To go with my 1840s day dress I knew I needed something to use as a head covering for Dickens Fair. Unfortunately, while the standard shape for an 1840s bonnet is really a “coal scuttle bonnet” with straight sides like this one:
… it was not possible to find one inexpensively on short notice. Further complicating the issue was the fact that I’d have to pack or ship the bonnet, which is a pain since bonnets are so bulky, so I couldn’t just make one at home and get it to California easily. What to do?
I decided to compromise a bit, and found a basic black felt bonnet on Amazon. It wasn’t quite the right shape, having a flared brim rather than a straighter one, but it had the Victorian “look” and the reviews made it clear that it was the best I was going to find at this price point. I had it shipped directly to my parents’ place in Northern California so it would be waiting for me when I arrived, just one day before Dickens Fair.
Of course, I didn’t want to wear an unadorned black bonnet, but I wouldn’t really have time to do proper decorations in the short time I’d have available. I ended up putting together a bonnet decoration that was pre-mounted on a piece of black felt, so it would be ready to attach to my bonnet in one piece.
Since I wanted to coordinate with my dress but not be too matchy-matchy, I got some red ribbons out of my stash, added some corded trim, brown speckled feathers, ivory ostrich plumes, and some holiday berries.
First I stitched a double bow out of velvet and satin ribbons:
Then I took a piece of black felt and stitched my feathers, berries, and bow on in layers:
Finally, I cut away the felt where it was visible from the front, so I’d be able to mount the decoration to the bonnet without the felt showing.
Once I arrived in California, I quickly stitched the remaining red ribbon around the crown of the bonnet, placing the ends where they’d be hidden by the feather decoration. I used big stitches right down the middle of the ribbon because they were going to be hidden by the corded trim anyway. Then I layered the trim on top, using slightly smaller stitches down the center of the trim in matching thread.
I stitched the ribbon ties to either side of the bonnet, tucking them under the ribbon/trim band to conceal the stitching.
Once all of the ribbon was attached, I stitched the feather decoration to the side of the bonnet, covering the raw ends of the ribbon/trim. Voila!
The best part is, if I decide to re-trim the bonnet it’ll be really easy to remove all of the decoration and replace it– this is something I failed to do for my other bonnets and hats, which have all involved hot glue to keep things in place.