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When I set out to learn more about European women’s turbans, I assumed this would be a fairly narrow subject. I had a few preconceptions shared by many costumers: namely, that turbans were limited to Regency period evening wear; that they looked much like the classic African, Middle Eastern and Asian wrapped headdresses on which the European fashion turban was based; and that a turban was always a turban. The reality turned out to be more complex.

Let’s take my preconceptions one by one. First, the limited time frame. I had read on more than one web site that turbans became popular in France after Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1802; by 1804 they were all the rage both across the Channel in England and in far-flung places like America and Sydney, Australia, but by 1814 they were out of fashion (see The Jane Austen Centre and the article it credits “Austen and Authenticity”, paragraph nine).There was indeed a spike in the turban’s popularity, but statements such as this sound as if turbans were not worn before or after these few years, which is not so. After looking at hundreds of portraits and fashion plates from 1770 through 1850, I can vouch for many turbans and turban-like headdresses from the 1770s through the 1830s.

My next preconception was that turbans were worn only for evening dress. This seems not to be true for the 18th century but is generally true after 1800. Most fashion plates do show turbans being worn with evening dress, but I have seen examples of them being worn with afternoon dress. [The Regency Fashion Page describes afternoon dress as “what a person of the highest social class wears in the afternoon at appropriately upper-class social functions like society teas, garden parties, afternoon weddings, etc."]

My last preconception was that a turban always looks like a turban. Turbans were inspired by the oriental influence in European décor and fabrics that started in the late 1700s and increased into the Regency period and beyond. These turbans did not always look like the classical turban, but took many shapes and forms that blended the classic turban with the fashionable head covering of the day and responded to changing hairstyles. This is most clear in the 1780s and 1820s, the beginning and the end of the time period covered in this article.

Perhaps I am too inclusive in what I call a turban, but if one twists and wraps fabric around the head then I think it should be included in the turban group. On face value, you would think a turban is a turban, but looking through fashion plates I have seen headdresses that I would have called a turban not be called a turban and vice versa. Here are a few of the general terms applied to turban-like headdresses: “turban-like”, “turban-fronts”, “toque-turbans”, “turban caps” and “crownless turbans.” The vagueness of these terms implies a broad use of the word “turban” in describing women's European headdresses.

The turbans pictured below range from the year 1784 through 1833. You can click on them for the full fashion drawing or portrait and its year. At the end of this article there is a list of sources for many more illustrations. I group these 6o+ years into four time periods that show distinct changes in the forms of the turbans worn: 1775-1795, 1795-1800, 1800-1815 and 1815-1840.

1775-1795. The Mode in Hats and Headdresses Ruth Turner Wilcox describes "… turbans and toques of muslin, gauze or tulle made over wire frame and trimmed with ribbons, feathers and jeweled ornaments. Turbans were also fashioned of silk scarves with fringed ends, of crepe, silk and ribbon, a style which carried over into the next century." Hairstyles at this time were large and powdered wigs were often worn, and the small cap at the pinnacle of thelarge hairstyle was in vogue. The turban was a modification of this small cap . It was usually made with the same sheer materials as the cap, often decorated with three to five ostrich plumes and pearls, then perched on top of the large hairstyles.

1784 1785 1787 1795
1784 1785 1787 1795



1795-1800. Hairstyles are more natural, in color and no longer powdered, with long curls or ringlets. Turbans of this time period are of the wrapped style. This period caricature of a woman wrapping her turban does show how a turban would have been wrapped. It is a caricature, but the exaggeration is a comment on the amount of fabric needed to make a turban, not on the act of wrapping one. Turbans were wrapped so that many of the curls or strands of hair spilled out below and between the wraps. Sometime the top of the crown was covered, sometimes not. Long ostrich plumes, usually white or pastel but sometimes brightly colored, were often worn sticking straight up like a quail’s topknot. Interesting items such as sprays of wheat stalks were also used for decoration.

1796 1798 1800 1800
1796 1798 1800 1800


1800-1815. Some costume historians divide turbans in this period into three subgroups based on form: the Oriental, the pillbox and the saque. I think this is a useful tool because turbans in this era are structurally so different. The oriental from 1804 below is most like the classic turban; one can see many examples of this style on this page. These pillboxes (another) seen in extant museum examples are only vaguely like turbans, but from a milliner’s point of view, I see them as the basis of the fixed turbans in the next time period. The saque (another) was based on the hat worn by the French Revolutionaries that was in turn based on the Phrygian cap worn by ancient Greeks. These three forms existed concurrently. What seemed to change from year to year was the fashion for decoration on the turbans: first ostrich plumes, then cocque sweeps, then aigrettes. Other decorations seen on turbans from this time period were fringe, pearls, pins and tassels, plain or pearl.

1802  Portrait der Heinrike Dannecker, by Christian Gottlieb Schick 1804 Giuseppina Grassini dans le role de Zaire, 1804 by Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun 1808  Die Badende von Valpençon by Jean Auguste Dominique 1813 Letizia Bonaparte by Robert Lefèvre


The Oriental

1808 1813


1816-1840 Hairstyles, hats and dresses become taller, wider, more angular and more elaborate during this time. The expansion took place gradually, but by the late 1820s it reached an extreme, and so did the turbans. As an example here is a hat and turban side by side. The turbans where also often asymmetrical and flattened ––see the last two turbans below. Ostrich plumes and birds of paradise tails were popular choices for both hats and turbans. Structurally, a key point is that the turbans of this time period are fixed turbans. Turbans are shown alone in the fashion plates, not on a head, so you can see the structure. Looking closely at half a dozen of the turbans from this period, it is clear that they could not be wrapped turbans.

Early 1800's Dronning Marie Sophie Frederikke af Danmark by C.W. Eckersberg 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée 1819 Portrait of Krystyny z Gerhardów Frankowej by Jan Rustem 1825 Marie Caroline de Bourbon-Sicile, Duchess de Berry by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Early 1800's 1818 1819 1825
  1831 Therese von Schenk by August Riedel 1833 Marquise de Béthisy als Orientalin by Carl von Steuben
  1831 1833


1840-1845. According to C. Willett Cunnington in English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, turbans were still being worn with evening wear, but they were fading out of fashion, to reappear at the beginning of the 20th century with the Regency revival, when they were worn for day and evening.

Books Consulted:

The Mode in Hats and Headresses
by Ruth Turner Willcox, pub. 1948. I have always loved this book for its excellent drawings and breath of coverage, but now that I have seen so many of her drawings next to the fashion plates or portraits that she took them from, I have a new admiration for the research she must have done. There is something about seeing the line drawing next to the fashion plate that crystallizes the main points of the article of headdress and helps one interpret the points more rapidly. Dover is coming out with a reprint; it's about time, although it does reduce the value of my signed copy a little.

English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations by C. Willett Cunnington, 1937 [Dover reprint]. This book breaks the fashions of the 19th century down year by year. The author gathered his information from many period sources including extant garments, fashion plates and written information like books of toilet, newspapers and memoirs. I reviewed his listings year by year and turbans were listed for 34 of the years between 1800 and 1845. There is an entry for every year, so my guess is that a few turbans were worn but they were not popular enough to be mentioned in every year’s entry. Some of the years have notations like “going out” for 1808 and “a few turbans” for 1809. Before they totally go out of style in 1846, 1844 says “a few turbans”.

Ackermann's Costume Plates by Rudolph Ackermann, Dover reprint 1978.
In this reprint of 88 plates from the larger Ackermann’s collection that started in 1809 there are nine turbans being worn with evening dress. There are also three or four turban-like headdresses that are called toques.

Some of Ackermann’s on-line on the Costume.com site
(1) (2) (3)
Ackermann’s Costume Plates 1825 Tartarian Turban on another site

Eighteenth-century French Fashion in Full Color 64 Engravings from the "Galerie des Modes", 1778-1787 Ed. Stella Blum, Dover reprint 1982. Of the 64 plates in this collection there are three very turban-like headdresses with captions like "coeffure Orientale", "coeffure á la Créole" and plate # 14 that has no reference to the headdress in the caption. The original Galerie collection had 400 plates of which the first 36 plates where devoted to headdresses alone I would love to see those if they still exist.

