Hat Trick: Instant Edwardian Glamour Using a Wreath and Wide Straw Hat

The title of this post says it all! This is the easiest way to decorate a hat ever—it’s so simple I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t think of it sooner!

I love hats, but for whatever reason, I struggle to decorate them. I can never seem to get the feathers to fluff, flowers to sit just so, or bows to stand properly. However, I was wandering the cavernous aisle of the the local “At Home” (“The-Home-Store-Formerly-Known-as-Garden-Ridge”) looking at Christmas ornaments…in August…during a 105°F heat wave…

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Like Hobby Lobby, At Home always goes Christmas Crazy early. This photo is from an article written in August of last year.

I was looking at the Christmas ornaments and vulturing around the Halloween merch hoping to catch an earlybird sale of some type. Alas, no sales on clip-on Christmas birds yet! I got a whole flock a few years ago and now I always keep my eye out for them. They are perfect for perching on late Victorian hats:

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Deprived of a deep discount on feathery friends, I was about to leave the store when I saw two giant displays of faux flowers. At Home is full of fake greenery, so I had ignored these displays on my way in. However, planted beside the plastic potted petunias was the most glorious seasonal bloom in the whole of the store: the RED LINE CLEARANCE SIGN!

A photo of a treasured red blossom of the 50% off variety.

Redline Clearance in At Home usually means either 20% or 50% off the tag price, but thanks to the brazen commercial exploitation of one of the most beloved holidays of the year and the need to fill the shelves with glitter-crusted burlap Santas before school’s even started, all summer floral was a whopping 75% off! And while I was high on the rush of sudden sales and the heady smell of ten-thousand different air freshener packets from the next display over, I was suddenly struck by the need to buy wreaths wreaths wreaths because FLOWER CROWNS:

I probably could have bought all the wreaths in the world— heaven knows my heart was screaming YAAAS GURL! YAAAS! as I thrust my arms elbow-deep into a glorious pile of polyester roses—but I am strapped for cash and really don’t have any more room to store stuff. So, I settled on a few choice pieces:

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I spent less than $20! It’s a miracle!

I found two wreaths in light, more spring-like colors, and while I was loading them into the cart, I was struck by another sudden epiphany: IF A WREATH FITS ON MY HEAD, IT WILL FIT ON A HAT!

Edwardian hats are huge, drowning in waterfalls of curled ostrich plumes, cascades of silk ribbon, and sprays of flowers. They are opulent to the maximum and, up until my fateful faux flower find, they were well beyond my hat-decorating comfort zone.

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My style is usually a bit more restrained, but looking at the piles of bargain wreaths mounded up like a magical hillside from a fairytale, I knew what needed to be done!

You see, I have this wonderfully wild 1980s straw hat:

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It’s perfectly shaped for 1900-1910, but that zebra crown isn’t the most period-looking finish. So I took one of the wreaths I’d bought on clearance…

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When choosing a wreath, it’s wise to pick one on the fuller side. The more dense/bigger the blooms, the more lush your hat will look (and the better it will hide any *ahem* idiosyncrasies).

…plopped it over the brim to hide the the crown…

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Sushi-roll hat!

…and voilà! An instant Edwardian hat, no millinery skill required!

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There was no agonizing over color scheme, no tedious arranging and rearranging of every single flower, and no waiting! It’s like the Jiffy mix of hats!

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My attempt at an autochrome-esque photo.

Another bonus? Instant restyling options! If you have only one hat, you can just switch the wreath instead of having to get a new hat base. The original full price of the wreath was $15, which is still a bargain if you consider the number of flowers you get for one price and the fact that it came pre-color coordinated!
If you are dedicated to decorating a particular hat, I recommend taking it with you so you can fit the wreath over the crown before buying it. The wreath I fell in love with as a tad too small, but by clipping the wire holding it together, I was able to resize it to fit.

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I used nail clippers and re-tied the ends in place with a stripped twist tie.

If you need to spread the wreath more than an inch or two, you can fill in the gap with a big ribbon bow or a matching bloom. My wreath fits snugly enough that it stays on securely, but if you are happy with your hat and want to keep it just as it is, hot gluing or sewing the wreath in place will keep it from falling off in the wind or when you bend over.

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Edwardian Hat Trick Cost Breakdown:

Wide brimmed straw hat – $4.99, Thrift Town
Floral Wreath – $3.75, At Home (Huzzah for clearance sales!)

Total – $8.74

—– Other Hat Posts ——

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Hat Trick: Turn a Placemat into an 18th Century Hat in Three Steps

Darn string!

Flower Pots and Romanticism: The 10 Second Poke Bonnet

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Update!

Look what I found!

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Her hat looks just like mine!

Make Your Own: Mid-19th Century Headdress

A Simple, Illustrated Guide

During the 1840s and 1850s, hairstyles covered the ears and usually had hanging braids or curls that puffed out around the face while a bun secured the rest of the hair behind– admittedly, not the most flattering look. However, ladies would dress up their hair for special occasions with beautiful flowery, feathery, and beaded headdresses like this:

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It’s a magical 180° flip! The addition of the pretty falls makes weird hair gorgeous! They make ballgowns look complete and make day dresses look romantic. Mid-19th century headdresses are really easy to make and fun to wear, too.

Time to make your own!

This is the set of falls from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston that inspired me. They have a whole collection of headdresses from this time period all made from different materials and in different styles. I adore flowers, but you can also use ribbons and beads to dress up your falls.

Materials

Faux Flowers
Metal Headband(s)
Green Floral Tape
Wire Cutters
Exacto Knife

I got all my materials from the local Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree. All together, I spent less than $15 on materials and had enough supplies to make three sets of falls!

