Step by step how I made my Regency hat

The second part of my outfit was the hat. And I shall make a confession now as to how I made that one…

First of all, I really wanted a HAT for this outfit. Not a bonnet. I will admit something to you here, I’m not actually a massive fan of Regency bonnets. There are some that I like sure, but in general I have to say they are not my favorite thing. And for this outfit I thought a more hat-like headwear would be more appropriate anyway.

So, I started looking around for ideas and inspirationl. Searched the internet, looked in the books I have, thought of all the possible characters in movies who could wear something like what I  had in mind and searched through all the pictures I could find on facebook from my friends with similar interests.

In the end I decided on the look I wanted. And once again Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair was my biggest source of inspiration. There is a hat that she wears for a couple of short scenes in the series, unfortunately I don’t have the series myself so I can’t take any screen shots of it (and I have discovered that hardly any pictures seem to exist from that series online!). The hat she wears is however a top hat like one, a tall straight crown and quite a thin brim. And of course with some big feathers attached to it!

So I had decided on the look I wanted, and now it was time to figure out how to make it. And this is the slightly embarrassing part… Let me say first of all that the construction of this hat is certainly not period correct!

What I did, after some consideration, was buy a roll of wire and set about trying to make something that would be something like the shape I was after. It took quite a few tries since I first made it too small, then too tall and then with a brim that was too wide. The fact that the wire wouldn’t always keep it’s shape didn’t help.

The wire I used

A weird and wonky hat frame…

What I did once I had gotten a relatively good shape was get out a piece of cardboard. Actually what I used was an empty cornflakes box… Yep that’s right, a cornflakes box. This box I used to cut out pieces that I used to cover the wire, and this gave it a more smooth look, and also helped improve the shape I wanted. Final stage in the foundation part of the hat was to tape it all together with duct tape.

More materials that I used… yes, really

Cardboard cut into the shapes and pieces I needed

I started with taping it to the brim..

..then the sides of the crown…

…and this is what it all looked like, taped up and ready. Ugly I know!

Once all this was done I had one very ugly looking hat! Haha so the next stage was to cover it all and make it look pretty. I covered it using the same navy blue velvet that I had lined the collar of the coat with. And lined it with a matching cotton fabric.

Using the hat to measure out the fabric pieces I needed 

Three pieces is what I used for the outside

Started by pinning the top part on, making sure it was well stretched as I did so

Then pinned and stitched the side piece to it

Making sure it was all nice and smooth

And then used the last piece of the velvet to cover the brim

Here you can see the lining (which for some reason looks very wrinkly in this picture)

Now the hat was almost done! Now all it needed were the feathers! Those were a very important part for me, and I love the effect of it. I think I’m going to have to use feathers alot more often from now on! I stitched the feathers on to the hat and covered the stitches by placing a large brooch that I had been given by my grandfather (I belive it is an old family one) and that I thought looked quite good with it.

My headless mannequin kindly modelling the finished hat for me

A close-up of the feathers and the brooch

And that was it, hat was ready to be used! Obviously I wore this together with the coat in Bath, and did get quite a few nice compliments on it. I did confess to a few people how I had made the hat, but I didn’t intend for it to become general knowledge! But at one point I was talking to someone and she said she had heard that I had made my hat from wire and cardboard. So much for my secret. 😛 Well I’ve admitted it all on here now, so it’s not a secret any more anyway. Haha

I love this hat though. There was one occasion when it started to rain and I feared the cardboard would not survive, but fortunately it did. That time at least. 😛 Next time however I think I would like to try out some other materials, but until then wire, cornflakes box and duct tape will have to do the job. 😉

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7 Responses to Step by step how I made my Regency hat

  1. Super creative construction! It’s always an interesting challenge to use the materials you have at hand, rather than spending lots of time and money on historical accuracy (especially for interiors that no one will ever see…). It’s lovely!


  2. Tara says:

    Beautiful! I think you could make the cardboard water proof by painting each piece with a thin coating of flexible glue like Elmer’s White glue, which we have in the US, and letting it dry. Then assembling the hat as you showed.

  3. Malene says:

    Haha, a corn flakes-hat 😀 How very creative – and sustainable! I think I would make the skeleton of wire as well, but then make the rest with papier maché. It might be easier to mold into shape. But I don’t think a papier maché hat would survive the rain though… Hmm, perhaps plaster would..!

  4. Karen says:

    Aurora – your approach was extremely clever, and the results really are just beautiful! I’ve copied a link to this blog entry on the Jane Austen forum. You’re not the only one who is not completely charmed by bonnets, and am sure many would be interested in a lovely alternative like this.

  5. Jay says:

    I know this is an ancient entry, but I’m about to attempt it. Thanks for sharing your methods! I really really love the modern twist to period clothing. I’m one of those “if it *looks* right, then it’s all good!” so this is right up my alley.

  6. I don’t have much useful to say, but I’m glad I just ran across this–might be what I needed to see to (remind me to) make one of my tall hats (either top, or Elizabethan tall hat).

    Also–I had a bolt of that exact fabric. Used it for a 1560s German outfit. It’s too late to recommend now, but if you use any more of it, I recommend running a candle along the edges to melt and prevent fraying.

  7. Pauline J Cortez says:

    You did a wonderful job. Being creative is not only the results, the effort in getting there! Bravo!

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