A Turban Fillet, 1811

A while ago now, during the Journal Journey Into La Belle Assemblee series, Natalie over at A Frolic Through Time brought two similar ball/evening hair styles to my (and her other readers’) attention. These styles for October 1811 were pointed out by Natalie as being perfect for someone to attempt for a Regency event and I thought “Oh! These are neat! And they would go so well with my pearl trimmed 1811 Elusive Blue gown. Perfect!” So I saved the link to the post and have been meaning to go back to it for the last few months.

After returning to that inspiration earlier this year and comparing the two styles in Natalie’s post, I decided on a turban fillet (see end of post for a definition). February’s HSF/M Challenge #2: Blue was the perfect kick I needed to get to work. While I technically submitted finishing the trim on my elusive blue dress for the challenge, I also finished my turban fillet slightly after the deadline. I enjoyed having a small project: it was a nice change from the usually long and complicated projects I often take on and am constantly in the midst of.

Here, then, is the fashion plate to which I am referring.

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No. 1. EVENING DRESS. A sea-green crape dress, vandykcd round the petticoat, and ornamented with large beads; a full drapery over the shoulders, and confined in to the back with a pearl band, ornamented round the neck and down the back with beads. A full turban fillet tapered, worn on the head. Pearl necklace, white kid gloves and shoes.

And here is the finished result of my labors.

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Side.
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Back.
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And the full ensemble.

I attempted to follow the detail of the hairstyle from La Belle Assemblee, down to the curls around my face (lots of extra work since all my hair is long!) and the little braid on the side. It was a puzzle to figure out and enjoyable to wear.

The question is, how did I get the turban fillet to stay in place on my head? Well, I thought of making a gathered tube wound with pearls, as Natalie proposes below, but decided to make my turban fillet have a flat back instead for multiple reasons. #1: there has to be a seam somewhere, so why not hide it intentionally? #2: I only had so many pearls, and winding them all around a sample tube used them up far too quickly so that I would never have reached the end and still been able to have pearls. #3: the angle of the pearls when winding them around was very challenging and I couldn’t figure out how to arrange them pleasingly. #4: “why waste pearls against my head?” I thought, when they’re going to be slightly uncomfortable and slippery there anyway?

So here is what I came up with: a length of fabric about 40″ long, wrapped around a strip of hi-loft poly-fill batting (not period, I know, but easy and free!), turned under and sewn down on the back, gathered across the top, with rows of pearls sewn on at intervals, and finished with loops on the back every few rows of pearls in order to secure the whole thing to my head. The entire thing is hand sewn. I have no idea how you would use a machine to assemble this the way I did!

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The top is the front of the turban fillet and the bottom is the back.

And yes, I was able to wear this to a Regency ball in April!

* Natalie notes the following about the description “turban fillet”. Please check out her post to see both fashion plates she refers to.

Turban fillet. For a change, just what you might imagine: a “fillet” is normally a narrow ribbon or wire wound round or encircling the head, while a turban is a, well, a turban. In this month’s evening dress hairstyle, we have a length of fabric well gathered to make a narrow, round, gathered tube, wound round the head. The turban is wound with pearls for extra measure. Handsome and I hope that someone will take up this style for a ball before long! The ball dress plate uses a similar design; it encircles the head more like the fillets we remember from Medieval fairy tales, but ironically, the effect is more turban-like to my eyes than the evening dress example, yet isn’t called a turban. Fashion, fashion.