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A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

A Regency Bonnet

Just in time for the heat of the New Zealand summer, I’ve made a velvet winter bonnet.

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

The Wellington historical sewists and I had been working on 1790s-1810s garments all 2018, with the goal of each of us creating at least one full outfit.

For our Sew & Eat Historical Retreat we wanted to do a group sewing project. We decided on bonnets based on Lynne McMasters 1810s Regency bonnet pattern.

Regency bonnet making thedreamstress.com

We all went searching for fabric and inspiration. I decided I wanted a bonnet to wear with my 1813 Kashmiri dress, now that I have enough more of the fabric to make day sleeves and a spencer to wear over it.

And I could wear the bonnet when I wear the spencer (which doesn’t yet exist), over a plain white dress (which also doesn’t exist. I’m doing so well here…)

Costume Parisien 1810
Costume Parisien Bonnets 1811 Chapeaux de Virginie

I realised that if I made a bonnet with a shorter crown than that given in McMasters pattern, and a slight adjustment to the brim angle, I could wear the bonnet for 1790s as well, if I wasn’t being too specific about total accuracy. Most 1790s hat brims seem to angle off and end at the sides, rather than going all the way around the back of the brims, but there are a few plates, like this one, which appear to show a brim that extends around the back:

December 1799 Journal des Luxus und der Moden
December 1799 Journal des Luxus und der Moden

I settled on a dark brick red velvet to cover my bonnet, and black trimmings with a grey feather.

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

The Pattern:

The ‘Regency Bonnet Pattern’ was one of Lynn McMasters earlier patterns, dating back to 2013.

It’s obvious from the pattern how much McMasters knows her craft as a milliner, but the pattern itself is a little disorganised, and lacks clarity in places.

Some of the instructions are extraordinarily detailed. Other places are extremely brief – attaching the brim to the crown is covered by “sew the brim to the crown” (what stitch? Both pieces are fully finished, how do you do it without leaving marks on the outside? What happens to the tabs – how do you affix them to the interior?). Other spots are so wordy and convoluted that the four of us making hats (all with extensive sewing experience) each came to a different conclusion as to what we were meant to do.

Regency bonnet making thedreamstress.com

Many steps in the pattern give you multiple options of what to do: it’s nice to know there are many ways to achieve a reasonable end, but does make the pattern quite difficult to read.

But…despite a few rough spots, we all made successful hats (albeit by slightly different routes, depending on how we read the instructions)

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

I went off pattern in a number of spots, most notably cutting all my fabric on the straight grain rather than the bias because I didn’t have enough fabric, and that didn’t cause any problems.

There are a few spots that are a bit wibbly, especially on the inside, but hey, no one looks like the inside.

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

To celebrate our finished bonnets, we had a picnic and wore our regency dresses and the bonnets. It was too hot for spencers (I always seem to schedule picnics on wildly windy or unseasonably hot days), and none of us has made a chemisette yet, so we aren’t exactly properly attired – but we had cherries and strawberries and salmon rouleaux and marmalade cakes and fun.

Regency bonnet making thedreamstress.com

I went for a sort of 1790s look, because it matches better with no chemisttes and spencers.

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com
A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

And, although it was finished a teeny-tiny bit into 2019, this completes my 12 challenges for the Historical Sew Monthly 2018:

The Challenge: #12 Neglected Challenge – re-doing #10 ‘Fabric Manipulation’, which I had a pretty lame entry for (a Regency petticoat with tucks round the hem, which I haven’t even blogged about yet…). There is a lot of amazing fabric manipulation involved in millinery: shaping the buckram, shaping the fabric around the buckram, pleating or gathering the brim lining…

Fabric: .4m of velvet ($3, thrifted), .3m of silk habotai ($2, thrifted)

Pattern: Lynn McMasters 1810s Regency Bonnet Pattern

Year: ca. 1810

Notions: 1/2m buckram ($15), 3m millinery wire ($6) thread ($1), velvet ribbon ($10), a vintage feather ($3 – part of a bulk lot).

How historically accurate is it?: I don’t know a huge amount about Regency millinery techniques, but I did use the machine for one step, and some modern glue (glues may have been used historically, but they would have been much harder to work with). Plus synthetic ribbon, and a questionable hem binding technique…. Maybe 40%

Hours to complete: 18ish. Hat’s take a long time!

