This project is a LONG time coming. I started this post back in 2011, and called it a “dinner-plate” hat, however now in 2022… I know it’s called a Bergère instead.
I started this project and in mid-November 2011, kind of abandoned it. I’m not entirely sure why – likely something else shiny caught my attention, and I lost interest in a historically-inspired hat where I didn’t have any other historical costume elements to wear it with…
In my late 2021 UFO (UnFinished prOjects) review, I pulled out this hat as a work-in-progress, and decided to finish it off.
In my Millinery wish list post I mentioned the 18th Century Rococo / Georgian-era “Dinner Plate hat” – the Bergère. I didn’t know what it was called at the time – so I started calling it a Dinner Plate, until I finally found the name more recently.
From the movie Marie Antoinette, there were loads of these gorgeous gowns with coordinating headwear.
Certainly, one of these fabulous gowns is on my dream wish list (though I have absolutely no where to wear it) along with the slightly less unwearable Chemise à la Reine and I did make a vaguely inspired-by gown years ago as well (which was adapted to be way more wearable) but while I was on a 2011 millinery binge, I decided if nothing else… to start with the hat.
As mentioned at the start of this post, I began in 2011, and then in mid-November set it aside to work on something else. Coming back to it in 2022, there are many, many things that I would do differently…
Likewise… if I took work-in-progress photos 10+ years ago, I don’t have them anymore, so I’ll only be able to share the photos from the finishing-off, rather than all of the stages.
I drafted the pattern really only kind of looking at photo stills from the movie for size reference. In period portraiture, the hats seem to be of all sizes, being generally smaller in the 1740s and 50s, with the brims growing wider in the 1760s, 70s, and 80s. The style appears to be defined with a very shallow crown and a comparably wide brim, worn more “propped” on the head and held on with hat pins or ribbon ties, rather than worn directly around the crown of the head.
The crown height seems to vary from very, very shallow (merely a bump on the center of the brim) to about the width of a ribbon. I knew that constructing something with an incredibly shallow crown would be difficult, so chose about a 1″ tall crown, with a somewhat oval tip and brim. For no other reason than this shall define front and back more easily than a perfectly round tip.
I also chose to shape the crown slightly, making it slightly taller at front and back, and curved up on the sides to (ideally) better sit upon my head/hair. In retrospect, I don’t think this patterning was necessary, given how shallow the crown is to begin with.
Most of the portraiture and historical examples I could see showed the hat in straw, rather than a base covered in fabric.
However…. I didn’t WANT a straw hat – I wanted something fancy and pretty like from the movie. I also don’t have that many old straw hats to de-commission and use for parts to make something new, don’t have a lot of experience working with straw, and DO have a lot of millinery buckram, wire, etc.
I also found multiple fashion plates from the era that have fabric hats, though with how exaggerated they are, it’s difficult to be sure that they are Bergère hats and not an entirely different style. The green hat in this illustration hosted at Alamy, shows what looks like a green fabric hat with a ruffled green trim. The wavy edge of the brim suggests fabric to me, rather than straw. They note that this illustration comes from a French publication dated between 1751-1772.
Likewise, these two mid-18th century Bergère were sold at Bonham’s auction in 2013. While the one on the left is straw with peach silk ribbon, the other is a straw hat covered in “buff-coloured wool and gilt lamé”. While in period straw might have been used as a base for fabric covering, I think my buckram-covered hat is a decent approximation… without the need to deal with straw.
So, I went with a black and pink shot dupioni silk for the underside of the hat, edge binding and lining, and then used that same dupioni for the “ribbon”, and rosettes. The main fabric is a silver and pink “cherry blossom” Asian-style brocade for the outer fabric on the crown, tip, and brim.
Since I wanted a very smooth brim, I did something I now regret in the construction…
I opted to fuse the brocade to the top side of my buckram, and the silk to the bottom side of the buckram on the brim. This basically gives me a super flat brim with beautifully smooth fabric on both sides. It’s gorgeous to look at.
