Historical Millinery

In an effort to better understand contemporary historical practices, Eleanor has frequently utilised her skills as a milliner to recreate surviving headwear. She has painstakingly reconstructed hats and bonnets for academic use, recreated pieces to illustrate talks or copied fashion plates for exhibition purposes. By way of example, the processes involved in the creation of an 1814 bonnet, made at the request of Chawton House Library, to mark the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, are outlined below. The bonnet was later sold at auction at the Jane Austen Society of North America AGM.

  • Bergère

  • 1790 Silk Calash

  • A French, 1805 Silk Evening Bonnet

  • 1815 Poke Bonnet

    Back view ( in construction )

  • 1815 Poke Bonnet

    Side view ( in construction )

  • 1815 Poke Bonnet

    Fully trimmed

  • Turban 1820-25

  • Ribboned 1790 Mob Cap

  • 1817 Straw Mourning Bonnet

The Making of the Maria Edgeworth Bonnet

1.



A fashion plate dated to December 1814 from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was selected from the Chawton House Library collection. This vibrant image was to prove the inspiration for a pink, straw bonnet trimmed with opulent ostrich feathers that would later be given the name, ‘The Maria Edgeworth Bonnet’.

2.



Fine pink straw plait was sewn together in a spiral using a special needle known as a ‘millinery straw’. This tool allows the straw braid to be sewn together without splitting. Tiny stitches were used as otherwise these would later be visible. Once steamed and stiffened using a traditional stiffening solution, this formed the crown of the bonnet.

3.



A carved wooden hat block was used to help form the sides of the bonnet. Eleanor used both pins and block as a guide to help her create a neat, uniform shape. She continued to stitch each row as it was moulded onto the block and used steam to help set the shape. After many hours of careful work, this created the sides and brim of the bonnet.

4.



Trimmings were selected to closely match those in the original fashion plate where they were shown, and to complement them, where creating the unseen side of the bonnet. Where possible, materials were purchased from companies with a long history of manufacturing silk etc.

5.



After a wire was sewn in to help strengthen the edge, silk bias binding was added at the brim using a stitch known as ‘stab stitch’.

6.



The roses and leaves for the trimmings were created using historical methods that are known to have been used at the time of the fashion plate’s publication. Natural silk, ombre ribbons were chosen as these were popular during the period.

7.



The rose and leaf trims were carefully sewn together as a whole design.

8.



Silk, from a traditional English silk mill called ‘Stephen Walters and Sons’, established in 1720, was used to create the pleats for the inside of the bonnet. This complex process involved measuring, pinning, and ironing using a paper template. Finally, the fabric was further impressed with pleats by the use of steam.

9.



The pleats were carefully arranged and sewn into the inside of the bonnet and finished with an interior back plate. A button, emblazoned with the initials of the lively, reckless Maria Edgeworth was added as a final touch.

10.



Cream ostrich feathers were selected for quality and then, to make them appear even more opulent, were stitched on top of one another at intervals to form larger, more sumptuous embellishments.

11.



The completed bonnet, back view.

12.



The completed ‘Maria Rushworth Bonnet’, ready for travel across the Atlantic, and for auction at the Jane Austen Society of North America AGM, in aid of Chawton House Library.

Making of the Maria Edgeworth Bonnet

1.



A fashion plate dated December 1814 from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts was selected from The Chawton House Library, and was used as a model for a pink, straw bonnet trimmed with Ostrich feathers, to commemorate the bicentenary of ‘Mansfield Park’.

2.



Fine pink straw plait was sewn together in a spiral using a special needle known as a ‘millinery straw’. This tool allows the straw braid to be sewn together without splitting. Tiny stitches were used as otherwise these would later be visible. Once steamed and stiffened using a traditional stiffener, this formed the crown of the bonnet.

3.



A carved wooden hat block was used to help form the sides of the bonnet. Eleanor used pins and the block as a guide to help her create a neat, uniform shape. She continued to stitch each row as it was moulded onto the block and used steam to help set the shape. After many hours of careful work, this created the sides and brim of the bonnet.

4.



Trimmings were selected to closely match those in the original fashion plate where they were shown, and to complement them where creating the unseen side of the bonnet. Where possible, materials were similar to those that would have been used and acquired from companies that themselves had a long history.

5.



After a wire was added to help strengthen the edge, silk bias binding was added at the brim using a stitch known as ‘stab stitch’.

6.



The roses and leaves for the trimmings were created using historical methods that are known to have been used at the time of the fashion plate’s publication. Natural silk, ombre ribbons were chosen as these were popular during the period.

7.



The rose and leaf trims were carefully sewn together as a whole design.

8.



Silk, from a traditional English silk mill called ‘Stephen Walters and Sons’, established in 1720, was used to create the pleats for inside the bonnet. This complex process involved measuring, pinning, and ironing using a paper template. Finally, the fabric was further impressed with pleats by the use of steam.

9.



The pleats were carefully arranged and sewn into the inside of the bonnet and finished with an interior back plate. A button, emblazoned with the initials of the lively, reckless Maria Edgeworth was added as a final touch.

10.



Cream ostrich feathers were selected for quality and then, to make them appear even more opulent, were stitched on top of one another at intervals to form larger, more sumptuous embellishments.

11.



The completed bonnet, back view.

12.



The completed ‘Maria Rushworth Bonnet’, ready for travel across the Atlantic, and for auction at the Jane Austen Society of North America, in aid of Chawton House Library.