To top off (ha ha) my new Italian Renaissance costume, I needed headwear. I looked at a few different options:
- I could use the Reta I already made – it fits well and is correct for the outfit I’m making.
- I can go without any headwear at all – many of the portraits show women without headwear.
- I could finish off the netted headdress I started, which is about half done, with the most challenging parts done.. but it’s rather unimpressive….
- I could try something new and totally different…. which would require drafting a new pattern and starting from scratch…
.. so of COURSE with 2 weeks to go before the event, and NONE of the garments completed yet, I opted to go for the fourth option.
The first time I saw “The Beheading of Saint John The Baptist”, I LOVED the hat. The timeline was approximately correct (1490.. although I’m using 1480 as a rough date) but it’s a Spanish painting rather than Italian. Still… the gown was similar to what I was working on, and so many other elements were similar to the Italian work…. and I LOVED that hat…
Another painting detail (below) is also Spanish, but shows a number of similar Italian influences, and is quite a bit earlier (circa 1420). This one shows more of a heart-shaped headdress, but there are similar elements to the first painting.
These headdresses aren’t TOO different from the Balzo hat, which I generally would associate with an Italian style later than c. 1480. This portrait (right) doesn’t have an associated date from the original web source, but has similar elements as well to my initial inspiration.
Another Balzo is show in this portrait from c. 1540, though it’s smaller. It, like the one to the right, is worn further back on the head than my inspiration image, is heavily embellished with trims, beads, etc, and the main colour is golden.
Finally, I found this painting, a detail of the Altarpiece of the patron saints of Cologne, circa 1445 (much earlier than the 1480 guide I’m looking at) which shows the same shape as my inspiration image.
So, there are some differences between the later period Italian inspiration sources and the earlier sources I’m looking at, but I think it’s fair to include this style with an Italian outfit, given the spread of this style across dates and places.
This specific headdress looks like a “padded roll”, has an open top (like a wreath around the head, rather than having a closed tip), is heavily embellished with trim, gems, and pearls, is golden in colour, and is worn with the long, low ponytail covered in an embroidered veil. I think it has five sections of stripes with pearls, contrasted with five sections of ornaments.
While the later similar headdresses are worn further back on the head, this earlier style seems to be worn covering the hairline. The Spanish version looks as though it would cover the ears, though the German version has her ears uncovered. Both of the earlier versions look ‘shaped’ – they aren’t just rolls plopped over the head… they have a dip in them on the sides.
The notion of a padded roll sounds easy… but… I didn’t think this was how this headdress was constructed.
First, the shaping of the sides of this hat suggests it’s not just some stuffed tube squished onto the head. (The stuffed tube at the left is this style.)
Second, the way it fits smooth to her head, keeping her veil in place suggests that it is fitted to her head. After making the padded roll that went on my horned headdress (right), I knew how hard it was to get the padded roll to lay in the smooth way I wanted it to.
I suspect that this only LOOKS like a padded roll (a circle if sliced into profile), but is actually more like a half-circle in profile.. with a smooth, shaped side against the head, and a padded exterior creating the look of a roll.
Ultimately, I think this is a deceptive style… it LOOKS easy – but it isn’t…
Since I wanted the hat to fit smooth against my head, and have a curved shape to the side, I didn’t want to actually draft this, I wanted to “drape” it.
It’s kind of strange, but this method really does work well for developing a pattern. I popped a plastic bag on my head, wrapped it with masking tape, and then drew the design on with a Sharpie. I didn’t want the hat to cover my ears, so didn’t do as dramatic as a shape on the sides as my inspiration image, but more like the German version.
Once it was off my head, I popped it on a headform (which is way smaller than my head, which is why I have to drape it on my own) and reviewed the shape, and then transferred the shape to card stock for a pattern. I tried on the card stock, adjusted the pattern slightly, making it a bit narrower than I originally planned (like my inspiration), and then cut the pattern out of buckram. The buckram form is 2″ wide.
I sewed the back seam of the buckram hat frame on my machine, and then applied wire to both edges.
I’ve documented how to wire a hat in a previous post… check it out!
Once the buckram was wired, I re-shaped it on my head, and it was time to cover the hat!
I used a 100% silk, in a gold shot with white, which gives it a subtle slightly metallic sheen. I would have prefered a slightly darker gold, but right now I really need to use up fabric in my stash, and don’t really have the cash for shopping… I cut two 5″ wide strips on the bias, and sewed them together into a ring. I ran a large zig-zag stitch along both edges to gather the fabric, pinned it to the hat form in quarters, and drew the gathering stitches to fit. By hand, I tacked down the silk on one end, and stuffed the hat with polyester fiberfill (in period I suspect horse hair or wool batting would have been used for this) and then tacked down the other side with a long basting stitch.
(Illustrated in the top two photos below)
Next, I cut five 6″ long, 2″ wide strips of teal figured velvet. This is the same fabric from my overdress that I’ll be making for this costume. I also cut 10 strips of 2″ wide, 6″ long red silk. This is the same fabric from another overdress I’m making, and an underdress I’ve already made. I didn’t watch the hat to *match* the outfit entirely, but wanted to use similar colours to coordinate with more than one garment. I used the red strips to trim the edges of the figured velvet, and then basted the strips to the top of the hat form. (photographed above)
Next I basted the strips to the bottom of the form too, giving enough “poof” for the roll. I didn’t actually need 6″, 5″ like the gold fabric would have been enough.
At this point the basting stitches look really weird… they’re pulling in the fabric in a strange way along the edges… but don’t worry… the next step fixes that!
For the lining I cut out iron-on interfacing (totally not period) in the shape of the hat form. I pressed this to the gold silk, trimmed the silk allowing seam allowance, clipped the curves, and pressed the seam allowances down. The interfacing gives a smooth structure for the curves, making this much easier than without it. In period a solution might have been to cut this in a firm, thin fabric instead.
I pulled threads from the gold fabric to sew with, and attached the lining to the interior of the hat at the top edge. Then I pulled the basting stitches out from the top edge. Next, I sewed the lining to the edges at the bottom, section by section. I removed the basting stitches section by section as well, and added additional fiberfill (using bent-nose tweezers) where needed for a full, plump, rounded look.
At this point the hat is essentially “done”… and just requires embellishment!
In the teal fabric parts of the hat I put three faux pearls, similar to my inspiration image. For the gold parts, I wanted a different design, and wanted red square ‘gems’. I didn’t have any, and couldn’t find any at Michaels, so I switched things up and bought clear ones, and “dyed” them with alcohol inks, (Adirondack inks in Ginger and Wild Plum) then sealed them with clear nail polish. I wasn’t too sure about them so “auditioned” an alternative…. but decided to go with the gem after all.
First I tried sewing these directly to the hat, along with small gold-tone heishi beads (from Fire Mountain Gems) and faux pearls, but the puffiness of the hat just wasn’t supporting the layout of the beads. I ended up fusing interfacing to a scrap of the same gold silk, sewing the beads and gems to the silk, and then trimming the silk closely to the threads, and sewing the embellished silk to the hat.
The photo above shows some of the steps – from left to right, top to bottom – the alcohol inks used to dye the faux gemstone, the first attempt sewing the stone and beads directly to the hat, sewing the gems instead to silk fabric, and trimming out the embellished silk.
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