Online Sources:

Paintings of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun Painted between 1770-1835, nearly one third of these 550 paintings have a woman wearing a turban as their subject. These paintings have some of the most beautiful turbans I have ever seen, with a level of reality surpassing any fashion plate. Regarding the fashions worn by the subjects of the portraits, some of the clothing seems like public clothing and some seems more intimate. On public fashions, the V&A website notes that some portraits of the period were about ten years ahead of the general fashions of the time.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston has a good advanced search; when you add the keyword “turban” you will find many examples of Oriental and European turbans.

The New York Public Library Digital Gallery has a fantastic advanced search in which you can select the time period and a keyword.

University of Washington Libraries Digital Collections is also searchable for time period and keywords. One interesting turban from this collection shows both the front and back and demonstrates just how flattened they had become by this period. Turban 1834 front and back

"Fashion Plate Collection, 19th Century". This Fashion Plate Collection is primarily comprised of approximately 650 images of nineteenth-century fashion plates in the Macpherson Collection of the Ella Strong Denison Library at Scripps College (Claremont, California) I love the way they have added high-res scans of the fashion plates that let you enlarge just what you want and the small frame doesn't get in the way.

Cathy Decker’s Regency Fashion page. This site has not been updated in a while but it does have some great information and images to list a few.
1824 ball dress
La Miroir de la Mode, 1803. Full evening dress with turban

Her new site is the Regency Fashion Page

Victoria and Albert Museum site collections page also has a good advance search in which you can select the time period and a key word.

The Costumer's Manifesto costume.org Fashion Plates 1775-1789, 1790-1800, 1789-1800, 1824-1830 and much more you could spend a day.

I would like to thank my editor Danine Cozzens. I'm going to owe her a very nice Regency hat or turban after this, maybe a recreation of that extant turban at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

Wrapped TurbansMany of the European turbans pictured in last month's article could be recreated, the same way turbans have been for centuries, by wrapping fabric around one's head with no sewing involved. In this month's article I will show you how to wrap three turbans: one in the 1795-1800's style and two in the 1800-1815 style.

As discussed last month, the turbans from these time periods lend themselves to recreation via simple wrapped turbans, unlike many of the turbans from the earlier and later time periods.

The first turban is made from a simple sheer white silk scarf, 14” by 60” (35 x 150cm), a bandeau and two long ostrich plumes [see below for US and UK suppliers of everything you'll need - Ed.] In the late 18th Century this style of turban could have been wrapped silk, but sheer cottons and nets were also popular choices.

The early 19th Century ones are wrapped from long pieces of fabric and both create a two color turban but in very different manners. I used a combination of both fabric and a sari. The sari I used on the third turban is only a partial sari - it was what was left after the fancier trim edge was cut away for use as trim on another costume. As with the earlier period many of the turbans in the early 19th Century were wrapped with fine cottons from the Orient.

I photographed the turbans below from the back with a mirror in the photograph so that you can see what goes on in each step.

Late 18th Century Crownless Turban with a Bandeau and Ostrich plumes

Pinning the curls Before putting your long curly wig on, pin the upper curls out of the way. That is of course if you were not born with a full set of long curls.
Adjusting the wig Adjust your wig. Notice on the table to the right is the bandeau. The bandeau is just a band of buckram that is wired on both sides that is covered with a long fabric tube that opens in the center front. Coming from the back of the center of the bandeau is a twisted wire “W” that is attached to the back of the band on one arm of the “W” and the other two will support the plumes.
Placing the Bandeau Place the bandeau making sure that your pinned curls are above the bandeau in the back and the support for the plumes is in the center front.
Pinning the center of the scarf with a pin Pin the center of the silk scarf to the bandeau with a corsage pin. Unpin the bottom row of curls.
Wrapping the Bandeau Wrap first one then the other end of the scarf around the bandeau. In the center front let the bandeau show. Tuck the free ends of the scarf into the other layers of the turban. Make sure you bring the scarf in front of the wire “W”. Unpin the rest of your curls.
Setting in the ostrich plumes Place your ostrich plumes on the millinery wire supports. Note: The plumes are each made from two large straight ostrich feathers. They have been sewn together in twos with a modified blanket stitch. Before being sewn together extra material is cut away from the base of the stems. A groove is cut in the front of the back feather and a groove is cut in the back of the front feather so that when they are sewn together there is a hole up the middle. This can be fitted onto the wire. For more on how to join and shape ostrich plumes see Joining, Shaping and Curling Feathers on my own website.
Adding the finishing touch, a decorative pin Add a decorative pin in the center front of the bandeau and you are done.

