An very easy guide to Making your own Victorian or Regency bonnet

Here is a quick and easy guide to creating a fairly realistic looking Victorian  or Regency bonnet.I am sorry but I haven’t been able to get step by step photos for this post yet but I will try to add them Asap.

The bonnet above was made using a straw 198os style sun hat which was recovered with vintage silk and satin to create an accurate period shape and finish.,however its possible to create a Victorian  bonnet much more quickly if you don’t need complete accuracy.

You will need

needle and thread



a straw or felt hat

possibly wire cutters or secatures to cut the wire from  the hats brim

and Ideally

a cushion sized piece of fabric to cover the back of the bonnet

a piece of veiling or fine semi see through fabric to make a bonnet may be able to pick up an old wedding veil from a charity shop or a veil from one of those hen night hats.The veil below is wedding tulle

Mrs bronte 2


It would also be  great if you can find any of the following

feathers ,fake flowers  or other trims such as velvet ribbon ,upholstery trimmings or even buttons can  be used,no pieces need to be large or long.The hat below was decorated with a couple of pheasant feathers a scrap of wide ribbon trim  approx 8 ins long and some velvet  ribbon

green poke boonett

.If you making a bonnet near Christmas ,Christmas decoration counters or  shops will have lots of suitable trimmings,wired ribbons ,satin ribbons .

red bonnet

,fake holly berries, poinsettia,fake leaves etc,

bonnet trims

At a pinch in an emergency you can make a passable bonnet using cardboard but it needs a lot of trimming to look anything like a bonnet.

mourning bonnet

This is a piece of cardboard box folded into roughly bonnet shaped curve and tucked and cellotaped at the back.The procces is roughly that for making a Tudor hood below curve the cardboard  tape at the back then cover in celltope


gable hood shape fronjt

you can ruch the back ,add braid ,frills etc to hide the basic shaped

bonnet back

It looks passable when worn but isnt sturdy.

victorian mourning outfit

This is not designed as a guide to making replica standard bonnets for re enactors but as an easy to use set of instructions for those with no costuming experience or skills.It also uses materials ready to hand ,though the bonnets look better with more expensive or vintage trims and ribbon

bonnet red

First you need something to create your bonnet with  woven straw sun hats are ideal as they are easy to cut  and can  if need be ,be soaked to adjust their shapes to what seems most suitable. Look at images of the style of bonnet you want to make then look for a sun hat with a similar shape of brim .For an early Victorian bonnet you need a very wide brimmed hat  such as the one below.


brown dress1



later bonnets any size can be used but they must have a fairly high generous top or crown


cloak and bonnet closed


All the hats above can be bought here

. ,but it should be possible to pick them up cheaply from charity shops or in summer from supermarkets.

The main essential is that they are not too floppy ,a wired brim is also desirable but not essential .Wire brims will let you turn back the bonnet brim to create different shapes but otherwise they wont really impact on how you style the bonnet.

new bonnet

I used a fairly cheap wide brimmed straw hat  ,then cut out a semi circle from the crown at the back and cut up either side of the hats band so the brim could be moved to make a bonnet shape .Just experiment with how much needs cutting to get the shape of bonnet brim you want .When you have the shape right you need to sewn down the brim at the sides .Next the cut  edges will need to be covered with something ideally matching  ribbon can  be used to cover the cut marks in the straw as below.But you could use lace or strips of fabric.To cover up the altered back you could add a piece of fabric gathered around the back

new bonnet

or just leave it as it is and make it seem as though the twisted brim is a feature of the bonnet not where its been altered


Before sewing the ribbons onto your bonnet,look at the style of bonnet you are trying to recreate ,some bonnets have ribbons which are attached inside ,some have ribbons attached outside either at the edge of the brim or very high up onto the actual crown of the hat ,Where you put the ribbons will affect how the hat sits on your head.

1830s dress scarbough

It is also possible to buy bonnet “blanks”these are actual properly shaped straw “bonnets” but without ribbons or trims.These are more expensive but need no work except some ribbons sewing on .If you buy one of these and buy two metres of ribbon you will need to do virtually no sewing you just wrap the ribbon around the brim so it meets at the top then take the ends and tie them under your chin as below,you will need a few stitches to keep the ribbon on the crown and crossed at the front but otherwise it is finished.

brown dress claok hat


blue cloak back hood

The Etsy shop below is I feel the best place to buy bonnet blanks

Its very handy to look at these bonnet blanks as they will give a very good idea of what shape you need to cut from your straw hat .



However  if your wearing the bonnet outside felt hats are warmer and much more water resistant If using a felt hat its best to choose one in dark colours ideally grey or black.


For felt hats its essential the same process as for straw hats  cut out a curved back piece,now cut up between the brim and crown and pull it back to create a graceful curve stitch in place.Add ribbons






To make the straw bonnets a more authentic shape you can soak the bonnet in water before you  cut it to shape. I use slightly warm water as cold water takes longer and as long as its not too hot it doesn’t damage the hats.When its been soaking for an hour or so take the bonnet out and pull it about into the  shape you want keep reshaping while it dries.I don’t advise soaking bonnets and reshaping unless you very keen to get a perfect shape as its time consuming and for the best results you really need a “head”  mannequin head or  something head shaped to dry the hat on .

The  bonnets below where made without soaking and most of my bonnets have not been soaked to get a better shape



red taratn vcitroain gown


Its possible to make a bonnet with just the straw hat and some ribbon but the more trimmings you can find or buy the more realistic you hat will look ,The best feathers are ostrich feathers ,you could use cake decorating flowers ,ribbon or trims.trims. Maribo feathers,braid that is used for trimming cushions or furniture,ribbons from chocolate boxes,Christmas or Easter  decorations etc.The more trimmings you can add the more authentic the bonnet will look

lady catherine hat

I have very rarely bought specialist millinery trims though I do keep a look out for genuine antique ribbons and trims.The ribbon on te hat below was Victorian.

local day bmpme

I have also got a post on making later victorian  hats here

Included below is an image guide of  extant bonnets for reference when decorating your own bonnet


I will add further posts on make  late Victorian hats  such as the one below from a cardboard box and hair band

back claudia gown


and also Regency hats such as the one below

 regency gown

jane suten hat m




About hathawaysofhaworth

I am a Historian and author living in the north
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to An very easy guide to Making your own Victorian or Regency bonnet

  1. I can’t wait to find a straw hat in a store, I SO want to make one of these!

    • I am really glad you liked it ,I hope it goes well ,I realise theres not a lot of photos on how to reshape the hats so If you need any help with bits of the post that are not clear let me know,,,I have a new post part ready on making a Regency bonnet which I should have finished over the weekend …

  2. Bridget says:

    I’m so glad I came across this blog! I want to decorate a straw hat for starters. then progressively work my way into the more challenging hats of the Victorian era. Best regards!

  3. Jane says:

    what talent ! exceptional use of fabric in all your pieces- thank you for sharing.

  4. Pingback: Making Regency/Empire underthings and a bonnet > with my hands - Dream

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s