures of Annabelle in action at the German!

Playing dance games at the German Cotillion
Playing dance games at the German Cotillion

1860 “hair crescent”

I was recently able to purchase a fantastic stash of millinery flowers for a great price (they were basically being given away) and it is some of these flowers that will become a new hair decoaration to match Belle, my blue 1860s ball gown. I hesitate to call this piece of decoration a wreath, because I do not plan for it to encircle my head entirely; however, “hair decoration” and “hair ornamentation” are cumbersome, while “hair piece” sounds like it should be made of hair, which it is not…

There are two sprays of flowers that are sewn together and softly bent into a crescent shape. (Millinery flowers are so much easier to work with than stiff, plastic flowers from the craft store!) Maybe I should call this a hair crescent? I think that is the best name I have come up with so far…

The finishing touch is a comb that is sewn to the back, to help hold it in my hair while I am dancing (I plan to use bobby pins to attach the points of the crescent to my head). Here’s a picture of the finished crescent. I plan to wear it to a ball in December and I’ll make sure to get pictures of it in place.