Your Weekend Wow!

My personal 18th century “wowza-palooza” continues with this delightful bergère, also from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Absolutely incredible. ‘Nuff said.

Woman’s feather hat (bergère). English or French, 1750-1775. Round disk-like hat with crown only slightly elevated, foundation of linen completely covered with polychrome feathers; lined with pale pink taffeta, one pale pink silk ribbon. Silk ribbon, linen, feathers, and silk faille lining. Dimensions: 35 x 35 x 2 cm (13 3/4 x 13 3/4 x 13/16 in.). Accession number: 43.1832.



bergere underneath


Marie Antoinette’s Tall Ship Hairdo – Who Wouldn’t Want One?

OK, so maybe a whole lot of people wouldn’t want one…but a whole lot of other people do. To follow-up yesterday’s Weekend Wow post, here’s some information to help your own set of locks make ready to set sail, so to speak.

("Independence Coiffure, or the Triumph of Liberty")

(“Independence Coiffure, or the Triumph of Liberty”)

First, the historical background.

In 1778, France signed a treaty and formed an alliance with the fledgling United States and, therefore, against their traditional enemy, Britain. The Battle of Ushant took place that year and was the initial major conflict between the French and the British. In the course of battle, a French frigate, the Belle Poule, badly damaged a British ship. The news quickly became a source of great pride for France and Paris was enraptured.

“All Paris was enflamed by the news,” the Vicomtesse de Fars recorded, “and for a month the ladies enshrined its memory with an object of fashion of bad taste, called the coiffure à la Belle Poule. This coiffure represented, more or less, a ship in full sail.”

This quote if from When Fashion Set Sail, by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, is an excellent and concise essay about the history behind the wearing of tall ships as a coiffure and can be found at WornThrough: Apparel from an Academic Perspective.

Coiffure à la Belle Poule

Coiffure à la Belle Poule


Anonymous, Le Négligé Galant Ornés de la Coëffure à la Belle Poule, 1778, Bibliothèque nationale de France, cote cliché RC-B-05642.

Anonymous, Le Négligé Galant Ornés de la Coëffure à la Belle Poule, 1778, Bibliothèque nationale de France, cote cliché RC-B-05642.


Anonymous, ‘Nouvelle Coëffure dite la Frégate la Junon’, Gallerie des Modes, 1778, MFA Boston, acc. no. 44.1290.

Anonymous, ‘Nouvelle Coëffure dite la Frégate la Junon’, Gallerie des Modes, 1778, MFA Boston, acc. no. 44.1290.


(original source and artist unknown)

(original source and artist unknown)


Ms. Chrisman-Campbell also writes (the emphasis being her own):

Though minor chapters in the story of American independence, in France these naval battles assumed a psychological importance far exceeding their military significance. Along with other events, places, and patriots who played key roles in the Revolution, they were celebrated in operas, ballets, card games, dances, and, especially, in fashion. At a time when women had no presence in government or the military, hats and hairstyles allowed French ladies to show their support for the American cause.

While the queen clearly had no objection to wearing elaborate confections on her head, and these may have included ships, there is absolutely no evidence to support either the identification or the interpretation. On the contrary, ship hats formed part of a much wider expression of French support for the American cause. They were worn by many women, if only for a short period of time. Some may have questioned their taste, but in political terms they were perceived as being patriotically anti-British rather than problematically extravagant or anti-monarchist.

And so a briefly lived flurry of fashion was conceived, born and ran its course. It is said that Marie Antoinette only worn her model of the frigate once.

But what a notion of over-the-top frivolous luxury these historical images have left with us. They are outlandish, hardly subtle, and somehow have managed to embody that mis-attributed notion of “Let them eat cake.” (Which was never said by Marie Antoinette, but very likely spoken 100 years before her by Marie-Thérèse (Maria Therese of Spain, Queen of France and Navarre, the first wife of Louis XIV.)