Step 1: Trim your flower stems to a workable length (4-8 inches long)

Faux flowers vary widely in style. In my case, I chose some cute paper blossoms attached in a bunch on the end of a long stem. I had to remove the big stem to get to the individual flowers. You want to keep the stems of your flowers long enough to attach to the headband. Depending on the stem, 4 to 8 inches usually works well.

Step 2: Decide how you want your falls to hang.

The first flower is always the hardest! I wanted my falls to be medium length– barely long enough to reach the neck, like the original set. The best way to figure out how long you want yours to hang is to put on the headband and hold a stem up to the band until you find the length you want. Wrap the wire stem around the headband and use floral tape to secure the entire length of the stem, making sure to cover the end of the wire. The worst thing is wearing your falls to a dance and getting poked with stray wires all night!

Step 3: Add more stems until you reach the fullness you want.

Add the next stem over the tape and wrap it up as well. You can set your flowers as close together as you like. You can mix flower types and foliage to create more texture. I found a long, leafy stem softened the look of the crisp paper flowers. To attach this kind of stem, cut it to the length you want, then carefully attach it to the headband, maneuvering the tape around the leaves so they don’t get taped down.

Step 4: Once you reach the desired fullness, repeat on the other side.

Your falls can be symmetrical or not. Either way is historically accurate. If you like, you can make your flowers go all the way around the top of the head as well. Queen Victoria wore a hair wreath for her wedding that went all the way around her head instead of just falling at the sides.

Step 5: You’re done!

Taadaa! Here’s my completed headdress! :)

I decided to connect the two sides by wrapping the top of the headband with floral tape. Much more comfortable!

How to Wear Your Headdress

The best way to wear your headdress is with a period hairstyle. Since my hair is currently a little too short to properly style a la 1840s, my gracious sister, Minnie, allowed me to muddle up her hair for a photoshoot!

This is the style we chose for her hair since her locks are very fine and don’t hold curl very well:

The placement of your falls really depends on how you designed them, the hairstyle you choose, and what feels comfortable. It’s historically accurate to wear them behind or in front of the ears. At first she wore the falls behind her ears, but she decided that wearing them in front of her ears was much more comfortable in the long run and more readily displayed the pretty flowers!

Alternative Styles

You can adapt you falls for many different eras, and occasions! I have made a full version a few years ago for my Dia de los Muertos celebration headdress.

You can also wear both the fall-style and wreaths to make beautiful Edwardian costumes, especially Art Nouveau and Japonisme-inspired gowns. Nothing accents nymph-like beauty like lovely blossoms twining through your hair!

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Learn more about mid-19th Century Headdresses here!

As with all my articles, all of the images in this article are either linked to larger versions, articles explaining them, or other fact-filled sites to help you explore, so please feel free to check them out!

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UPDATE!

Just found this 1840s painting featuring a very full lace headdress:

The Importance of Finding Color: Edwardian Autochromes

It’s sometimes hard to think of the past beyond the black and white…

Making your costumes look and feel real is one of the greatest challenges in costuming. To accurately design a realistic outfit, you have to do research, often using primary sources like images. It’s important to not only get the seams and silhouettes down, it’s important to really feel like you know the era for which you are reenacting, and, therefore, living in! I’ve already covered how using unusual sources of extant images like Valentines and Stereographs can help inspire your costumes, but there’s another type of image I haven’t really explored before: Autochromes.

It began a few years ago when I discovered an autochrome in an antique shop. Wow! A COLOR photo of an Edwardian! I didn’t even know of their existence, having thought that colored photos beyond hand-tinted ones only arrived in the 1930s. I was curious, but never really delved too deeply into the history because, frankly, I hadn’t really become interested in photograph research just yet. The past few years I’ve gotten much more interested in photos as resources. Today, my interest was reawakened by this post at American Duchess.

This image of Ms. Emily Winthrop, piqued my interest in autochromes because of one small detail: her red necklace (which appears to be coral or art glass). It’s amazing how such a small detail like the color of a necklace can make such a difference! The rest of the image is pretty standard: dark hat, dark dress, white lace collar, even her blue eyes would all have translated fairly recognizably into black and white. Those beads, however, aren’t anywhere near as eye-popping in black and white:

It made me realize how important these autochromes could be. Color goes beyond just proving something red or blue, but also highlights textures and shapes in ways black and white photos can’t, especially since some colors, like red and green or even blue, look the same in greyscale, so prints with such color combos look much different. The difference between orange and red is important for fashion design, but black and white can render them indistinguishable. Traditional colorblindness dot tests prove how minute differences in color can make a world of difference. Here’s an even simpler test showing the importance of color:

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These squares are the same colors, I just greyscaled the second one. You can test this for yourself by making a color square in paint or Photoshop and then editing the image by desaturating the color 100% (I used Microsoft Picture Manager) or using a black and white filter. The difference is huge! All those wildly different colors suddenly become indistinguishable. That’s also why Victorian ladies’ skin looks so flawless and smooth: any splotches and redness grey out to almost perfectly match the underlying skin tone! It’s like Photoshop Edwardian Edition:

After realizing how important colored photos really were, I found a new love of Autochromes! Invented in 1903 by the Lumière brothers, Autochromes aren’t as harsh as modern color pictures, providing softened hues and tones. They are amazing at making photographs look less rigid and distant and more like an attainable reality. They are so beautiful!

Some of my favorites don’t involve everyday activities, but people in antique costumes and fantasy shots. Since autochromes were so new and special, people used them to capture scenes that could only be achieved with hand-colored prints and paintings before.

You can find a fine article on autochromes by Mark Antman here.