Madame Ornata as Aline

For our last photoshoot Madame Ornata borrowed my ‘By the Seashore’ ensemble and went as Aline.

It’s fun to see the ensemble on someone else, and it fits Madame O better than I because the skirt is a bit short on me.

And she got to try out the new bonnet!

Madame O strikes a jaunty pose

Madame O turns into Mary Poppins

A great skirt shot

Peek a boo!

This reminds me of all the bench portraits that Renoir and Manet painted

The hat ribbons! The jacket pleats! The skirt ruffles! I'm so in love!

Madame O really reminds me of Aline in this image

Hello lion!

Nice kitty

Aline’s bonnet part II

So, Monday I told you about beginning Aline’s bonnet, and getting all the basic construction done.  Here are the finishing details.

The finished hat, side view

After cutting the brim down a lot, I bound it with blue and white tartan bias ribbon (from Nana, her stash is the gift that gives and gives!) that I folded into bias tape.

Bias bound brim

I like the way it works with Aline’s skirt fabric, without matching exactly.  And it’s hard to find two tartans that work with each other!

I sewed a piece of florists wire under the the bias tape around the upper brim of the bonnet, to help it hold the tight curve of Aline’s bonnet and my inspiration bonnet.  First I zig-zagged on the wire, and then bound it with the bias tape.  The tension of pulling the wire through the machine actually curved it into the perfect curve.

You can clearly see which parts are wired, and which aren't, in this photo. Also, doesn't it totally look like The Scream?

The brim didn’t hug the face enough once it was bound, so I ended up taking in little pleats where the brim meets the back of the hat and tacking them down under the back.  Not as beautiful and tidy as my inspiration piece for sure, but I’m still working on my hatmaking skills!

You can just see the little folded in pleats at the inside bottom of the hat

With the brim bound, the hat looked finished, but untrimmed, from the outside, so I decided to ignore the inside for a while and trim the bonnet.  So as of now there are still raw zig-zagged edges inside the hat.

Bad me

For my trimming, I took inspiration from Aline’s bonnet, but didn’t follow it exactly.  I meant to, but I started messing around with other stuff, and it looked good, so I just went with it.

Aline's hat

First I used extra blue tartan bias ribbons for ties to go under the chin.  I realised they held the hat better if they wrapped under the chin, and up around the top of the hat and down again, and it looked cool on too.  So the hat has lots of blue tartan ribbons!

Ribbons wrapping round and round the bonnet

Then I felt that the crown stood up too high from the brim, so I folded it down a little, and tacked it to the seam of the brim.  It gives it a bit of a military look, like early 1860s Confederate forage caps.

The ribbons slide between the folded down crown and brim

And then, of course, I noticed that the top of the crown is not at all perfect.  I wonder if wire would have fixed that?  Or if I could have found some way to iron it?  Oh well, something to work on next time!

Ughsome. Totally not perfect!

For trimming, I used a bunch of silk samples that I had in a dozen delicious shades of darkest blue: indigo, slate, midnight, prussian, inky, royal…


I bunched them into two rosettes, and tucked one under the brim of the hat, and one on the proper left side.

Scrummy colours on the outside.

I felt the hat was getting a little too blue, so I did another bunch in pale blues and neutrals: alice and ecru, ivory and cream.  This went below the first rosette on the outside

Pretty in person.

It looks fabulous in person, but unfortunately, it doesn’t photograph well:

Another unsatisfactory photograph

This is among the (numerous) flaws of the hat.  I’m not sure how I feel about this though.  After all, ladies in 1882 didn’t usually choose their hats to photograph well!  Still, I think that since that is a part of how I sew, I should re-do the trimmings, with the white lace of Alines around the brim, and a rosette with more contrast under the brim, so it shows up against the hair with the shadows.

So in a few weeks, or months, or hopefully not a few years, you’ll see me re-do this hat.

But for now, it’s done, and tomorrow you can see Madame O rocking it and the whole Aline outfit :-)

Beyond hats: making a bonnet

A looooooong time ago, when I first made Aline’s By the Seashore ensemble, I really fretted about the hat.

Aline and her bonnet

I tried to figure out what kind of hat it was, and how I was going to make it.  And then I put it in the too-hard basket.

And then I saw this adorable little bonnet thingee at the Met:

Straw bonnet, ca 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And I said to myself “Hey, that’s really cute!”

And then I checked out the other views of the bonnet, and I said “Hey, that looks a lot like Aline’s hat”


Straw bonnet, 1880, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And since it’s three years later, and I’ve acquired a lot more experience, or at least a lot more hubris, I thought, “Hey, I’ll give it a try.”

I had this brilliant idea (which, for once, did turn out to be brilliant) to make a mock-up in brown paper.  Simpler than sewing one, and paper is already stiff.

Brown paper crown mock-up

It worked surprisingly well, and while my first mock-up wasn’t great, it really showed what I needed to tweak:

Tee hee! It's so funny looking!

I cut down the crown a lot, and spread out the brim into a wider, deeper curve.

The curved and spread out brim of my alterations to my first mock-up

My next version was a little less Tyrolean peasant:

Wider, curved, deeper brim. Smaller crown

It didn’t look too bad on me either:

Much better! Still not great though...

It looked good, or a least it looked good as far as I could tell with imperfect sideways glances late at night, so I cut it apart for pattern pieces.

The pattern pieces laid out on the buckram

After the buckram was cut out, I used it as the pattern to cut out pieces from the leftover scraps of linen-cotton that I used to make Aline’s jacket out of.  I know, kinda matchy-matchy, but matchy-matchy is better than totally-looks-wrong-with-this.  And besides, it finally got the last of that linen out of my massive scrap pile!

The buckram pieces on my two biggest scraps of linen

For the lining, I found a bit of darkest indigo-purple china silk ripped from some kimono lining.  Mmmm…delicious!

The lining silk, and the outer linen-cotton

The silk was so light and slippery that I actually pinned the buckram and linen to it, cut it out, and then sewed it, all without ever taking out the pins:

Cutting out the brim

I used zig-zag stitches around all the edges instead of basting.  They were easier and more forgiving than straight stitches.

With all my pieces cut and based, I sewed the top of the crown to the crown, finished the inside of the crown seam, and pinned the brim on:

Hehe. I don't know why, but the way the brim looks when it is pinned cracks me up

More sculptural brim shots:

Mmmm...I'm so in love with that raisin colour

Once the brim was sewn on, I realised it was way too big and ‘Little House on the Prairie’ bonnet-y.  So I cut off a huge piece of it:

Marks to cut down the brim

And that’s that for now.

Tomorrow’s ‘Rate the Dress’, but I’ll be back to hatmaking on Wed with a post on finishing the hat, and trimming it.

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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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