So, let’s say one is in the mood for a bit of nautical millinery. Is there a modern equivalent? Or are we reduced to playing with popsicle sticks, balsa wood, miles of string and globs of glue? Well, here are some examples gathered from the web to give you some idea of what others have been inspired to create. Whenever possible I’ll credit the creator, but there is a lot of un-credited genius out there.

Philip Treacy - 'The Ship,' a hat he made for Isabella Blow in 1995. He created a smaller version for the Museum of London...the hat shown in yesterday's post.

Philip Treacy – “The Ship,” a hat he made for Isabella Blow in 1995. He created a smaller version for the Museum of London…that’s the hat shown in yesterday’s post.

So grab a big mess of hair, make a ship and wave your magic wand. You don’t need an 18th century gown or  lavishly embroidered topcoat. As a Greek goddess apparently once uttered, just do it. Have fun, play, work with the possibilities and create a statement piece that will last.

A Quick Round Gown Update

close-up of Round Gown fabric

close-up of Round Gown fabric

Kleenex Expressions Oval CollectionThis cold is beginning to release it’s grip a bit, so I’m planning on sewing and seam ripping today. Amongst doing the laundry and whatnot, that is. The house I’m renting is up for sale. A potential buyer is coming for a walk-through on Thursday afternoon and there’s a lot of “whatnot” that still needs doing. This cold is not helping. (Do they ever?)

I discovered why my skirt looks so wimpy when I read the directions this morning – it was supposed to be a 3- to 4-yd length with a single back seam so that the selvage edges of the fabric are at the top and bottom edges of the skirt. I’d missed that part because I got there late.

I don’t feel so bad about it, though, because that won’t work for my decidedly one-way print fabric. So I’m doing it in panels and that’s just the way it is. Fortunately, I have enough to make a third panel, which will give me more than three yards of circumference to work with. There may be seams, but at least the volume will be correct. Thank goodness for that.

2014-11-11 11.21.02

The cold has me pretty well sapped of energy but I want the bodice finished tonight – all I need to do is stitch down the casing for the drawstring – unless I collapse first, and pick open the skirt’s side French seam. Happily, it’s all sit-on-the-sofa work which pits me in close proximity to the trifecta of relief for the common cold: tissues, TV and hot tea.

All in all, not so bad.

Regency Bonnet – opinion, please

Austentation Jane Austen Late Georgian Early Regency Straw Bonnet - Plain.

Austentation Jane Austen Late Georgian Early Regency Straw Bonnet – Plain.

Who thought it would be this hard? I’m having a devil of a time deciding what to do with the ribbon on this bonnet.

I don’t want to do plain ribbon, so I went through hundreds of images and photos of bonnets and there is evidence of folded ribbon used on bonnets. So, good. But I could not determine the pattern of the folds. Not so good. I went through Pinterest looking for examples of ribbon folding and found quite a few inspiring pieces, like this one:

(photo copyright Threads Magazine)

(photo copyright Threads Magazine)

But I don’t think that’s appropriate for 1795.

The ribbon with which I fell in love is a gorgeous, true emerald green. But it is wide, just under 3.5 inches. Yesterday I played around with folding patterns. (One virtue of polyester – pins don’t leave holes.) But everything I tried looked wrong. The ribbon doesn’t gather well. Eventually I folded it in half lengthwise and started playing around with folding again. In the end, I went with a simple, one-inch wide fold. By some miracle, the folds aligned perfectly in the back so it looks continuous. (The blue-green color is not right, it really is emerald green.)

But I’m not sure I like it.

Every time I look at it I think of a straw boater, not a Regency bonnet. On the other hand, it’s not finished. I want to add a white ostrich feather that gently curves over the crown from left to right. And a little something, don’t know what yet, at the base of the feather. And, of course, the ties.

Happily, it’s early on and changes are easy. Perhaps I should use plain ribbon after all and let the feather(s) be the fun part. (I’m leaning heavily toward this option.) Any thoughts or suggestions?


You may have been wondering what’s been going on. I haven’t been posting as much, but I’ve not forgotten. I’ve been having a bit of excitement on the health front and my energies have been needed there. But I think that’s all good now, so it’s back into the fray, so to speak.