And a huge pain in the butt to sew.
All that glue and buckram and fabric is very difficult to get a needle through.
However, back in 2011, I sewed the crown, sewed the tip, covered them both in fabric, and then wired the bottom edge of the crown for support. From there also wired the outer edge of the brim, and then clipped the inner edge of the brim and inserted it into the crown.
Another mistake… I used glue to secure it in place. I didn’t trim down the clipped seam allowance of the inner brim either. If I were to do this again… I would not be using glue here – but I suspect I was having so many problems sewing through all those layers of buckram and glue… that I got frustrated and just wanted it IN THERE.
This was the point where I abandoned the hat, popping it into my bin of unfinished projects, along with the pattern and some accessories/decorations I thought about adding to the finished hat at some point.
When I pulled it OUT of the bin more recently, it really was *nearly* complete, so “all” I had to do was sew the brim and crown together (through all that glue…) cut the inner lining, hem and gather it, and stitch it in place. With needle-grabbers required at every stitch, this took substantially longer than I like. (Photograph above)
Then, the job of trimming the outer brim with self-bias out of the pink and black shot silk. I did this by machine, working very slowly and carefully so I wouldn’t break a needle or hit the wired edge. The end result was quite good – far better than if I’d tried to slip-stitch it by hand through all those layers of fusing.
Once constructed, it was time to start decorating. Period examples seem to focus largely on ribbons and large coordinating silk flowers. The ribbons seem to be either in a similar tone to the hat – or contrasting.
However, the movie stills that inspired this hat to begin with all use the same cotton-candy/ pastel/ sweet / saccharine aesthetic, where the hats and dresses and accessories mostly all sort of softly blend into one another.
I wanted to do the same thing – keep largely with the same tones for any embellishment on the hat – those same candy-coated colours, keeping the overall aesthetic soft and “girly”.
I ended up taking the same pink shot dupioni silk, and making a bias ‘ribbon’ to go around the crown of the hat, and then three various sized bias flowers of the same fabric, and stitched them in place.
In the movie the title character (and her ladies) all start putting flowers, birds, and other novelties into their hair as well, including one still where she’s perched a ship into her hair – a reference to a depiction of one of Marie Antoinette’s contemporaries pictured with a ship on her hat.
Early on I also loved the notion of decorating this hat with a ship, as mentioned in my 2011 post.
I bought foam clay, a small foam ship model, a white plastic ship model… all to try to come up with something evocative of this “ship” notion – without it being quite as overboard as the original… still keeping this pretty, somewhat delicate aesthetic instead.
The foam ship was far too large and toy-looking, the foam clay seemed like a great idea but I couldn’t really figure out exactly what I wanted to do right away – plus I found it doesn’t hold up over time too well.
Instead I used the little model boat, and crafted a sail from white silk, gluing it in place to a mast from a fine dowel. I started off dry brushing it with pewter paint (the white was too stark against the silver hat) but then resorted to spray painting it – creating sort of a “ghost ship” kind of effect. It ended up being stitched in place amongst the silk flowers, because after all that stitching, I was loathe to glue the ship to the hat!
Historical Sew Monthly
While I actually finished this off before this challenge, I wanted to submit this for the Historical Sew Monthly 2022 August challenge – As Seen On Screen
The Challenge: I was inspired to make this by the movie Marie Antoinette.
Material: Brocade outer fabric, silk lining
Year: c. 1750s
Notions: Buckram, wire, thread, (regrettably) fusible webbing… and a tiny ship!
How historically accurate is it? The shape is pretty accurate to the time, the materials aren’t perfect. The construction method is inaccurate. (It’s also a 10-year-old UFO!)
Hours to complete: Unknown
First worn: Only for photos
Total cost: Unsure. The materials were purchased 10+ years ago, and I don’t recall the costs. However, the same materials would sell for about $50 today.
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Now I just need more occasions to wear them!