1860s Zelda fanchon hat

At some point I will continue with the retrospective part of the 1860s Zelda series where I post about how I made the skirt and bodice and stuff. But today is not that day. Today is a day I post about a little project I made because I was stalling. It took me about 2 hours total.

Author modeling the hat

For background, I just got back from vacation with my partner and my sister and her husband. (A cruise to the Bahamas—and fortunately less nerve-wracking than the one we did in February 2020.) I have some neat photos coming from that soon. Prior to the cruise I had started work on mocking up my shirtwaist for 1890s Umbreon, which unfortunately had some fit issues with regards to the sleeve. Going on vacation disrupted my momentum on that, so when I got back, my studio seemed a bit intimidating. I wanted to sew, but everything had too many steps. So I decided to tackle a little project to ease myself back into things, and that’s where this silly little hat comes in.

This hat style is called a fanchon. According to Vintage Fashion Guild:

fanchon is a flat, unstructured head covering with elongated, decorative side pieces resembling earlaps. They were worn atop the head and usually made of lace, with or without additional fabric such as linen or muslin, or of delicate, embroidered netting. They were typically triangular, diamond-shaped, or round.

The fanchon hat or bonnet is the same shape as a fanchon, but with more structure. It is a very small, often triangular or circular hat that sits atop the head and has ribbons at either side to tie beneath the chin.

Both were popular in the mid-Victorian era (mid-19th Century).

I used a pattern from The Victorian Dressmaker’s Companion by Izabela Pitcher of Prior Attire. (I have all three of the currently-available books and I love them. The instructions are sometimes a bit difficult to parse but, quite frankly, many other historical clothing resources have no instructions whatsoever, and the ones that do are often not that good either, by modern sewing pattern standards. Also, there are lots of pictures and lots of pretty outfits in them, so I peruse them just for enjoyment.) The pattern describes it as an 1871 fanchon but the style was worn both before and after.

1871 Fanchion photo from book; woman with dark hair wearing a frilly lace confection on her head

This was a great opportunity to use little scraps of my dress fabrics and trims. In addition to saving my fabric leftovers, I also keep a separate bag with excess ruffles, bias tape, and ribbon that I used on the original costume. The little hat hardly uses any materials at all, and it made the process really fast and convenient to have everything already on hand.

What I enjoyed most about making this was how freestyle it was. You start with a diamond-like shape of your base fabric—it helps to have something to stiffen it, so I used one layer of taffeta and one layer of cotton organdy, which has sizing in it to make it stiff. I bound the edges with gold taffeta bias tape and added a very thin wire inside the binding to help shape it. After that, it was just a question of adding trims until I liked the look and decided it was done. With the exception of the top layer of trim, none of the stitching needed to be neat or invisible—it was all covered up by the next layer.

Hat with final layer of turquoise and gold metallic trim
With every layer of trim, I navigated the corners by using the incredibly scientific method of folding darts in and topstitching the trim down accordingly.
Final hat, with several layers of trim and an organza ribbon bow and side ties
I was undecided about “bow” vs. “no bow.” Instagram voted “bow.” The ribbons at the side can be used as ties.

So that’s the hat! I will get some photos of it with the full costume in April—my partner and I are going to a historical costuming meetup and I specifically wanted this hat to wear then. Now, let’s see if I can get that shirtwaist sorted out…

Hat modeled on a wig and wig head combination, with a bow
Hat modeled on a wig and wig head combination, with a bow

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