1778-9ish riding habit, 18th century, projects

Hat Advice!

So, I am starting to stress about all the sewing I need to get done before Williamsburg, which is in, uh, a few weeks?  I don’t know, I don’t want to look at a calendar.  I think I can get it done in time… but there are lots of things to do!  Gotta make my 1780s stays wearable, finish my Brunswick, and bang out a riding habit — it can be done!

I’m starting to stress about a hat for the riding habit (and possibly the Brunswick?  dunno).  I want to do a black hat with tons of feathers like you see in the fashion plates, but it’s hard to see exactly what is going on there under all the feathers… and I don’t have a lot of time!

So, this brings me to my question — is it doable to get a black wool hat on Etsy/Ebay and reblock it (steam/wet it and dry it over a form)?  From what I can tell, it looks like the hats are big enough to go over the (low) wigs, which means a waaay bigger headsize than anything I’m going to find.  And I just don’t have time to really make a hat from scratch, so I’m thinking get something with a decent size brim, reblock the crown, mess with the brim, and stick a lot of feathers on it.  Does this make sense?  Am I on the right track?

Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Zora February 17, 2011 at 6:36 am

    Straw hat with a big brim? I see lots of straw hats in the old pictures. You’d probably need some sort of wire in the brim to keep it from flapping. You could try dyeing the straw to match the dress.

    Too bad you don’t have time to sew a hat. I saw a number of hats that looked to be made of thin silk gathered over a stiff wire frame. You’d fold the silk in half, stretch it around the brim, and gather it up at the crown, on both sides. Drape some matching cloth over the top and gather it around the crown too. Then run a strip of buckram over all the gathering, for flatness, and apply a nice wide ribbon. That would be stiff enough to support some outrageous plumes.

  • Reply Jen Thompson February 17, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    I’ve reblocked a few hats like that, but it won’t be easy to make the crown bigger unless you have something big and head shaped to stretch it over. You can’t really use many found objects for that since you need it to be oval instead of round. I saw a tutorial on Threadbanger once for how to make your own hat blocks out of that orange foam stuff that you can buy at hardware stores… but that’s if you have enough time carve your own block though. http://www.threadbanger.com/tb-projects/episode/THR_20090313/how-to-make-hat-molds-with-victor-osborne-threadbanger

    BTW… when you stretch the crown on an already blocked hat, it is also going to cause your brim to buckle and get wonky, which is fixable with enough steaming, but maybe not fun. You might actually have an easier time starting with a hat blank. There’s a good one farther down this page: http://www.blockaderunner.com/Catalog/catpg16.htm Or you could try Leko: http://www.hatsupply.com/woolfelts.htm (but hers look like they would need more work)

  • Reply Miss K February 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Maybe try getting one of those big buckram fascinator bases – I’ve seen ones the size of dinner plates – cover the sucker with silk, maybe trim the edges with some more pleated/gathered silk (not exactly sure what’s period in this case) and then whack a whole lotta feathers on top. They’re pretty sturdy, and probably the right shape for what you’re doing.

    I’ve used smaller ones for 30’s and 40’s style fascinators – but there’s no reason you can’t use them for bigger things. Fasten them with either a comb or some clips sewn to the underside, or because it’s buckram, you could probably even stick hatpins in it.

  • Reply Adrienne Descloux February 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Bearing in mind I’ve only ever covered a hat, I think this sounds like a good idea. Are you wearing it over a particular coiffure as depicted in the fashion plates? If so, then the size of the hat is determined more by your hair diameter than your head. And I would say some jury- rigged hat pins would be in order, to hide among the plumes but keep the hat locked in place on the style. The long upholstery needles at Jo Annes would probably work with a little gem hot glued to the end.

    You may also want to consider milliners wire zig zagged onto the edge of the brim as part of the retrofit. Even with the lightest of garnitures, my hat dipped noticeably.

  • Reply Nicole February 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    I purchased a black velour capeline from Judith M, blocked and stiffened it (make sure to get stiffener, it makes a big difference). Cocked up one side, placed a black ribbon cockade on it. Two feathers follow around the brim and three curl over it. I used one the CW Milliners made as a reference. The Two Nerdy History Girls blog has a picture of that one.

  • Reply Catherine Scholar February 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I know it’s not exactly what you’re looking for, but you’re welcome to borrow my red and black Lunardi hat if you want. LMK.

  • Reply Barbee February 18, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    This might help if you decide to reblock a hat — most hats were blocked round, not oval, in the 18th century, so you could use a bowl or a bucket if you don’t happen to have a hat block around.

  • Reply Bunny February 18, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Reblocking wool is a dream. You might wanna use a hairdryer if the rain over here continues tho. :) I’d recommend getting the largest wool cowboy hat you can find and work from there…

  • Leave a Reply