Next up was the hat. The original hat (or a least one of the original hats shown in photos– there appear to be a few) was an almost lampshade-shaped straw hat:
Tough to find, particularly in winter, and hats can be expensive in vintage shops. Luckily, I found something very similar in the costume section on Ebay! It’s called a “coolie” hat (which I find kind of racist, for what it’s worth) and the photo was pretty close in terms of shape.
Of course, when it arrived it was a lot flimsier than the original hat looked to be, plus being more conical with a less defined crown. I decided to add some wire around the brim to stiffen it up– I unpicked the stitches holding the straw edge binding, then cut off about 3/4″ all around the edge (it was just a bit too big for my taste) before stitching some thick brass wire around the underside and reattaching the binding with hot glue.
So to go with my 1915 picnic dress, I needed a hat to shade my delicate complexion from the sun (or something like that). I tried using my flowered Edwardian hat but it seemed too elaborate for the relatively casual dress, so I went looking for something new.
Since it’s summer there are plenty of straw hats available, but most of them are pretty floppy and that wasn’t what I was going for. I thought I’d start with something more boater-shaped, but apparently I was cutting it a bit close time-wise because most of the cheap boater options online had a 2-3 week shipping time, which was too late for my upcoming picnic.
I ended up with a costume gondolier hat, which is coarser straw than I would’ve liked, but it looked about right. Many purchasers complained that the crown was too shallow and the head circumference was too big, making it sit oddly on the head, but one reviewer (a woman after my own heart) noted that it was perfect for puffy Victorian/Edwardian hairstyles, which I thought made it worth a try.
Okay, so I already made one Regency bonnet out of a standard straw hat. That was easy. But for my second bonnet i wanted to be more of a purist and go with all straw, rather than a fabric crown. And I wanted it to be visually different from the first bonnet, with a more open, delicate look that would go with the light, airy cotton dress I would be wearing it with. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any inexpensive straw hats that had the more open weave– that is, until I came across this cowboy hat.
I found it on eBay but it’s also available on Amazon (though more expensive there). As soon as I saw it, I knew that it would be perfect to make a lacy-looking straw bonnet. I was a little worried about the brown painted edge accents, but knew I could always paint over them. And after reading some tutorials online about how to re-block straw hats, I figured that the weird crown shaping would be no problem, so I ordered it and got started!
I knew when I decided to make a day dress that I would need an appropriate bonnet to go with it– after all, I would be spending some of the afternoon outside, and no self-respecting lady would be seen outdoors without a head covering of some kind! A little searching found several tutorials about the simplest way to make a bonnet from a standard straw hat (here’s the best one I found), and when I located a straw hat at my local vintage clothing store for the low, low price of $0.00 (I had a free coupon for $10 credit– the hat itself was priced at $8) I snapped it up. The brim was a little smaller than I’d have liked, but for a free hat I wasn’t going to complain.