July 2015 HSF – Accessorize – horned headdress

Horned Headdress side view.

Horned Headdress side view.

For the July Historical Sew Monthly (previously Fortnightly) I wanted to make a hat / headdress to go with my new green sideless surcote. Luckily, I also had some leftover fabric, so was comfortable making something somewhat ‘matchy’ without being super-matchy, as the paintings didn’t really support that.

Background inspiration

I started with paintings from Pinterest, shown below:


Hotlinked directly from Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769715685328/ 
Hotlinked directly from Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769715686028/
Hotlinked directly from Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769716163477/
Hotlinked directly from Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769713912512/

What I found interesting about two of the images is that they show the sideless surcote being worn by people in the same images where women are wearing the v-neck houppelande as well… (Which I also have on my costume wish-list…) and in those multi-person images, the different people are wearing different styles of hats – suggesting to me that these dress fashions and hat fashions were all worn at the same time… so perhaps I can mix and match a bit too…

Possible styles

So, the different styles I can choose from include:

  • Tall heart-shaped hennin (the tall version with the thick padded tube/roll)
  • Regular pointy hennin
  • Butterfly hennin
  • Some kind of round padded turban-like hat
  • Wide headdress in a horned headdress style with a padded roll

I thought that the taller hennin styles might be challenging to pack to the event, and to wear outside (where it might get knocked over in the wind…) which led me to the horned headdress style instead.

Another image of the wide horned headdress. Directly hotlinked from Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769714021221/

About the ears…

I hate the idea of having my ears covered up by this headdress though. In the image above, the woman’s ears are clearly covered, in the red image at the top of the page her ears are covered too. Likewise, the headdress worn by the woman in the blue/red/white – her ears are covered, and in the top right image with multiple ladies, the tall heart-shaped hennin has a veil/scarf which is hiding that lady’s ears too. Ak!

Image directly hotlinked from Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/290200769716774900/

But.. in that group of three ladies at the top of the page, with the gold/red/white colour scheme, the ears appear to be shown. I went looking for other examples of ears being shown, and also found additional images which suggest that ears could be shown. In the image to the left for instance, there’s a wide headdress on the figure in red in the middle, where I’m pretty sure I can see her ears. Likewise, the figure on the far right with the blue cloak appears to be showing her ears wearing the same kind of headdress.

In another image (which I’ll post below in the embellishment area) four women are shown, three of which are wearing the kind of headdress I have in mind. All three are wearing the headdress above the ears, with the ears shown.

Dating this style

I knew I wanted the style more than I was really concerned with the date/location.  From Wikipedia, they note that the conical hennin started appearing circa 1430 – and were most common in Burgundy, and France, but also in English courts, and in Northern Europe, Hungary, and Poland.

Kat’s Hats also refers to the conical hennin, dating it’s height of popularity from 1450-1470, while discussing the heart-shaped hennin (her examples are similar, although not exactly like what I’m making) she marks the dates as 1405-1470. She doesn’t note locations, though it does raise a naming question – I’ve been calling the taller style a heart-shaped hennin, and the wide style like what I’m attempting a ‘horned headdress’ though her examples are the wider version, called ‘heart-shaped’.

The Tufts.Edu website shows English versions of the headdresses I’m most interested in, and dates them 1430-1460.

From Colors and Scents: The Transitional Period 1300-1500, republished on SCA today (original unavailable):

“After 1400, tall, outlandish headdresses came into fashion, most of which hid the hair entirely. Some of those worn were the reticulated (netted) headdress, the heart-shaped headdress (incorrectly called an escoffion) and the famous hennin.”

From Kats Hats:

“As the outer edges of the padded roll extended upwards, the middle of the padded roll descended into a dip at the centre of the forehead and was made from coloured silks, velvets or linen. It became encrusted in jewels, pearls and plaques of enamels. Over these were draped semi-circular or square veils all of which were hemmed with “rich stuff”. 

In 1440 the top edges of the padded roll of the “Heart Shaped Hennin” were drawn closer together still, producing yet another style of headdress called the “Forked Headdress”. A Long “Tippet” or “Streamer” type veil was attached at the back or side of it.

The Heart Shaped Hennin continued to be used by upper and middle classes throughout this period in time but discarded it completely after 1470.”


As I mentioned before, it didn’t seem from the images that the headdresses were always super-matchy to the gown. I could see perhaps using one of the fabrics from my gown in the headdress, and then perhaps a fabric from another gown I might make to wear with this headdress as well (like if I had made that v-neck houppelande for instance..) The breakdown I can see shows:

Dress Headdress
Green, white Brown, blue
Red, white, gold Red, gold
Gold, white Gold
Gold, white, red Gold
Gold, white, red Red, white
Blue, white, red, gold Gold red
Gold, red Gold, white
 Pink, white Gold
 Green, gold, black  Blue
 Blue, gold, white  Red
 Red  Gold
 Red, black, blue, white  Gold, white, red
 Black, red, blue, white Red, gold

 So there are some hats which match the dress, but most don’t… and there’s a lot of gold going on!

