Mandy and I got together today to work on bonnets. While she was here, I decided to pull out a couple of original bonnets that she hadn't seen yet. During our examination, we discussed our decision to move from single layer to double layer buckram forms. We pulled out the handy dandy microscope and compared single layer (left), double layer (center), and extant (right) buckram. The differences in the weave and density are rather obvious in the photographs. The double layer is significantly better creating a studier form. (Don't worry mid-19th century folks! Our brims for 1855-1865 are made of stiff cotton netting. Just the crowns are buckram.)
When looking at 1850's and 1860's reproduction bonnets, there is one little detail that living historians often miss: The Cap. The cap is a frill of netting or lace around the face seen in 1850's and 1860's bonnets which was a replacement of separate caps. Unfortunately, trimmings including caps have been removed from many extant bonnets making the cap seem like a little skippable detail. However, looking at antique photographs will show caps as almost universal on bonnets making them and important detail present on quality reproduction bonnets.
In this digital age many people ask me, why I collect originals rather than just viewing online. Looking at online museums, eBay, Etsy, and countless others, there seem to be endless images of antique photographs and original garments to examine. In the case of original photographs, one of the reasons is resolution. Ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, and tintypes contain a level of detail that is absolutely mind blowing. For example, this 1850's ambrotype is approximately two by three inches in size. A scan of the image allows me to look at the individual flowers in the bonnet and details in the cap that wouldn't be recognizable at the original size. Looking at the ties, one can see that they aren't hemmed, cut rather messily, have a picot edge, and are even a bit wrinkled.
When I started participating in living history, I always thought I will never do the 1820s. The twenties are too crazy. Then I took a closer look. Now, the 1820s is probably my favorite decade. Elaborate trimmings, wide bonnets at flirty angles, and oh the hair!!! If you are looking forward to 1820s 200th anniversary events, we are here to help. Last year, we released our Sophia pattern offering multiple brim options to span the 1820s. Additionally, our new and improved 1820's fashion plate book has 79 fashion plates spanning the decade to help you perfect your historic impression!
Many of you have been to my workshops on preparing feathers. I also offer prepared feathers at events, but never on the website. Well they are here. Each feather is individually curled, sewn into a bunch, and then curled again. These feather bunches add a level of sophistication and luxuriousness not often seen in historic reproductions.
In preparation for the Treaty of Ghent event in Camden, South Carolina, I decided to make a batch of Federal Era Toques. These little puffy confections can dress up a winter coat and are even appropriate to wear in the ballroom. The best part of these darlings is they are an affordable way to dress up your impression or show off some delicious millinery trimmings.