Enchantment Under the Sea – Hat

The cocktail hat or fascinator for my "Enchantment Under the Sea" costume.

The cocktail hat or fascinator for my “Enchantment Under the Sea” costume.

You’re never fully dressed without a … hat!

I looked at hats from the 1950s and saw they were as diverse as hats today (albeit probably more commonly worn than today..) I opted for a small fascinator/cocktail hat, since it was a “prom” dress costume after all. (Other common options were wide-brimmed hats which seemed less workable). I wanted the hat to look like a nautilus shell curled up, accented with things like starfish, netting, etc..

Knitted nautilus inspiration from Pinterest

First – failure

Corded pintucks with white satin and pink lining

Corded pintucks with white satin and pink lining

My first plan was to make a small stuffed nautilus shell from a shiny white fabric. I cut a long strip wider at one end than the other of a shimmery white satin, and then did corded pintucks using a blue silk-bamboo yarn (so the blue shows through the white fabric just a bit. I lined the tip with pale champagne-pink charmeuse that I had leftover from another project, and sewed up the tube, stuffed it, and hand-stitched it into the curl.

But… when I tried placing it on my head to give myself an idea of what it would look like…. I just didn’t like it! It stood out too far away from my head, and I couldn’t quite figure out which way to point the pinkish ‘shell’ opening.

I like the final shell – just not how it worked as a hat.

Completed first nautilus and teardrop hat form

Completed first nautilus and teardrop hat form

So – back to the drawing board!

Preparing the hat

While I tried to figure how how I’d be doing the shell, I decided to prepare the hat form.  Years and years ago I picked up what looked like a hastily-made bridal fascinator based on a teardrop hat form. I quickly peeled off the white satin and ivory netting and had a perfectly useable hat form underneath.

hat form covered with knit and netting

hat form covered with knit and netting

First I covered the hat form in the same blue/green/metallic shot knit fabric I’d used for my ear-fins and my hand-fins/gloves. I had to make three small pleats at the back, even when using the knit which was surprising.

Next I covered the hat form with the sequin-like embellished netting – I wanted the hat to look like part of the dress & outfit rather than part of the ‘sea creature’, so I was using the underlaying knit mostly for colour (and a bit of shimmer) rather than for the consistency of fabrics. The netting also required a few pleats to lay on the curved hat form.

Next – time to embellish!

  • I made a gathered-between-beads strip of the netting to create a ‘wave’ when attached to the side of the hat.
  • I made a gathered with tulle little poof/veil to go at the back of the hat
  • Then I started on the nautilus

The next nautilus (& a starfish)

Since the three-dimensional version didn’t really work I opted for a flatter, more two-dimensional version. I was largely inspired by the pillow below, where I also printed off a pattern.

Pillow from Pinterest

I transferred the pattern to some scrap white lining fabric, and then sewed it right-sides-together with some sparkly vintage fabric from an old dress that I had in my scrap bin. I slashed the lining, turned the shell, stuffed it, and sewed it closed with the lines of the shell.

I also sewed in some of the ‘veins’ – though not all of them – I didn’t want to get too detailed with the stitching unnecessarily.

painting in details on the new nautilus

painting in details on the new nautilus

However, to bring out some of the detail, and give the shell a bit more three-dimensional depth, I used acrylic paints to paint in some detail. I used a pearl pink, a very transparent silver, and a dark chrome.

I also made a starfish in a similar way, doing the detailed soft-sculpture stitching by hand instead, and painting it with a dark purple, a bright blue, and the same transparent silver, and dark chrome as the nautilus.

Pulling it all together

I auditioned the placement of the shell and starfish with pins, and then hand-sewed them to the hat. From there I added the veil/poof for the back of the hat, and then was ready for beads. I picked up some large pearls and large clear bubble-beads from Michael’s, but ended up not using them, instead raiding my stash of fake pearls in a variety of sizes for the hat.

Close up - auditioning the beads with straight pins & a foam headform

Close up – auditioning the beads with straight pins & a foam headform

I pinned the pearls onto the hat (using straight pins and a foam head form) to get an idea of where I’d want them, how they’d “nestle” in amongst the shells, and in the “wave’ on the side. From there I went ahead and sewed each in place. I had considered glue, but figured it wouldn’t be as clean looking.

Once that was done I cut the lining (I opted to use a ‘flesh-tone swimsuit lining that I also used in other parts of the costume to give the hat a bit more “stick” versus slippery lining material) and sewed it in place. I also dropped a few drips of glue inside the hat to hold the lining up, instead of having it pop out easily.

Once that was dry and secure, I glued some bridal buttonhole elastic to some lace hem tape for the combs (Check out my post about adding combs to a fascinator here) and then glued the tape in. I probably should have sewed it, but… honestly, I felt that I was running out of time.


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Stay tuned.. I have more photos and posts coming for this costume!

4 comments on “Enchantment Under the Sea – Hat

  1. Space_wolf says:

    Thank you for following Wolfish Written. You have some gorgeous costume pieces showcased on your blog.

  2. Liz says:

    OMG! This is so gorgeous! The way you mixed techniques is impressive, and I really like the little starfish, too.

    • Dawn says:

      I’m glad! I think I like the starfish least of all actually… but I also still want to figure out how to do two more for a back piece for the dress…maybe. Now that it’s “Done” I kind of think maybe I’ll just leave it – goodness knows it’s not going to get worn a lot!

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