Regency Bonnet Hack

I’ve taken a couple of Regency dance classes this summer. My dancing group had a picnic over the weekend. I had some ambition to make a new dress for the occasion but being a week past Dragoncon the motivation just wasn’t really there. Being a picnic it did seem like I should have a straw bonnet though. I poked around online and found a great bonnet hack. It promised to be fast and cheap, two concepts I can get behind!

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Behold! A very easy and quick Regency bonnet or hat from The Cheats Costume Guide by Hathaways of Hawthorn. The cheat is using a faux straw sun visor as your base. In essence you:  1) sew a fabric crown to the base 2) add ribbon, ties and feathers 3) wear to your event and look fabulous. The hat you make can look very similar to this one in Sense & Sensibility. 

I ordered these to use as frames, mostly because they were on Amazon Prime so I could get them fast. They arrived on Friday and the picnic was Sunday. Since this was a first time experiment all other supplies were from my stash. I ended up going a little avant-garde with all silver, grey and black. I did check around to see if a black straw hat was even a thing in the Regency. The only ones I could find were specifically referenced as being for mourning. Not really what I was going for but historical enough on short notice.

While the cheat doesn’t tell you to do this, I opted to sew self fabric bias around the edge of my brim. The visor is already bound so I just covered over it. I thought it might lighten the look of the bonnet and also make it fancier. Despite my not that great hand sewing, I did achieve that.

From there I sewed on the silk crown. The cheat tells you to cut “a piece fabric around the size you would use for a cushion cover” which really isn’t terribly specific. I measured my couch throw pillows and then went a little bigger. I cut a 22 inch square into a circle. It seemed to work but maybe was a little too big.

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Apparently oddly riveted to something beyond the frame. Also, not totally loving the side profile of my bonnet.

For whatever reason, the straw part of the crown seemed kind of tall in my version. I don’t know if that’s because the head band on my visors actually was taller than the ones in the cheat. I made the size of the head opening a little bit too small. That might have forced the brim to want to naturally curve lower down. Because of that I ended up using a quite wide piece of silk leftover from my Edwardian Chinoiserie gown to make a hatband. One width of ribbon just would not have sufficed! I think it looks fine from the front and back but a little weird at the sides. I will definitely address this when I make up the other visor I got. I may also add some other ribbon or decoration to that expanse of crown.

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Looks pretty OK from the back.

I started the hat Friday night while watching The Harvey Girls and finished it Saturday night after a round of day drinking. It was 85% hand sewn. I did the fabric ties on the the machine and bits here and there.

We had great weather for the picnic and the heat wasn’t too brutal for early September in Atlanta. Here’s a couple photos of some of the compliment.

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