“Why is the Lady wearing a Flowerpot on her head?” the young girl asked her mother upon seeing the tall figure approaching.
“Because it’s the height of fashion my dear,” called out Baroness Bolsover, smiling as she passed the bemused onlookers.
It was perfectly true. Somewhat resembling the shape of a flowerpot, the tall hat, adorned with as many elaborate trimmings as could be imagined, was all the rage amongst Victorian Ladies of the 1880’s.
How did I make a hat 'fit for a Baroness'?
Surprisingly with ease. Mostly, I play safe, adhering to the ‘Less is more’ line of thought, but on this occasion, I’ve gone down the full blown ‘More and … why not more’ route.
It all started with a simple felt top hat that’s been in the ‘dressing up box' I’ve used for drama workshops over the years. You can buy them online or at any Fancy Dress shop for a few pounds.
Though I’m no seamstress, fortunately my friend Sue Coulton is, and was only too pleased to donate a few oddments of her spare materials to assist with my creation.
Looking at the Flowerpot Hats of that era, anything and everything seemed to go so a combination of netting, beads, buttons, feathers, hat pins, ribbons, buckles and bows can be used.
In the late Victorian era it was even considered fashionable to wear millinery birds on the hats so I was somewhat relieved to discover in an article written by Adam Lid that,
‘in the 1890’s, due to public reaction to the widespread depletion of bird species as a result of over-hunting, this trend went out of fashion.’
I used black netting to cover the hat, adding lace around the brim to soften the overall look and conceal the rather harsh edges.
Around the main body, I folded a piece of material to create natural looking pleats, tucking and tacking rather than stitching, which is just as well because the felt base wasn’t the easiest of surfaces to work with. I chose a colour to coordinate with Baroness Bolsover’s burgundy gown.
From an artificial feather boa which I also dug out of my ‘dressing up’ box, I cut off a short piece to create a ‘crown’ feature. This looked too tall, hence why I'd cut out the crown of the hat and lowered the sides before covering it all over with net trimming. I played around with the feather boa segment until it felt exactly right, stitching it lightly to the net crown.
To create elaborate embellishments, I bought a couple of fascinators from local charity shops, cut off the wire head band and added them to the front.
The Finishing Touches
Finally, I add three pink ostrich feathers. These beautiful soft feathers add movement, style, glamour and height to create an extravagant effect suitable for the Baroness.
Watch out for more posts about my Victorian Baroness for whom I’m currently designing a wonderful new Afternoon Tea Gown which promises to open up a whole new world…