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