I figured that I’d make the base of the headdress in gold, and then the padded tube in the green, perhaps adorned with gold braid, lace, ribbon, or other trim.


Most of the paintings of the headdresses show a fair amount of adornment, with a large central brooch (in gold with pearls and/or jewels) at the centre front, along with gridding/lattice over the ears or a scattering of pearls, and additional trim along the padded roll with pearls.

While the style of this headdress to the left isn’t what I’m after, it shows much closer the embellishment and adornment – the padded tube appears to be gridded/latticed with trim, with perhaps each grid filled in with a single pearl? The sides too are latticed and the pearl fills the very small grid. There is a large brooch in the centre made of gold with pearls (on the ends?) and a large central oval red stone. The side pieces are also trimmed in gold ribbon.

In a similar way, the next painting (below) is not what I’m after, but shows additional embellishment. In this case there is a crown on top of the headdress (as shown in two of the images at the top of this post) but even without the crown, there is visible adornment. This includes lattice of ribbon/cord on the sides, with each crossing secured with a small pearl. Along the edge there seems to be a smooth ribbon of gold, topped off with rectangular jewels rimmed in gold, two pearls, an oval jewel rimmed in gold, two more pearls, and so on. The top edge which might be similar to the padded roll is lined with an ongoing line of pearls.

Another embellishment that I’ve seen a LOT in re-creations, but very little painting evidence for is a spiral-wrapped ribbon around the padded tube. Then I found the image below! While the two women on the right wearing the headdress I’m interested in SEEM to have a wrapped trim, the woman in red on the left more clearly has either a striped fabric, or red ribbon wrapped around the gold (green?) padded roll.

About the image below, Wikipedia describes it as: “Detail of a presentation miniature with Christine de Pisan presenting her book to queen Isabeau of Bavaria. Illuminated miniature from The Book of the Queen”, “between circa 1410 and circa 1414” 

So… I think that there are a lot of options for adornment and embellishment for this hat – but lattice, pearls, and jewels seem like a good way to go! Ribbons too seem to be acceptable.

Pattern development

From this last image, I’m seeing it very similar to the third image in the group at the top of the page, with what looks like two “horns” over the ears (though mine won’t cover the ears) moving up and slightly outward, which probably connect somewhat at the centre over the top of the head. From there I see a padded roll which seems to go from the centre front dipping down to the forehead, and going around to the back, probably just above the nape of the neck, and going over the points of the horns.

I found Jennifer Smith’s headdress development on Flickr (through Pinterest of course) and thought that this might be a good starting point.

Finished! by Jennifer Smith, on Flickr

Photo from Jennifer Smith’s Flickr photostream. Directly hotlinked from https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdsemma/4588325186/in/photostream/

I started with ‘draping’ paper on my own styrofoam head, and realized that I could get the basic shape I wanted by making a basic pillbox, flaring out the sides, and then cutting away to get the “horns”.

I developed the pattern to fit my own head (the foam head is much smaller than my own) by starting with a pillbox pattern, flaring it 1″ at intervals on the side, and 3/4″ at intervals at the front and back (so that the flare will be more on the sides). I shaped the ‘horns’ as well as shaped the front to allow the padded tube to come down over the forehead. With that cut-out, I enlarged the head shape slightly, so when I made it up, I brought the circumference back down to my head size.  (Not super mathmatic, but it works…)

Cutting the shape into the flared hat.

Cutting the shape into the flared hat.


The base

I cut the pattern out of 2 layers of buckram, and then also added some scrap buckram in between to support the narrow centre front, as well as the two points. I sewed the centre back closed, and wired the edges by hand.

I covered the form with thin cotton quilt batting (my dommet alternative) and sewed it down at both edges overlapping the buckram form. I then covered the padded form with a gold-gold silk brocade (as mentioned in an earlier post) and basted it down at the edges, and slip-stitched the back centre seam.

I know this is all seeming really fast, but to this point, I’d probably spent 4+ hours just getting to this point!

Next, the lining – I cut the same pattern shape out of the same silk (since the hat is an open-top at this point, and the lining will be seen when it’s worn). Since the shape is pretty drastic with convex and concave curves, I pinned the pattern to the fabric well, and traced the outline of the pattern with a straight stitch on my machine, and then pressed the seam allowance in. From there I used a thin beading needle to slip-stitch the lining to the outer fabric, knotting occasionally, and using silk thread that very closely matches the fabric.

