Projects

A Reticulated Headdress (A Real one, in one week)

This year the East Kingdom is sponsoring a set of challenges to motivate and enrich our community with beautiful art. And low and behold there was a challenge made just for Scolastica: Documentable Wacky Hats.

You may recall, last fall for Yule I made a headdress out of cardboard. It took me one day and was a great surprise for virtual court. But, now I want to make this headdress out of real hat making materials.

To make understanding this project easier, I am going to define the “parts” up front. Historically, we don’t necessarily know what these things were called, keep in mind that the English language has changed quite a bit since 1410, and English courts spoke primarily French. A story I read online refers to them as Gibbets (the torture cages they put criminals in, so take it all with a grain of salt).

  • The Band: This headdress will be made with a band that goes around the head at forehead level.
  • The Cauls: The side parts that will cover my hair buns (think Princess Leia) we will call the Cauls. Historically cauls were a thing that went around hair buns, so I think this is appropriate, but not necessarily “accurate”. Some books refer to these pieces as Templettes because they cover the temples. Some templettes are tubular, and others like this headdress are more round.
  • The Veil: A veil? Made of silk, in the shape of a curtain.
  • The Curtain Rod: The headdress worn by Princess Beatrice includes a metal form which extends past the sides of the cauls to create a curtain affect when the veil is laid over top. A book, Hats: A history of Fashion in Headwear, mentions that this headdress was 22 inches wide!
Drawing of my design

I purchased some buckram (heavily starched fabric) and some millinery wire from Hatmakingsupplies.com. First I cut a 1.5″ wide band that I fit around my head at the forehead level. Of course my buckram was slightly shorter than the length around my head, so I made due by piecing two pieces together. I left this portion unsewn for the moment as I wanted wiggle room to be able to make it bigger or smaller if necessary.

I braided my hair into braids and pinned them into buns over my ears. (An important step in figuring out where to put my cauls).

I cut out two pieces of buckram to be 11″ long by 3.5″ wide. I trimmed one side of each piece so it had a little curve that would contour my head and be a little more comfortable. Then I sewed a length of millinery wire along the straight edge (the piece I didn’t trim). this will allow me some control over the shape of the headdress furthest from my head.

This is the pattern I created of my Poster Board Hat. I used this pattern as a guide for this headdress.

I cut a 1.5 inch wide headband and pinned it into a circle on my head. Then I pinned the two cauls to the headband, and it looked like this!

The buckram pinned together!

At this point I was really happy with the shape and ready to get going with my fabric. The band of buckram was itchy, so I knew it needed to be lined. And my Laurel prodded me into lining the cauls as well. I roughly cut out pieces of 3.5oz linen in shapes big enough to cover the pieces and I went at them with some white thread.

The headband was wrapped and stitched with a fell stitch on the inside. The cauls were lined on the interior and the excess fabric folded over the sides. The stitches were rather sloppy as they would be hidden under the silk.

I next made a pattern based on the shapes I had. I did not include seam allowances but instead pinned the pattern to the silk and cut around it with extra room. I then used my iron to press the edges inward. At this time I also cut out little “U” shapes for the end caps of the cauls and cut out silk and linen to cover them with the same method.

Decoration!

Countess Beatrice’s hat is covered in pearls, so I decided to cover mine in pearls and beads and ribbons as well. I ordered glass pearls in 8mm and 4 mm and gold seed beads, and due the the quantity of ribbon required and the time constrains I was under, I ordered some synthetic ribbon.

I decided to cover the cauls in a cross hatch pattern of ribbon. I pinned the ribbons down and then sewed them using silk thread along each side with tiny stitches. (This took two days!).

Clockwise from Left: the pinned ribbons, a mock up of my ribbon placement, and the finished silk pinned to the caul frames.

I then chose a pattern of beads and pearls to cover the ribbons. I decided to put the big pearls where the ribbons crossed and the smaller pearls next to gold seed beads. Then along the edges, where I put thicker ribbons, I chose to alternate between big and smaller pearls.

Counter clockwise from left: a sample of the beading, the first bit of beading, more beading, finished beading. I chose to only bead the parts of the cauls that would be seen and not bead the portions that would be covered by the veil.

I then had to slip stitch the silk beaded covers to the white cauls.

After that was done, I whip stitched the end caps together and then onto the cauls.

The had was nearly done. I decided to cover the headband with a similar ribbon treatment but I decided to leave them un-beaded, as the beads would be hidden by the veil. I slip stitched the silk onto the forehead band, and also covered the back side of the band (that would show between the cauls) with silk as well.

Then I pinned the cauls to the headband and I tried it on! It took some adjustment but when I was happy I excitedly stitched the cauls onto the headband.

The headband nearly finished, with the cauls pinned to the headband.

The Curtain Rod

The curtain rod is one of the most important parts of this headdress. It provides the Wow factor and the what on earth is that factor. According to some documents I found, Countess Beatrice’s headdress was 22 inches wide.

With the help of some friends I constructed an armature that looks like this:

Photos showing the armature of the headdress.

It is not perfect, but it does give that WOW. I think I will probably mess with this in the future, and cover the ends with fabric so that I can pin my veil to it more easily. Also, despite my best efforts it comes in just under 20″, so not as wide as Countess Beatrice’s headdress.

The Veil

Over the course of this project I played with the linen half circle veil I own to see what kind of shape I thought the veil should be. Through these experiments I determined that a half circle would be the best shape.

Experimenting with veils!

The veil is a simple silk double georgette (not historically accurate but provided excellent drape very similar to the sculptures of this headdress) which is cut in a half circle, and hemmed with a tiny hem stitch. It is then pinned to the forehead and to both of the ends of the curtain rod to give the characteristic curtainlike appearance.

Top: Wee tiny stitches of a rolled hem. Bottom: the veil laid flat. Its not perfect, silk double georgette is hard to cut!

The Reticulated Headdress

I finished this headdress just in time to be presented with a Silver Broach at the East Kingdom Ethereal Court. This is a high honor for one such as I, devoted to recreating things such as this headdress from the middle ages. The recording will go live on May 16th, but until then, here are some pictures!

Final thoughts:

Photos of this headdress do not do justice to its majesty and size. This piece is incredibly complicated, large, and inhibits your movement. When seen from straight on, its bizarre, wide, and strange. Then, when seen from the side, or in movement, it really shines as something that you see in the manuscripts, on the effigies, that you can imagine a real medieval woman wearing. It is an incredible headpiece to wear and to love.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and I hope to make many more, opulent, strange and giant headdresses for your enjoyment in the future.

Support:

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