Making a 1830’s Bonnet


For my last project (the 1837 floral dress) I really wanted to make a bonnet but didn’t have enough material. Which is why for my red dress I made sure to buy two extra yards just to make sure I had plenty left over for a fancy bonnet!

I looked all over the internet for photos of bonnets I liked  and came up with over two dozen pictures. But none of them were quite right, they were all filled with flowers, ribbons, and piled with ruffles, more flowers, and ruched panels. They were way too ornate to go with the simple dress I had created, so I decided to make up my own design!

I had no idea whatsoever how to draft a bonnet pattern so I decided to do what I usually do – drape. I set out my wig head and went at it with newsprint and tape. The end result was something like this.


Okay so it doesn’t quite look like a fantastic, elegant, bonnet that a lovely lady from the 1800s would wear. But I was somewhat confident it would all work out.

I turned that into a proper pattern, and only had to make a  few alterations to ensure everything would fit together properly.

The pattern looked really, super strange. I’m glad I didn’t try to flat draft it because the end result would have been awful!


I copied my pattern onto medium weight buckram, then very carefully cut each piece out.


I set my buckram pieces onto cotton sateen and cut roughly around them – since I was adding lining later on I wasn’t very concerned about my edges being even and precise.


I trimmed all the edges to to be around half an inch, then hand sewed the material to the underside of the buckram. This was a really terrible process and by the end of it my fingers were really sore and kind of bloody. I think buckram won this battle.


I assembled the two back pieces – luckily everything lined up really nicely and I was actually super happy with the end result! I sewed a lace ruffle onto the back of this, and used a light cotton sateen to line the interior. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos.


Then I moved on to the largest panel, and the most prominent since it’s at the front.

DSC_6277I wanted the lining of this panel to be pleated so it would match the dress, so I got to work and pleated down a long length of fabric to the right size.


I ironed them all down, then marked out the size of the piece of buckram. I sewed around the piece of buckram to make sure none of the pleats would move and set this aside.


I sewed a strip of hooping wire into the brim so I could control the shape of the bonnet and how closely it framed my face. Then I covered the outside of the buckram with cotton sateen.


I sewed in the pleated lining and a strip of eyelet lace. It all looked quite lovely but the hooping wire had caused the buckram to take on a wobbly shape which I didn’t like. I steamed the whole thing, then used binder clips with hopes it would sooth it out.


It didn’t really work, but I used the words “good enough” and sewed the large brim piece onto the back hat like portion.

It looked nice but it was still missing something, so I decided to make a pleated band to cover up the seam between the brim and hat.

I hemmed the edges then once again did a whole bunch of knife pleats.


I sewed the pleats down, and then stitched down a one inch wide strip of cotton sateen which would serve as the ties. The strip was created by sewing a three inch wide strip in half, then turning it right side out.


And tah dah! My lovely bonnet was done!


I still felt like the look was missing something – since I had gone for a simple bonnet design I decided to jazz up the hairstyle with some plastic flowers and a pearl headband.


I wore these with a crudely styled with from the seller cosplaywig.

And that was that! I really adore how this came together. There were points where I didn’t like this dress at all so seeing the ensemble come together just the way I had imagined was wonderful!

DSC_635732 DSC_6425resiz

Thank you for reading!


8 thoughts on “Making a 1830’s Bonnet

  1. deweydecimalsbutler says:

    Lovely! And the bonnet is a good balance with the dress. Too often in that time period, balance took a back seat to ornament (if you can believe all those Godey’s magazines).

  2. Nancy York says:

    This whole outfit turned out just stunning and a beautiful color on you too. You do a fantastic job whatever you make I am totally amazed at your talent for being such a young lady.

  3. Julia Andersen says:

    that is truly beautiful!! And so great that you were able to make the bonnet ‘from scratch’ as they say 🙂

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