First worn: To a picnic, 5 January

Total cost: NZ$40 or thereabouts. Whew. Hatmaking isn’t cheap!

A velvet Regency bonnet thedreamstress.com

Rate the Dress: Embellished prints, 1920s

I know I just did a 1920s dress for Rate the Dress the week before last, but this week’s 1920s day dress, in printed silk, is so different from the gold and orange evening number, that I don’t think it’s too much of a repeat

Last week: a ca 1870 dress in deep raspberry pink, with two types of fringing

I feel like last week’s Rate the Dress was an apple. All December I fed you a diet of decadent treats: chocolate, and puddings, and cakes, and sugarplums. And then the first week in Jan comes, and I hand you a piece of fruit, and no-one is interested! Those who did rate liked the dress well enough, but it certainly didn’t set any records.

The Total: 8.1 out of 10

However, if I could find a way to factor how many comments and votes a dress got into it’s rating, this would have fared much worse. It did not attract your interest!

This week: a 1920s day dress in printed silk

This mid 20s frock may be a day dress, but it is anything but informal. The style and embellishments would have made it suitable wear for a wedding guest, or at the most formal of garden parties or afternoon dances.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The printed pattern of the silk is embellished with glass beads, which add glitter and movement to the fabric. They are more than just decorative though: the weight of the beads is helping to hold the hem in place, and to keep the waistband sitting properly.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The silk fabric is patterned with an abstract feather design which is reminiscent of Egyptian art: a similarity that is made more pronounced by the careful placement of a curved feather motif around the neck, where it evokes a wesekh collar.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236
Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

The overall effect is both bold and subtle. It attempts to balance extremely trendy and extreme tasteful.

Dress, American About 1926, Silk plain weave (chiffon), printed and embroidered with glass beads, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 52.236

Does it succeed?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste.

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

I had a dream, a wondrous thing…

Last night a boy racer came roaring up our suburban street, realise it wasn’t where he had meant to go, did a screeching turn-round, and went roaring down again.

It reminded me how much I loath boy racing (whether it’s done by boys or girls, but let’s face it, it’s mostly done by boys). It’s an dreadful hobby which is at best an annoyance to everyone who isn’t participating in it, and at worst a danger to anyone in the vicinity, and an environmental nightmare.

We used to hear a lot of boy racers at night at our old place. The racing and roar of the engines. The screech and squeal of tires. Whenever they were out and about at night I would lie awake listening to the sounds, stressing.

So I developed a happy little fantasy about boy racing.

I would imagine the boy racers roaring down their favourite street. And then, one by one, the engines suddenly going quiet. Each car drifts to the side of the road, the confused drivers steering it to safety, putting on the breaks and pulling the hood-release catch.

The hood pops open.

The boy racer gets out of his car. Walks round to the front. Lifts the hood.

The contents explode out.

Stuffed toys.

It’s all stuffed toys.

The engine.

Every part is now a stuffed toy. Big ones for big parts, little ones for little parts. Teddy bears of all sizes. Stuffed tigers and foxes and bunnies and more. Cuddly little native animals like the zoo and museum gift shops sell. Hopefully even a Colossal Squid stuffed toy.

Nothing engine-shaped at all.

The boy racer picks up a stuffed toy. Looks at it in total confusion. Starts pulling out more stuffed toys, emptying the hood cavity, trying to find the engine.

But there is no engine.

Just stuffed toys.

And there was no more boy racing that night.

The boy racer could buy another engine. Fill that cavity with metal and grease and petrol and rubber.

But every time he broke the speed limit…

Every time he did a burnout…

Every time he had sustained loss of traction…

Stuffed toys.

Imagine how wonderfully quiet and peaceful it would be?

(and, since this is my fantasy, and you can have anything you want in a fantasy:


  1. no-one was ever injured when their engine turned into soft toys. They always just slowed nicely and gradually and drifted to a safe spot.
  2. all the stuff toys were made from totally organic, environmentally friendly materials.
  3. all the stuffed toys went to deserving children.
  4. if there was an excess of soft toys, they would turn out to be as easy to compost as one of the mushrooms that grows round the edge of my yard after a few days of good rain.

Since I have no images to illustrate this dream (but wouldn’t they be amazing? Just imagine them….) here are some gratuitously cute Felicity photos from the last few weeks: