19th Century, Sewing

An 1860s maybe mourning bonnet

Another Historical Sew Fortnighly Challenge down.

This time I made an 1860s bonnet to wear with my Greek key afternoon dress.

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

I was roughly inspired by this bonnet from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Bonnet, 1862, American, straw,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.15.9

Bonnet, 1862, American, straw, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 17.15.9

I started out with a simple hat that I’d unsuccessfully reshaped a 1920s cloche.  It was just too big for my head to work.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

So I cut off the back and trimmed down the sides.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

The original idea was that  I would use pale pink ribbons, but they simply didn’t look right.  And it turns out I didn’t have any black lace in my stash that worked (how is that possible?).  So I ended up going with palest grey rayon ribbon and a silver and black lace.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com


Obviously the silver didn’t look right, so I had some fun on the sewing machine:

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

I pinned all the ribbons on the hat until it looked good:

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

And then there was lots, and lots and lots of handsewing.

Making an 1860s inspired hat thedreamstress.com

I’m really pleased about the lace – I picked it up over the weekend at Fabric-a-Brac, and the pointed edges ech  the edges of the black lace beautifully (I’m having a brain blank and can’t remember the technical name – one of those days).

And here is the end result:

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

All the muted black and grey makes it look quite subdued.  It could possibly be a half mourning bonnet, but I haven’t researched whether un-dyed straw was acceptable for half-mourning in the 1860s.  I’ll look into that, and if it doesn’t work for half-mourning, I’ll add some cerise flowers.  That’s how I’ll wear it with the Greek Key dress in any case.

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com

The Challenge:  #7  —  Tops & Toes

Pattern:  None,  just fiddling with shapes until they matched period silhouettes.

Year:  1860-4

Notions:  One straw hat, 10 metres of pearl gray rayon ribbon ($1pm), 3 metres of silver and black lace ($1pm), 4 metres of vintage lace (50 cents the lot), lots and lots of thread.

How historically accurate is it?    My construction techniques are half period perfect and half completely mad.  The materials are pretty iffy, but I do think the overall look would pass pretty well in 1862.  60%?

Hours to complete:  6.  It was supposed to be a simple, quick project, but grew.  A lot.

First worn:  To wash dishes. I was trying to take pictures, and got distracted.  It’s not a good bonnet for washing dishes as it happens.  The ribbons rather get in the way.  I’m sure it will be much better outside on a fine day!    

Total cost:  $13.50

An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com
An 1860s inspired bonnet thedreamstress.com


  1. Marilyn J. Hollman says

    Remember shades of lavender were appropriate later, also.

    • Of course. That doesn’t change the problem of whether undyed straw was appropriate for mourning, which is my big question. If it is, the hat can stay exactly as it is, and if not, I’ll need to add a colour other than lavender.

    • Thank you! Detachable flowers wouldn’t be period accurate, but quickly basting on and off ornamentation (re-trimming the hat) to change the look would, and that’s what I plan on doing.

  2. Oh wow, that’s so beautiful! I’ve always had a slight interest in historical millinery but was never brave enough to try it. Your beautiful work has piqued my interest again.

    • Thank you Jill! I’ve really been enjoying dabbling in millinery, and am getting much more confident in my abilities.

  3. Thank you for the post. This bonnet is really lovely! I’ve been meaning to make one for a while and your post has given me a lot of ideas. 🙂

    • You’re most welcome! This bonnet has been on my to-do list for years, but the idea had always scared me. Once I started putting it together it was actually very easy.

  4. The finished result is so lovely! That vintage lace really adds the final touch. (I have no idea what the technical term is. I actually have no idea what the term you used is, but I think I know what you mean.)

    • Thank you! I was so pleased about the lace, and how perfectly it worked. It was meant to be, as there was nothing in my previous stash that would have worked. I’m still trying to remember that term now!

    • Thank you! It was just a quick and dirty job with simple photos taken around the house, but hopefully I’ll be able to do a full photoshoot with the Greek Key dress soon and really make them look like daguerreotypes.

  5. Elise says

    theguardian.comtheguardian.comHave you seen the article from the Guardian about the color grey and this decade? Very neat. Of course, my favorite part was at the end where they talked about other important colors in other decades.


    As for straw being accurate for morning–why not? You live in the Antipodes. I imagine that not everyone had the wherewithal to get a new bonnet for mourning, but would ‘make do’, like my foremothers did on the frontier. Well, maybe then it would match the social level of the key dress, but I wanted to share my thoughts, anyway. Couldn’t you just throw a black veil on it?

  6. Love your blog. Love the bonnet. Love that I’ve met someone (and through your blog others) as period textile uber geeky as me!

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