That being said, fashion plates are still the primary source and invaluable when it comes to period-correct fashions. Just as we find in today’s runway shows, however, sometimes fashion illustrations of the past can depict what was then avante garde clothing, stuff people typically didn’t wear. Nevermind all that if you’re going for the Duchess of Devonshire, but it may be null en void if you’re looking to dress as a servant or merchant’s wife.
The Shallow Crowned Straw Hat
Two lovely hats from “The Duchess.” Both look to be fairly shallow in crown, and curved down at the sides. The further one is turned up at the back. Both are trimmed with feathers, flowers, ribbons, and secured to the head with a hat pin. Never you fear: hat trimming how-to’s in the future! If you like these styles, take a look at this hat from top-hats.com.
Another example of this hat is shown below, from “Dangerous Liasons.”
Variations on the shallow crowned hat include turning up one side , or turning up two sides (to make a bi-corn). It appears that ladies seldom wore tri-corn straw hats, but I wouldn’t put it past them. Some variants are show in “The Duchess” and “Marie Antoinette.”
The Picture Hat
Another Great Hat, seen later in the century, known today as “the picture hat.” I’m sure it had a proper name back then (as all these do). I liken this most to Kentucky Derby or Ascot hats still worn today. The hat in the portrait inspired a huge picture hat in “The Duchess,” seen at the top of this article.
Getting on towards the turn of the 19th century, bonnets began to make an appearance, and wouldn’t leave for the next sixty years or so. Unfortunately, Regency style bonnets are terrifically hard to find. Once source, if you don’t mind paying a lot, is Mrs. Parker’s Millinery & Mercantile, which custom-makes bonnets of all 19th century periods. If you’re looking to make your own, you can start with a basic form, available from Top-Hats.com.
Bonnets can also be made from scratch, using a pattern like this one from McCalls (M5129). Another pattern from Butterick (B4697) contains many different styles of hat, one a bonnet and one a picture hat, which could come very in handy. Patterns will build the hat inside out with buckram and other millinery materials, which gives you maximum control over the shape and size, but it also takes the most time. Most patterns, unfortunately, are for shapes of bonnets that are too late for the Regency period, but with a little crafty tweaking, adjusting the shape should be no problem at all. I do not recommend pattern-tweakage for beginning costumers!
The Deep Crowned Hat
As of yet, I have not found a source for hats of this shape. My guess is that you will have to make it using an existing deep-crowned hat, wiring the brim, and beating it into the shape you want. It is difficult to tell just what is going on with these hats from “The Duchess,” but it appears that the crown is very tall and slightly connical. The brim can be straight, turned up on one side, or turned up on two sides (bi-corn). If anybody knows where to find such a monstrosity, or has made one, please leave a comment!
Did I cover all the fabulous hats of the 18th c.? No. I covered a few styles that I’ve found to be awesome and doable, based on hats I’ve sourced from across cyberspace. There *will* be hat tutorials and more resources in the future, though, never you fear!
But if you just CAN’T WAIT to jump right in to hatmaking, here are a couple splendid dress diaries I’ve found:
Demode – 1780s Capote
Demode – 1780s Bergere (at bottom of page)
Jenny La Fleur – hat precis
Jenny La Fleur – another hat precis
Jenny La Fleur – shallow crowned hat
If you know of any more (and there are definitely more), feel free to add them in the comments.
References and Inspirations:
The DreamstressApril 29, 2009 at 6:21 PM
Oooooh Lauren, fab blog! Yes, I definitely do remember you and your gorgeous dress at Gaskells!
I don’t have much experience at 18th century myself, but I’m going to have fun following yours, especially as I am thinking of an 18th century dress tied in to the discovery of the ruins at Pompeii for sometime in early 2010 for myself.
Countess von BrowneAugust 1, 2009 at 2:16 AM
I'm just getting started – the hard part is finding fabric that is "suitable" for a 1750's formal dress. I'm no spring chicken anymore, and the suggestion is not to wear too bright colors.
I love your sight! but am too daunted to try a hat!
Lauren RAugust 1, 2009 at 5:14 PM
Hi Countess vB – thanks for dropping by! Leimomi posted a great article about historical fabrics you might want to read before starting – here's the link:
I would recommend going the "Marie Antoinette" movie route, and choosing pastel colors, or fabrics with generally light-colored grounds and subtle floral prints or woven decoration. Here's screenshots of all the MA movie costumers:
And don't be afraid of hats! They can be small or large, and they really "top off" the costume. Don't worry, though, if you're going to be inside, as hats were still mostly for outside wear.
Good luck and have fun! Be sure to send me a link to photos!!
AnonymousOctober 12, 2009 at 6:01 PM
i LOVE the hatz
Katy RoseMarch 21, 2011 at 9:24 PM
Hats by Leko has a ton of different shapes and sizes of hat frames in Buckram. It means you have to cover them but they are fabulous. They also have everything you need to make any kind of hat. Its the only site I've found so far that has such a huge quantity of shapes and sizes
AnonymousJanuary 23, 2013 at 1:53 AM
This is absolutely amazing how come I haven't discover you before 🙂
AnonymousJune 21, 2016 at 1:49 PM
Fabulous hats need fabulous hair. I was just looking at some youtube videos about how to make enormous drag wigs that use techniques that would get the enormous, elaborate styles of the late 1700's.