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
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 veil.you 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
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
.If you making a bonnet near Christmas ,Christmas decoration counters or shops will have lots of suitable trimmings,wired ribbons ,satin ribbons .
,fake holly berries, poinsettia,fake leaves etc,
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.
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
you can ruch the back ,add braid ,frills etc to hide the basic shaped
It looks passable when worn but isnt sturdy.
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
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.
later bonnets any size can be used but they must have a fairly high generous top or crown
All the hats above can be bought here
.http://www.polyvore.com/uniqlo_floppy_hat/thing?id=133120306 ,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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
and also Regency hats such as the one below