Making 18th Century Accessories + Shoe Review

This post will cover making the accessories to go with the redingote featured in this post!  I’ll be talking about a ridiculous hat, a fichu, and a petticoat/skirt. I’m also including a review for the shoes I purchased to match, which are the Fraser style by American Duchess.

I’m going to start with the skirt, since it’s probably the “biggest” part of the costume, after the redingote.

My original plan for this was two rectangles, one for the body of the skirt, and one for a ruffle around the hem. But I just finished making a skirt like that out of a different fabric. And I made two others the year before. And another the year before that. They are easy to do, but kind of boring. I knew I wanted to put a twist on this, and eventually decided on making the ruffle with a zig-zag hem.

I thought this was appropriate – it kind of reminds me of the texture of leaves, or if we are really stretching to meet the Halloween theme, the teeth of a carved pumpkin. I’m glad that I did this since it’s way more interesting than my other skirts…but it was alway way more labor intensive.

I decided to back the main suiting with a thicker one. This will give it more structure and help the points hold their shape. I probably would have used taffeta, or a lighter material if I had one around, but this worked in a pinch.

I traced all the points onto the lining – this along took an hour. This was an eight yard strip of material.

Sewing them took another hour. Then I trimmed around each edge, and clipped the points and corners. I also used a seam ripper to remove the stitch at the very top of each concave point. This makes it turn out smoothly, but does reduce long term durability.

And it was gathered down to be four yards long, the same width as the top portion of the skirt. Here you can see the drawer unit I kept rolling around to support the fabric as I sewed – this was super heavy!

I sewed it to the top portion of the skirt with a three quarter inch seam allowance. It still looked a little drab, so I decided to make a ruffle out of leftover brown taffeta. This helped tie the garments together, and added more interest since it’s a different texture.

I cut strips out of the fabric on its bias with pinking sheers. Then I sewed the strips together, and gathered them down the middle. I sewed it onto the skirt in large scallops.

I did all of this by machine since I was rushing. If I wear this again I want to cover the stitching with trim or beads. It doesn’t look great and isn’t super even since the skirt was so hard to get through my machine. But from a distance I really like it!

Then I lifted the waistline of the skirt until it sat at the length I liked. I trimmed the excess, and gathered the top edge.

I made the waistband out of matching fabric, sewed in a hook, and sewed up the side seam. I really like how this turned out, but the waistline is a little large – it kept slipping down and is visible in some of the pictures. So the hook has to move before re-wearing.

Next up: The fichu. This is basically a shawl that could be worn under dresses as an alternative to an undershirt. They would fill out the neckline, make dresses more modest, and serve as a stylistic choice. I made mine in an hour or two, out of a scrap of thin cotton and two four yard lengths of mesh lace.

I started by cutting out a triangle – as large as I could from the material I was working with. Then I turned the edges inward by a quarter inch, twice in order to finish them. I did this by hand, but machine sewed everything else, which was sort of silly!

I used two four yard lengths of lace from etsy. One has little bows on it, the other is a leafy design. I liked the leafy one more, so I put it closer to the top. Then I covered the gathered edge with a narrow mesh lace.

I like how this looks, but I wish the lace was more dense. I may add onto it before reusing it. I see myself getting quite a bit of use out of it with other costumes, since this was a staple in most 18th century ladies wardrobes!

Now for the hat! I might be biased, but I think this is the best part of the costume. Looking at it makes me smile. Wearing it makes me smile. It’s great.

I made this based on images in Women’s Hats, Headdresses and Hairstyles*, along with references from various paintings. I constructed it from a self drafted pattern, out of felt weight interfacing with wire sewn into the edges. Then I covered the pieces with interfacing, lined them with scraps, and stitched them together with upholstery thread. It took me two evenings to finish.

The brim is lined with orange silk (leftover from the pumpkin dress!) and more brown taffeta ruffles.


I trimmed the exterior with a strip of the striped silk (I cut the edges with pinking sheers), and a band of the orange silk. These were loosely sewn in place since the top of the hat narrows and they kept trying to slip upward.

For decorations I made a rosette from more strips of silk. These were gathered down as tightly as I could, then I sewed up the side seam. I was going to add a smaller ruffle to the center, but I decided beading it would be more fun. So I stitched a base of suiting material onto the back to support the embellishments.

The embellishments consisted of a bunch of faux pearls, and a spider brooch. The back of this had bent and was really thick, which made it difficult to wear. So it got a new home here! I think it looks quite comfortable.

In my mind this added to the totally not obvious witch element. I also liked how the orange stones would catch the light.

That was glued on, along with a white feather and two pieces of fake fern. I was originally going to use orange feathers, but I like how the white one ties in with the pearls and lace on the dress.

The ferns – though completely inaccurate, tie the colors together really well. They fade from a deeper orange (like the striped silk) to a lighter orange, like the shantung scraps. It’s one of my favorite hats i’ve ever made – I think the contrast and trims are perfect!

And that is it for the pieces I made! So if you want you can stop there. But I did want to mention, and give a little review of the shoes I bought to go with this.

These were my main purchase last month. The price hurt a bit, but I’ve enjoyed my other historical themed footwear so much that I wanted something similar for 18th century projects. I invest so much time into pieces that accurately(ish) represent the period from the hem upward, it seems like a shame to skimp out on the shoes! Plus they will go with a lot of future projects too, not just this one.

(also I don’t think the price of these is unreasonable at all, it’s just much more than my other shoes)

They are the “Fraser” 18th Century Leather Shoes (Black)(1700-1760)* by American Duchess, listed here*. I purchased them in a size 10, along with the cavendish gold  buckles.

Overall, I like these. The shape is lovely, and surprisingly flattering to the foot. I adore  the side profile – the heel is so cute! And the shell of the shoe is very soft and flexible, which makes them more comfortable than the vast majority of my shoes.

I also like the sheen of the leather used, and that natural materials were used for the lining, too. The construction of them seems nice, and they were symmetrical and free of flaws.  They also came with replacement heel caps.

I compared them to other shoes I own that are a similar heel height, and they were the same length if not a little longer. I’m a solid size 10, and these fit me well lengthwise.

On the downside, the fit is hard to determine until after the buckles are installed, and they obviously aren’t returnable after the buckles are in. I found the shoes a little big width wise and assumed the buckles would tighten them. I placed the buckles as far back on the latchet as I could (up until it tapered to a point where it would not fit through the buckle smoothly) and they are still a little large on me. I probably would have returned them for a 9.5 if I had known.

The buckles are also way harder to install than I thought. There is a diagram on the website, but I feel like a video or picture tutorial would have been more helpful. I ended up using photos of the shoes with the buckles installed as more of a guide than the actual tutorial.

Neither of those are really flaws of the shoes, just things I noticed.

My only real disappointment is how much the lining frays. The edges are topstitched to the interior of the leather, not folded inward. So there isn’t anything preventing it from fraying. And since the shoes are black the raw edges of ivory lining are quite obvious. I’m going to trim the frayed edges and finish them with glue, which isn’t a hard thing to do at all, but it would be nice if it wasn’t an issue.

Now for the wear test!

I wore these for around 2 hours during the photo taking process. They really are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I’ve ever worn, and the leather didn’t mark at all – even when walking through some rough terrain. The soles got super dinged up, especially around the edges, but I was expecting that.

I was walking through gravel, and on unpaved paths, so it’s understandable. But it was a very very short walk. I’m not sure how these would fair at reenactment events where you are more active on similar terrain, or even on a daily basis with textured asphalt.

(I’ll scrub the dirt off before putting them away!)

I did notice that one shoe creased quite a lot at the toe. I’m not bothered by this, but it’s kind of odd that it only happened to one of the shoes. It looks like I buckled this one a little tighter (though I could still get it on and off without unbuckling it…so I don’t think it was *too* tight) which might have been the cause.

Those are my thoughts! Visually I love them, and I’m very glad to have them. I don’t think they would be the best shoes for everyday use (I wasn’t expecting them to be), but I will really enjoy wearing them with other 18th century pieces. I think they are a nice finishing touch to the costume!

Most of the negative things I mentioned aren’t even negatives. They are things that happen when you wear shoes. They go on the ground. They wrinkle. I made peace with it before buying them. But I was curious how the more authentic materials would wear compared to plastic and rubber, which is why I mentioned it.

Now I’m eyeing up the red kensington and edwardian pumps…but those are a few paychecks away, at the very least!

That is it for this one! I should be back with more photos tomorrow, and maybe a video if I can get it done in time.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Cotton Sateen Regency Bonnet

Usually I post about making a dress, then post about making matching accessories. But today I felt like blogging about making this bonnet, so i’m doing things a little backwards.

I’ve recently finished a regency themed dress made from a red and white floral fabric. I showed a little preview of it in my last progress report, and a blog post about the process will be up in the coming weeks. The dress has a bright print but is very simple in design, which makes it an excellent candidate for accessories. I decided to pair it with a bonnet made from cotton sateen and a pair of white shoes. This post will be about making the bonnet and decorating the shoes.

I’m not very familiar with bonnets from the early 1800s so I did a bit of research. It seems cotton caps were more common than bonnets, but I didn’t think those would be very flattering on me or look nice with the dress. After a lot of searching I found reference images that I liked. The first is on the bottom left of this print and the second is shown here. My plan was to combine the brim from the second image with the cap/banding of the first image.

Here is my sketch illustrating that plan…I draw really badly sometimes.

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The brim and back of the bonnet are made from interfacing with wire in the edges. The outside will be covered with red cotton sateen and the interior will be white. I also chose to make the cap portion flexible and made entirely from fabric, with no base.

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And I have some fake flowers and pearls which I wanted to use as decoration.

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With a bit of a plan in mind it was time to get to work!

I never really know where to start when it comes to bonnets, so I tried to drape the brim shape on a wig head. That process looked a bit like this…

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When it was removed from the form it looked like this!

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I made it a little bit larger to account for the fact that my wig head is smaller than my head.

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And I had a pattern! It looked about right when I held it up to my head, so I used the pattern as a guide and cut out the interfacing. This is heavy duty felt weight interfacing, which i’ve used for headpieces in the past. I should have used buckram, but I still haven’t ordered any.

(it’s on my list, i’ll get to it someday…)

The interfacing sat weirdly on my head, it looked much different and way larger than the newsprint layer. So I cut several inches off each side. I don’t regret doing this, but I wish I hadn’t cut off so much. My bonnet ended up being a little bit too small and sits farther back on my head than I would like.

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Using my sketch as a guide I drafted a back panel which will cup my neck and attach to the brim. This also got cut out of interfacing.

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Then I whip stitched wire to each edge. This allows the bonnet to be shaped.

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To cover up the wire and texture of the interfacing I sewed flannel over the top side of each piece. I did a really awful job of this, but that’s okay, no one will see it.

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The top layer of the back piece are bands of cotton sateen. I made these bands by sewing three inch wide strips of cotton sateen into tubes, then turning them right side out and ironing them.

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The bands got sewn on but I left the top and bottom edge open. The lining got tucked into the open edges and sewn down. Eyelet lace will eventually be sewn under the bottom band, and the top band will hide the raw edge of the lace used for the cap. So  these were left open for the time being.

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This is the interior.

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I decided on the wider eyelet lace since it matched the color of the dress better (the other was a little too yellow) it was pinned underneath the bottom band.

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And all sewn down! It looks a little ripply right now, but when it’s bent more tension is put on the bands and they look smooth.

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I skipped a few steps here, oops The brim was covered with flannel and cotton sateen. Then I cut out a piece of poplin to the same size as the brim with a half inch seam allowance across the bottom edge. I didn’t like how the poplin looked on its own, so I covered it with a gathered layer of silk organza. Then the bottom edge was tucked underneath and pinned to hide the raw edge. Here you can see it pinned in place.

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I whip stitched around the top edge and the sides to secure the layers in place, but I left the bottom edge open.

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I made a little bit of bias tape (I had maybe an inch leftover when this was done!) out of some lace. I sewed this around the top and side edges to finish them nicely.

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Now the two pieces were mostly done and could be sewn together. Here they are pinned in place. I sewed them together with thread that was doubled up. I was sewing through two layers of stiffened felt so I used a big needles and pliers to help guide it.

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And when that was done I cut out the cap. I took a few measurements and then guessed what the shape and size should be. Not the most professional method but it worked!

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The bottom edge was gathered slightly then tucked between the top band and the layer of lining. I sewed it in place with small whip stitches.

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Then the top  layers was gathered slightly towards the center and pinned between the brim and the brim lining.

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Here is a shot of how it looked inside.

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And after everything had been sewn down! After all that work it was finally starting to look like a bonnet.

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I made up some ties from strips of cotton sateen. These got sewn just inside the interior of the bonnet. And then it was time for decorating!

The roses I planned on using for decorating were a bright orangey red which didn’t really match. So I used a watercolor brush and some copic inks to darken the edges to a deeper shade.The one in the middle/slightly towards the left is unpainted so you can see the difference.

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I glued those on along with the pearly strands of white flowers, and it was done!

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I think this bonnet is very pretty, and i’m happy with the shape and construction. But I made it too small, so I don’t love how it sits on my head. I also need to add another tie, or combs to the back because it is really unflattering on my jaw when it is tied tightly, but it tends to shift and fall when it’s tied loosely.

I attempted to take photos of this worn but the lighting went to crap and I didn’t end up with usable images. But I did get a bit of video footage of me wearing it (I was filming it for a costume spotlight) and that can be watched here!

Now onto the shoes. I actually plan on making a pair of Regency slippers from leather and velvet in the near future, since I want them to match a dress i’ll be starting soon. But I didn’t make these shoes, I bought them from amazon, you can see the listing here.

They aren’t very comfortable or well made, but for $18 I wasn’t expecting a lot. I bought them because I really liked the pointed toe, and found the silhouette to be quite similar to shoes from the early 1800s.

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Funnily enough the model of these shoes is “Angie – 18” which is my name and current age, which is kind of a weird coincidence!

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I made some bias tape from cotton sateen. It was folded in half and glued down around the foot opening with the creased edge being visible. I used E6000 to secure it and a few dozen binder clips to keep it in place while the glue dried. The raw edge was trimmed with pinking shears and dipped in fray check to prevent it from unraveling in the future.

Then I made cute little bows for the front.

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Here they are with the bows attached! I glued on some of the pearl/white fake flowers as well. I’m really happy with how these look.

I just wish I had used a little more precision with the glue gun! There is some visible glue which i’m not very proud of. I might try and fix that in the future, but even if I don’t it’s not a big deal. I doubt anyone will be getting that close to my feet, or even see these underneath my dress!

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And that’s it for the accessories! I’ll talk about the dress that goes with them soon.

Thanks for reading!