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?
So remember the Edwardian hat I painstakingly made last year, only to lose it on the train before I got the chance to wear it? I never really got over being bitter about that, and vowed to make another, better one as soon as I got the chance.
I recently acquired an antique Edwardian lingerie dress (translation: a lacy white cotton dress suitable for afternoon wear) that I plan on wearing to an afternoon tea. However, how can one go to an Edwardian tea without an appropriate hat (particularly when one has no skill at Edwardian hairdressing, making the hat even more necessary)? So when I saw this wide-brimmed straw hat in a local store for only $1.99, I snapped it up.
You can see that it actually has a slightly fluted brim– I liked that detail– and a relatively small crown that would have to be disguised to get the right shape. I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to look like in the end, so I turned to the internet for inspiration.
After my success with the purple hooded fleece cloak I decided to try a different version as a gift for a friend’s little girl, who is obsessed with owls. The great part about cloaks and capes is that they’re so versatile for costumes and general play, and they’re basically one-size fits all. I decided that a half-circle cape would be perfect to mimic an owl’s wingspan, and got to work.
Going to Anime Boston this year reminded me that I haven’t told you all about my hat project. THE hat project. The big one. The mother of all projects. The project that spanned years, involved international commerce, and still has remnants floating around my house. And it all started with a single hat. Or, the lack of one.
A few years back, as the steampunk trend was just on the upswing, I decided to make myself a steampunk costume for Anime Boston. It would have a tweed skirt, a brocade bustier, some interesting leather doodads and brass thingies, and of course a miniature top hat. The problem was, I couldn’t find a hat that I liked– the pre-decorated ones were insanely expensive and the craft-store felt ones were really cheap looking, being more like flocked plastic than real felt and too small for what I had in mind. I did try to place an order for the largest available cheap felt hat from an online supply store, but they were out of stock. That, I think, was the turning point in the whole endeavor, because I had to think outside of the box. (why I didn’t just make a hat out of cardboard and cover it in fabric, I have no idea…)
As you know, if you do an in-depth search for an item on eBay the regular results eventually give way to hits for overseas wholesalers who will sell you bulk quantities of said item. While I personally had no need for huge numbers of tiny hats, it occurred to me that if I was having a problem locating a reasonably priced, decent-quality mini top hat, other people might be having the same problem. Pretty soon I had an email conversation going with a hat company in China that could ship me 150 black felt mini top hats for what worked out to be just under $4.00 a hat, including shipping (which was the most expensive part).
Sparing you the logistics, eventually I ended up with two giant cardboard boxes of hats and about 3 months in which to prepare them for sale at an Artist’s Alley table at Anime Boston.