A Two Color Early 19th Century Turban

Gold & Blue Turban pattern

Full widths of modern fabric do not make the best turbans, but narrower widths of around 20" (50cm) work well. Because this turban was made from fabric that comes 54” (135cm) wide I cut it into bias strips about 16” (40cm) wide and sewed these together with French seams.

I also added a short strip that was on the straight of grain so that I could unravel the edge to create a fringe for the start end.

For the other end I sewed a bias strip of the same width of another color fabric.



Folding the turban Fold the length of the fabric long ends to the center from both sides and then fold that in half along the full length of the fabric, much like double fold bias tape. This is not really necessary if you have someone to help you wrap the turban, since they can tuck any raw edges of the fabric under as you wrap the turban. If you are wrapping it by yourself this works best. From the second color end fold the folded fabric to form a bundle about 12 to 14” long leaving about 1 yard un-folded on the fringed edge.
Draping the turban over the head Just past the straight seam of the fringe edge drape the fabric over your head. Let the fringe end hang down. You might want to pin (as shown in foreground) or tie a knot here to keep it from slipping as you begin to wrap the rest of the fabric (in Laurie’s left hand) around your head. See the bundled fabric lying on the table in front of Laurie.
Continue to wrap the turban You should continue to wrap the fabric around your head in a level manor. In this picture Laurie has wrapped the fabric around twice and you can see the bundle in her right hand.
Continue to wrap it, but at an angle In the next few rounds wrap it at an angle. In other words go low on the side then bring it high in the front continue high on the side until you are in the front again and then bring it low down the other side. If you do this for at least two passes it will create that inverted “V” that you see in the front of the turban. When you reach the alternate colored end of the fabric open up the folds a little to help cover the major part of one side of the turban. When you reach the end tuck it in and bury the end of the fabric. Adjust the fringe end, it can be pulled thru folds so that it comes out of the turban higher and does not rest on your neck.
Adding a turban jewel Add a turban jewel.
Finished turban

This the finished turban, this time. Every time I have wrapped this turban it has come out very differently. It has turned out where one side is all blue and there is very little blue on the other. If you start twisting the fabric after one side of the head is covered with the blue then you only get a small twist of blue on the other.

No matter how it is wrapped, it looks good. There is no wrong way!

A Very Different Two Color Early 19th Century Turban

Twisting the two fabrics together before wrapping

I used a length of sari fabric that was about 2 yards (about 1.8m) long and a length of gold tissue metallic fabric about 1.5 yards (1.4m).

I broomsticked the gold fabric, in other words I twisted it from one corner tightly to the other bias corner and left it twisted for a day. This creates wrinkles in the fabric that do not come out. The gold fabric from corner to corner was about the same length as the sari fabric.

Before twisting the two fabrics together I tied the corner of the gold fabric around the sari fabric about 12” from its edge. This will be the last part of the turban to be wrapped. Unlike the turban above, the fringe of this turban comes at the end and not the beginning.

As shown in the picture, twist the two different fabrics together, then secure the end of the sari fabric. This will come before the end of the gold fabric. You could do this in a couple of ways, but I just used the gold fabric to tie a knot around the sari fabric. With a different type of fabric this might take a couple of stitches.

Drape the fabric around your head and pin

Drape the end of the gold fabric so that it covers most of the top of your head and pin or tie the corner of the gold fabric near the start of your twisted fabric.You can see the twist hanging in the mirror.

After you anchor the end you can adjust the fabric to cover more of the top of your head.

Wrap the twisted part around your head twice

Wrap the twist around your head, it should go around twice.

Tuck it in when you come to the end of the gold fabric.

Pull it through some of the twist so that the sari end hangs down. Adjust the wraps.

