Thursday, June 30, 2011

The 1795 Morning Dress Hat Conquered, Almost

The hat in progress.
Oh, did I fight with it. For perhaps three hours on and off, so far. The reports from the front say that after last evening's defeat and bitter-tasting retreat, the forces have persisted and the war is almost won.

Let's end the overlong analogy. I had a girls' evening out with my sweet friend Polly, and helped her get her costume ready, and started the hat that's to be worn with my 1795 morning ensemble, along with the muslin cloak and the wrap-front dress, planning to finish by evening's end. Hah.

The Hat Design

June 1794, Gallery of Fashion, detail.
From Bunka Gakuen Library.
My design, as we know from a previous post, was for a hat style popular in 1794 and 1795. The gypsy hat has a flat top and wide-ish brim which is turned down on the sides to frame the face.

The design I am using is from the Gallery of Fashion, June 1794, "A Peep into Kensington Gardens: Morning Dresses". My design takes elements of figures 10 and 12, viz.: the hat itself from figure 10 and the trim from figure 12.
The hat I'd planned to use was too small brimmed, said Polly. Oh dear. That hat went back into storage, and I took off last year's hat trims from the same old hat I've owned since 1981, the first one ever bought with my own money. Am so much the model of Jane Austen herself, frugally retrimming what she already has :}.

I even removed the original trim that had been long hidden, to find that time had faded the tobacco brown hat and band to latte. Hmmm, there's an essay on entropy and mortality there, but later. This is a light-weight post.

The design calls for a fancy, quadruple bow with quadruple tails, a puffy wonder of a bow.
Production Failure

My silk ribbon being new and me being money conscious, I feared to cut it, and so played for a hour making floppy bows that lacked body. So Polly and I tried millinery helps, sinamay ribbon (fabulous stuff), horsehair cord (whoa!) and I even built a petersham backing bow behind and starched both, and, so scary, cut the fancy ribbon.

The resulting hat trims were just BAD. Royal blue is easy to make chintzy, and I certainly succeeded there. It looked both overthought and underworked at once. Quite an achievement, but alas, the camera refused the shot, for it was so horrid;)

Went home with a failure, didn't I?

Production Rebirth

Yet, I'd had such a good time with Polly overall that I woke happy to a hummy soft sunny day, and like a bee, made something sweet from the most basic materials.

Our first lesson is, use fabric and ribbon you don't fear to cut and you'll relax and create something nice.

Our second lesson is, puffy constructed bows don't work with floppy single faced silk satin, even starched.

Here's what I did to make the hat design work:
  • Used scraps of the same bolt of white duppioni silk I've used for the last five years for other projects, including the living room curtains.
(Lesson number three; save every last weency scrap of good fabric.)

  • Pinked long fat pieces of it.
  • Cut those into shorter pieces and made four tailless pseudo bows: two loops crimped in the middle with thread tacking.
  • Starched them.
  • Made sets of pseudo bow tails.
  • Mounted all atop each other at angles, tacking them together with thread. Required strength and I bled on a tail. Proof of effort, I suppose.
  • Faked a bow center with a loop of fabric on top.
  • Made a tuck on the underside of each bow loop to puff out the loop.
  • Used a long piece of pinked fabric for the hat band and back bow and its tails.
That's where the hat stands now.

What's Left to Be Done

At this point need to make a mount for two plumes from two long pins fixed to the hat crown, and tack all to the hat itself, and make a tiny ruche from gauze around the underbrim edge.

Getting there!


MrsC said...

How lovely! And what a useful hat. My lovely friend Madame Ornata bought a black sombrero cheaply and undid then reworked the crown shape to make a more 18th C shape, and it looks great. Perhaps that would be a good way to get a black Gainsborough? If the brim is too big you can unpick a few rounds of the straw. I always make my hats from fabric as I have an enormous 62cm head, and making from scratch gives you more versatility but there's just something special about straw isn't there!

ZipZip said...

Dear Mrs. C.,
I love the hats you make (remembering the ducky one you did recently for the "Esrnest" play).

Someday I would like to make a Gainsborough, for sure, and Madame Ornata's plan is a great idea, but I'll need the outfit to go with it. By this date the hats were a bit smaller scale, most of them, and by chance this old hat has about the right proportions and shape. Hence multiple retrimmings.

Wonder if you're off again this weekend to somewhere fun?

Very best,


Kleidung um 1800 said...

Dear Natalie,
I always admire your projects, because they are so very well researched and you give so many detailed information! The straw hat already looks really beautiful and I can't wait to see how it's progress went after that little "failure"!
Hopefully we'll get to see the whole ensemble one day soon! I guess it will look as if you've stepped right out of one of the fashion plates!

ZipZip said...

Dear Sabine,

Thank you so much! Researching is one of the things I enjoy most about projects, and then experimenting with original methods to see how they might work.

Most of the rest of the fun is sharing the results with everyone, with the aim of increasing our collective knowledge through both the experiments' successes and failures.

I work in a scientific institution and am trained as such, so I guess it's in the DNA :}

You do the same, you know, and it's always a delight to see the results of your very careful work.

Very best,


Polly said...

I was the lucky one, a nice evening with a dear and talented friend! It was such a fun evening and I learned a lot too. So glad the hat turned out well in the end, like the heroine in an Austen novel!


Polly said...

So glad the hat worked out well. I have been trying to leave feedback 4 times, but for some reason it didn't work!

Glad you conquered the hat!


ZipZip said...

Dear Polly,

Yes, sometimes the comment function gets really wonky. Thank you so much! Can't wait to have another girls' millinery or accessories evening...

Very best,