Here’s what’s been going on in my historical sewing world.

Whilst cleaning up/out my closet I discovered my old corset and was thrilled. It’s the first/only one I’ve made and I like it a lot. It’s very comfortable and I’d been pretty upset that I lost it. But no more.

I re-measured myself and dialed up the dress form as best I could. I bought the dress form before I knew anything about them and bought a size too small. The waist works, but I can’t get enough bust or hips. So I have to pad underneath the corset. Which makes for a weird-looking dress form, but who cares? Here “I” am: chemise, padded corset, and the 1887 Imperial Tonure (TV#163), which really supports a lot of weight and does it well. (The odd-looking thing on the corset is a dragonfly applique that is covering up a huge snag I made in the brocade. Live and learn.)

I’ve fallen seriously behind in my 1880 Bustle Dress class and, through a series of miscalculations on my part, cannot make the dress I’d planned. So I went to Plan B and started with an underskirt of pale pistachio green with tiny white dots, found deep in the stash.

I didn’t particularly love the fabric, but it makes a great underskirt. Here it is, pinned to the petticoat on the dress form.

2014-05-26 16.07.48b

It still needs a waistband and hemming. I’ve found the fabric I want to use for the bodice and overskirt, or maybe a polonaise, but can’t afford it at the minute. So things are kind of “on hold” for this dress.

In the Late Georgian/Early Regency department, the bonnet situation is looking up. I found some wide ribbon in a gorgeous emerald green that I’m going to use around the base of the crown and for the ties. There’s a ribbon folding pattern I found on Pinterest that will work quite nicely to dress it up just a bit. I don’t think it’s going to need anything else. It’s polyester, but doesn’t look it so I think it will suffice.

I also finally found some heavy-duty metal eyelets that I can use for the long stays. They are exactly like grommets, with the setting die and everything, so should work just fine. Especially since the goal of the long stays is to straighten you up and display the girls, not cinch you into an impossibly tiny hourglass.

I’m feeling the need to get something finished – anything. So I’m going to fold ribbon and do up the bonnet. Then go back to the long stays and finish those. Will I get them done by the end of the month? We shall see.

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 – The 1870’s Bustle Hat

Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.

Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.

While all the excitement of getting ready for the Victorian Heritage Festival was burbling along, I was taking two online classes with Jennifer Rosbrugh: the Victorian Undergarments class and the 1880’s (or 1870’s) Bustle Hat class.

I finished the undergarments and love my new “under-semble” of things.

The hat has proven to be more of a challenge. I’ve ripped apart and re-decorated hats for eons, but have never made one from scratch. This is true beginning millinery; something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. So when the opportunity arose to take a class, I jumped at it.

My 1870’s bustle dress-in-the-making is in need of a hat. In addition, the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 is Tops and Toes: create an accessory that goes on your head, or on your feet. It’s due on April 15th – 17 days from now.

The 1870’s were a time of Big Hair, lifted upwards and to the back of the head then, usually with hair pieces, left to fall in enormous braids and/or curls. The photograph of Miss Johannesen above is a perfect example.

The hats were worn forward on the head, tilting from the forehead in the front to the height of the hairdo at the back, and decorated with just about anything. Again, Miss Johannesen got it right.

The illustration I want to re-create is a perfect summer hat: a jaunty base with ribbon, flowers and netting. Then I found a photo on Pinterest that put the hat:hair ratio into startling context and set it as the “do not exceed these parameters” limit for size. (Although I must confess I’d love to do my hair with a ginormous braid like that, then be able to whip out the photo when the “perfectionists” start commenting – aka criticizing.)

The class is using a hat pattern from Truly Victorian, however we were given permission to use a different hat pattern if we wanted to do so. And, of course, I wanted. Jennifer supplied a list of millinery pattern makers and suppliers. To my astonishment, DeniseNadineDesigns offers a hat pattern that was inspired by the very illustration I has chosen as my inspiration. The universe aligned, I happened to be paying attention, and hey-presto! This all occurred the Friday before the class was to start, so I ordered the pattern kit that has the pre-marked buckram, wire, thread, bias tape, patterns and instructions. I had no time to waste hunting down all the pieces individually and as it turned out, I probably broke even, cost wise considering the distance I’d have traveled to put it all together.

