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How to Make a Regency Era Bonnet


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During the Regency Era, ladies seldom went out of doors without a bonnet or hat. Styles ran the gamut from plain straw bonnets to elaborately trimmed capotes. In these portraits, you can see simple straw bonnets adorned with wide ribbons or lace:



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Creating your own bonnet to go with your Regency day dress is simple – you can take a ready-made hat and turn it into a Regency Era bonnet like the ones seen these fashion plates:



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These bonnets share a common feature: the crowns are covered in a softly-gathered fabric, with additional trimmings including ribbons, flowers and plumes. There is a lot of room for embellishment once you have your classic bonnet made.


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Materials Needed:

  • 1 yard of 44” wide fabric
  • 2 yards of 1/8” wide ribbon or cord
  • 2 yards of 1” – 1 1/2” wide ribbon for bonnet ties
  • Assorted trimmings such as ribbons, laces, feathers, etc. as desired
  • One straw hat – the “Collapsible Classic Hat” is shown here, but the “Italian Classic Hat” and “Mad Hatter” are also good for this project. A favorite source for straw hats and / or bonnet forms is www.hatsupply.com

Sewing Instructions:

Step 1. To determine how much fabric you will need to cover the crown of your hat, first measure around the base of the crown:

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Step 2. As you can see, the crown of this hat is just under 23 1/2”. Next, measure the brim up the side of the crown to the center of the crown:

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Step 3. If the top of the crown is wider than the base, you’ll need to measure it as well:

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Step 4. With these measurements in hand, you are ready to cut the fabric piece that will cover the crown of your hat. To create a softly gathered look and have enough room for seam allowances and drawstring casings, you’ll have to make your covering larger than the actual crown of your hat. Because the top of this crown is wider than the base, use this (in this case 27 1/2”) measurement as the standard. To give the covering the room needed, add 4” to this base measurement, and 2” to the height measurement. Cut a rectangle of fabric to these measurements – the covering for this hat is made of a piece of fabric that measures 31 1/2” wide and 11” tall:

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Step 5. Pin the short ends of the covering together, with RIGHT sides together. Stitch in a 5/8” seam. Press this seam open.

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Step 6. Turn under a narrow 1/4” wide hem on the top and the bottom and press in place. Stitch close to the raw edge, forming casings. Be sure to leave a small opening in each casing to insert drawstrings:

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If you are striving for authenticity, sew the casings in place by hand, using a running stitch:

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Step 7. Before placing the covering on your hat, attach the bonnet’s ties. First try on the hat to determine where you would like to place the ties, then pin them to the crown and sew them in place. You can place the ties either on the inside or the outside of the bonnet, depending on the look you want to achieve – both are correct for the time period. If you place them on the outside, be sure to pin them high enough that they will be covered by your fabric, instead of showing beneath it:

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Step 8. Once your ties are in place, you are ready to cover the crown of your bonnet. Cut your 1/8” ribbon or cord in half, so you have two drawstrings. Run your drawstrings through the casings on your covering (they should be long enough to pull tight and tie securely), then slip the covering down over the crown of your bonnet and tie each drawstring:

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Tuck the ends of the drawstrings inside the cover to hide them. Take a needle and thread and tack the lower edge of the cover in place around the base of the crown, to prevent the cover from riding up and revealing the crown and the top of the ties:

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Also tack the top of the covering to the center of the hat’s crown so that it stays in place:

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Now you have a basic Regency Era bonnet! This one is embellished with a beaded ribbon trim, but feel free to add whatever suits your fancy – the final result? A beautiful Regency accessory you can make yourself!



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