The veil

I looked at paintings of this style, and then took my existing fine linen veil (which is actually still a work in progress…) to see if the shape/size was right. I liked where I pinned it, but it was far too long, and too opaque to match the look of the paintings.

Instead, I had a small length of very fine white silk with a slight texture to it. It’s not quite as sheer as chiffon, but pretty close, and I thought it would have the lightness I wanted. One edge I had already hemmed with a rolled machine stitch. I figured this edge I’d hide beneath the padded tube, and so the other edge I hand-rolled stitched…. in all honesty, the results aren’t that different to my eye – it’s only the look of the stitch that makes the difference.

By hand I pleated and sewed the veil to the edge of the hat using silk thread and a fine needle.

The tube

I started off with a fairly narrow tube, and filled it with cotton quilt batting, but once I pinned it to the base, it just felt too narrow. I cut another twice as wide, doubled the fabric (it’s thin fabric and I didn’t want the padding to show too much) and then filled it with polyester fiberfill. The size of the roll felt much better when I pinned it to the base, but I really didn’t like how lumpy the tube was.

I ended up taking the fiberfill out, and cut a long and wide length of cotton quilt batting, laid some fiberfill down on top of it, and rolled the batting into a long tube. I used a curved mattress needle to loosely baste the batting roll closed, and then pulled it (carefully!) into the tube of fabric. Now the tube had a much more consistent fill!

In period, the roll was presumably either stuffed with real hair (perhaps horsehair?) or padding like sheep’s wool batting.

Testing the fit of the padded roll

Testing the fit of the padded roll

I pinned this tube to the hat, and once again it needed adjustments… so I pulled the padding tube out, removed the fiberfill, and then put it back in again. FINALLY ENOUGH CHANGES to this one small detail!

I then cut some of the darker green fabric that I used for my green sideless surcote into strips (I just used the scraps leftover from the gown) and folded the raw edges in. I could have stitched them closed, but instead I got lazy and cut iron-on interfacing into strips nearly as wide, and ironed them down on top of the green raw edges, giving me a fairly firm ribbon. This also meant that I didn’t have any lumpy seams showing through to the right side of the  ‘ribbon’. I divided the five “ribbons” evenly around the front and sides (not the back) of the padded tube, and then hand-stitched the tube to the hat using a slim needle and silk thread.

The embellishment

I considered beading/etc the padded tube, and would have liked to grid the sides of the hat with the same kind of lattice and bead adornment that I saw on a number of portraits, but I was just really running tight on time. Plus the gold fabric I had used is quite decorative itself, so I figured I could skip that step for this particular hat.

However, I did need a brooch… which I’ll talk about in another post.

Horned Headdress with the veil hanging behind a bit too much

Horned Headdress with the veil hanging behind a bit too much

Historical Sew Monthly

With a really good turn of events, the need for this hat timed out perfectly for the July 2015 Historical Sew Monthly:

July – Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.

The Challenge: No historical outfit is complete without headwear, right? This is a horned headdress (perhaps also called a heart-shaped hennin? Different sites seem to name them differently) from 15th Century Europe.

Fabric: 100% silk brocade in gold for the base of the headdress, with a polyester shot blue/gold for the padded roll (would have been silk in period), and sheer white 100% silk for the veil. Polyester black/green shot fabric (would have been silk in period) for the padded roll stripes.

Pattern: self-drafted

Year: 15th century

Notions: buckram (substituted for glue-stiffened canvas), millinery wire, thin cotton quilt batting (substituting in for real hair or wool batting for tube-stuffing, and substituting for domet for covering the base). Interfacing for ribbons (to add stiffening and skip a sewing step). Brooch for embellishment to be discussed in a future post.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is completely speculative based on a variety of paintings/illustrations, all which show some variation between them. The techniques are modern millinery techniques, but presumably similar to period techniques. In period they would have used silk, velvets, and other ‘rich’ fabrics for this. I’ve used silk for some of it, but substituted other fabrics and materials for colour/cost/availability/wear-ability and what I had on hand.

Hours to complete: approx 6-8 hours, with plenty of interruptions for meals, laundry, dogs…

First worn: Avacal Coronation, June 26-28, 2015. Finished off a few days before!

Total cost: All materials on hand – estimate $10 for the silk, $3 for the polyester, $5 for the buckram, $2 for the wire, $4 for the quilt batting…

3 comments on “July 2015 HSF – Accessorize – horned headdress

  1. […] while ago I made my first horned (or heart-shaped) hennin. Recently, a friend commented about wanting to make one of her own, but as we were discussing […]

  2. […] bigger than Bernadette, and… proportions!  (Plus, if you read my blog, you know that I am a fan of enormous, ridiculous hats.) At this point I also questioned the measurements – since […]

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