Dale Lynn by DeniseNadineDesigns

(copyright denisenadinedesigns)

By the time the kit arrived I was in the throes of the Victorian Fest costuming crunch and the class was well ahead of me. I was eternally grateful I had ordered the kit and saved myself some time. The class Facebook group was posting some amazing and inspiring creations. I just made one itty, bitty booboo. I focused on the instructions that came with the kit and not the instructions that came with the class.


The kit instructions are for a more advanced/skilled millinery student than myself. I ran into problems fairly early on because I didn’t know what I was doing and the techniques were too advanced for me. While I was struggling, the class kept pouring out these amazing photos of their finished hats and works in progress. I was starting to feel a bit dense and discouraged. Jennifer advised me to just follow the class instructions, written and video, and not worry so much about what I’d received with the kit. I set everything aside until the Victorian Festival was over – I wanted to concentrate on the hat alone and do it correctly from there on out.

I picked it up a couple of days ago, grabbed the class instructions, watched the videos to catch up to where I was and right off the bat discovered I had another problem: the crown was too big for the tip. Jennifer cautions about this in her video, but the kit’s instructions did not and I was blindly following them. Oh, nuts. Happily, I am hand-sewing the hat and not power-gluing my way through it, so all I had to do was pick out the stitching from the buckram, adjust and re-sew the crown to fit the tip.

Tip pinned to crown and ready to sew

Tip pinned to crown and ready to sew

I am now at the step of sewing the tip to the crown, which is today’s big project. Yeah, I think I sewed the crown inside out (I believe the center front marking should be on the inside) but so it goes. I am also putting the bias tape over the now-wired outer edge of the brim. Once the tip is sewn to the crown I’ll also be putting bias tape around the edge where the crown and tip are sewn. Then it’s apply the flannel mull to the crown. And if I get all of that done today I’ll be a happy camper.

My next class, a Victorian Corset, starts on April 1st so I have a few more days to work on the hat body. I’m not concerned with the trim…that’s just a matter of playing with the elements to get the right look and balance, and I have a good illustration to follow.

So for now it’s off to play with needle, thread and buckram once again. Let’s see just how far I get today…

Running on Empty

I’m having one of those days with sooo much that needs doing and I’m feeling so overwhelmed by it that I have no energy to do it. The Victorian Heritage Festival is one week from today and all I have completed is the underwear, which is a bit problematic from just about every angle (no pun intended).

The underskirt is awaiting its ruffle, which depends on which shoes I’m going to wear, which I have not yet decided.

The overskirt front piece has absolutely no life and the center hangs from the side pleats like wet paper, so I decided to go ahead and line it with the last of the black fabric. Except I somehow measured incorrectly and the lining piece is two inches too narrow. I set that aside earlier this morning to ponder the options.

The 10-day forecast calls for highs in the 40’s and overcast/cloudy skies next weekend. No rain, but there will be wind – out here on a peninsula with the entire Pacific Ocean just around the corner, wind is a fact of life. And if it’s going to be that cold, I’ll freeze without a wrap. So, to take my mind off the overskirt debacle, I decided to just cut out the fabric, the flannel flat lining, and the lining so it would be ready to go when the time came. It’s a large-scale brocade-like print done on a mid-weight home dec cotton fabric. I ordered enough, I hope, to allow for matching the print. But I cut the first piece, the left front, and my brain just kinda snapped. Which way to mirror this saves more fabric? Do I really have enough fabric? How did I calculate the yardage? Thanks heavens it’s only 4 pieces…uh, oh…that back part looks a little tricky. And just when do I think I’ll have time to make the waist for the bustle dress – which just also happens to be my Historical Sew Fortnightly project?

Then there’s the petticoat for the Victorian Undergarments class that’s nagging at me.

And the project for my 1880’s Bustle Hat class that I’m making completely by hand with the goal of wearing next weekend needs attention. The tip and crown are wired, the brim is next. After the buckram frame is together it needs the mull, then the fabric, then the trim. And I’ve never made a hat from scratch before, so I’m not rushing it. At least, trying not to.

I took a break and played with my Pinterst boards, only to get confused by how to tell a Victorian house dress from a tea gown when they look the same to me: one piece, front button, princess seams, Watteau back, embroidery work, lacy bits – how does one tell, or are the people who post them confused, or are they really one and the same, or…

My mind is spinning as if I had one foot nailed to the floor so I can only run in circles.

In the past, I’d just push through and force myself to do something – anything – towards getting these projects done. But I have learned two very important things.

First, when my mind is this jumbled, forcing myself to keep going only creates more problems than it solves. And fixing those problems will take twice as long as it took to create them, if not more. (I can be extremely creative when it comes to “alternative” ways to mess things up.)

Second, I’m a bit slower than I used to be and, when coupled with learning how to make clothing that I’ve never tackled before, I need more time than I’m giving myself to get these projects done. My allotted time frame needs a serious reality check.

So for the rest of the day, unless inspiration strikes earlier, I am going to back off the gas. Lunch is way past due, so that’s next. Then maybe I’ll knit a bit or read or even take a nap. And, while I’m calmly sewing the wire to the buckram for the brim of my hat, the rest of this jumble will be percolating away in the back of my mind, sorting itself out, and I’ll then be ready to pick up the scissors again and sally forth.

At least I bloody hope so.

Challenge Completed: Edwardian Hat, 1908-Style.


Note: For the purpose of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, ‘historical’ means 75 years or older, so pre-1938.

The Challenge:  #18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashiondue September 9.  Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning.  Turn one thing into another.  Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again.  Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat.  Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.

Fabric: Contemporary black base hat (à la “Kentucky Derby”) made of straw and net, with ginormous shiny black plastic net bow, a huge milliners’ black rose in the center of the bow, and the black feathers.

base hat "before"

Base hat “before” – from the same maker. This one has green plastic netting instead of black.


Base hat “before” – I also started with the striped coq feathers already on the crown.

Pattern: Inspired by fashion plates, sketches and period photographs.

However, I personally draw the line at whole, dead, stuffed birds.

Personally, I draw the line at whole, dead, stuffed birds. <Shudder>

Year:  1908, Autumn

Notions: Thread, hot glue, glue, lots of vintage millinery wire. Band-Aids. Antique and vintage millinery supplies, consisting of coq feathers, pheasant feathers, turkey feathers, hand-made Italian straw flowers and sprays, tinted glass berries, silk and fabric thistle heads, textured tiny pink berries, cotton-and-wire floral sprays.

How historically accurate is it? Very reasonably so, considering the difficulty in finding antique, period millinery supplies.

Hours to complete: I’d started this before entering the challenge, so I don’t have an accurate record…best guess is approximately 9 – 10 hours total (removing original decoration, preparing hat base, affixing decorative items)…I had to use wire clippers to cut through lava flows of hot glue and strip off all the black plastic netting in little pieces.

First worn: Not yet worn

Total cost: Approximately $130.00, including base hat and vintage supplies.



The Challenge: Hatsdue in September 2013. Most every historical era before the 1960s had lots of hats. They complete the outfit. Make one from scratch or buy one to reshape & trim out.

The Accessory:  An Edwardian-style hat.

Historical Period:  1908, Autumn

Style of Outfit It Accessorizes:   

Edwardian dresses "suitable for the working woman."

Edwardian dresses “suitable for the working woman.”


1908: S-curve is in fashion

Materials Used:  Thread, hot glue, glue, lots of vintage millinery wire. Band-Aids. Antique and vintage millinery supplies, consisting of coq feathers, pheasant feathers, turkey feathers, hand-made Italian straw flowers and sprays, tinted glass berries, silk and fabric thistle heads, textured tiny pink berries, cotton-and-wire floral sprays.

Techniques Used:  Thread, hot glue, glue, lots of vintage millinery wire. Intermittent removal of feathers hot-glued to fingers.

My Fine Feathered Friend-in-the-Making

Update on my progress with the combined challenges of the Historical Sew Fortnightly #18 (re-make, re-use, re-model) and Accessorize from Head-To-Toe (September – Hats).  With twelve days to go, things are looking good.

I started with something that looked a lot like this. Instead of a humongous satiny bow, it had a humongous plastic netting bow. It had more of the black feathers, and there were coq feathers on the crown. Underneath it all, however, the base black is identical.

Very similar base hat, side view

Very similar base hat, side view

Very similar base hat, front view

Very similar base hat, front view

I cut of all of the plastic netting (through lava flows of hot glue) and tidied up the feathers. Next was a series of eBay adventures until I found the vintage, handmade millinery supplies I wanted. I found some old (not rusted) millinery wire. Soon afterward, I discovered the usefulness of bandages for holes created in fingers by said old millinery wire. Happily, I’m up to date on my tetanus boosters. (And I never thought I’d be using the word “tetanus” in a blog about hats. Live and learn.)

I did the first round of transition from black hat into Edwardian Hat a few months ago, but it still wasn’t “right.” After looking at it for a few more months, I figured out what I want to do and the re-model/re-make is well underway. Teasers:

Teaser #1

Teaser #2

So…uh…What happened to 1865?

Godey's magazine, October 1865

Fashions in Godey’s Lady’s Book, October 1865

I’ve spent a fair amount of time today looking for all the things I’ll need for my first upcoming period-dress event. It will be held in June and will be outdoors. June weather is pretty fickle around here, so it’s anyone’s guess whether we all will be in rain, wind, cold, or very warm. Keeps you on your toes.

I’ll be making an 1865 day dress and I’m trying to get everything right, head to toe – or as close as I can get for a first outing. So far, I have the pantalettes, chemise, corset, and hoop crinoline. I’ve discovered that I’ll also need a petticoat to go under the hoops and one to go over the hoops. That makes sense; no sweat. And I have a parasol. So far, so good.

Since a day dress from 1865 is not horribly fussy or involved (I hope), with any luck the fitting and sewing will be straightforward. Full disclaimer: I said that about the corset. And was wrong. Really wrong.

1865 day dress fabric

1865 day dress fabric, by Reproduction Fabrics

This is the dress fabric. I like the colors and it looks “happy” to me. At least it will look “summer-y” even if it’s 53 degrees with a 20 miles-per-hour wind. I confirmed the colors were correct for my woman-of-a-certain-ageness (yay – no madder and brown!!).

So, the pattern, the fabric and everything in the “unders” and “over-unders” categories are fine. I even managed to locate a reasonably authentic-looking pair of shoes, square toes and all, that will suffice until I can afford a good pair of reproduction shoes. If I keep my hemline low to the ground and shuffle a lot, no one will notice. I hope.

Today I went looking for an 1865 hat/bonnet and hair style. Either everyone was so glad the Civil War was over that the survivors spent 1865 in a dazed state of recovery (who could blame them?) or 1865 was the year ether was discovered and no one remembers it. There are loads of info for reenactors from the Bronze Age to 1864. Then there’s a blank space. And we pick back up in 1867. 1865, and its next door neighbor 1866, have mostly vanished from the fashion records.

Take Godey’s Lady’s Book, the be all and end all of women’s fashion until 1877. I’ve poured through a few hundred pages and found a total of 6 that pertain to 1865. The online articles I’ve read about the bonnets of the period are contradictory. Spoon bonnet: yes and no. Snood on hair with hat: yes and no. Stockings – don’t get me started.

I know that I will eventually figure out the hair and whatever will go on top of it. It’s just that it’s kinda weird that it’s so hard to get firm information. Two hundred years from now, people will probably be saying the same thing about the 1960’s. But that will be easier to explain.

And I anyone out there knows of a dead-on source for accurate 1865 hair and what one can plop on top of it, please do let me know. I need all the help I can get for this mystery year.