Spiral wrap a length of pearls through the fabric wraps

Spiral a length of beads or pearls thru the twist and wraps of the turban and secure it in a hidden spot with a safety pin.

The length of beads used here was about a yard and a half long with a gold safety pin at both ends. Add an aigrette or other turban jewel.

The finished turban

This is the finished turban. Even though it is done with two fabrics like the other one, it has a very different look because the fabrics are twisted first. But this one too can look different every time you wrap it.

I want to encourage you to practice - this is the best way to learn so round up some scarves or maybe some Pashmina shawls (they work well) and give it a try.

The really great thing is that you have choices. If you get a turban just the way you like it you can pin it in several places then take it off and slip it on a Styrofoam head and tack it in several out of the way places and you have a fixed turban.

Both of the early 19th Century turbans above take two yards and more. If you have limited fabric, next month I will show you some ways to make fixed turbans that use much less fabric, are attached to a bandeau and can be worn much more like a hat.


YouTube videos demonstrating different ways to wrap a turban

I found it very helpful to view some of the many videos the YouTube site has on subject of wrapping turbans. (Ed: See below for some videos of Sikh turban wrapping to compare and contrast with these historical turbans.) There are many ways. Seeing the different ways is a real help and you can pick and choose what will work best for you.



US Suppliers

Silk Scarves, Saris, Pashimas

Silk Scarves for under $5: Dharma Trading

eBay has some good deals on sarees, but I think you'll probably get better quality if you buy direct from India: Utav Sarees

Both of these sites carry pashima/silk mix scarves for around $30.

Pashima Boutique

Pashima Store

Online silk fabric source

Thia Silks in Los Altos, CA

Renaissance Fabrics

Buckram and Millinery Supplies

Judith M has Buckram and Millinery Wire

Richard the Thread,Los Angeles, Ca, Fax (323) 852-1604, Phone (800) 473-4997
Lacis, Berkely, Ca, Fax (510) 843-5018, Phone (510) 843-7178
California Millnery Supply Co., Los Angeles, Ca, Phone (213) 662-8746
Hats By Leko, 1 800 817 HATS(4287)


Ostrich Plumes

Lamplight Feather P.O. Box 867 Fort Jones CA 96032 Call us toll free (within USA) (800) 806-5149
Hollywood Fancy Feathers Co., No. Hollywood, Ca, Fax (818) 982-2919, Phone (800) 828-6689
Eskay Novelty, New York, NY, Fax (212) 921-7926, Phone (800) 237-2202

For corsage pins, beads and trim, try your local craft store (JoAnn's, Hancocks, Hobby Lobby, Michael's, etc.)

UK suppliers

Here are a few UK-specific sites and locations - but don't forget the power of Ebay.co.uk for that unique bargain!

Chiffon and georgette saris from under £30: Indian Sky

Some people swear that it's way better to buy direct from India: Utav Sarees

Also, don't forget that Britain has an enormous Indian population and you'll probably find Indian clothing stores in every major town. For example:
Bradford - Bombay Stores, Gt Horton Rd
Leicester - Belgrave Gate
Manchester - Wilmslow Rd in Rusholme
London - East End, try Whitechapel High St and Brick Lane; also Goldhawk Rd, Shepherd's Bush; Balham High Road, Tooting
Glasgow - the city end of Great Western Road in the West End; in the South Side, Cathcart Road and Victoria Road.

Pashmina shawls and silk scarves
Available from around £20 at both these sites:
My Pashmina
Firefly Trading

Whaleys - Bradford Ltd; Also try John Lewis

Millinery wire
MacCulloch & Wallis - the transparent stuff is available per metre
CJ Millinery - download the price list and you'll find millinery wire at the bottom

Ostrich plumes
Ostriches Online - Ostrich, pheasant, peacock, marabou and many more available for surprisingly low prices.

Wigs and hairpieces
"Party" costume stores such as Great Wigs should be able to help you out at a budget price, but the best is Angels the Costumiers
I (Cathy) found a beautiful hairpiece at my local Debenhams in Nottingham - this was much better quality than the cheap "party" type wig.

Corsage pins
The Essentials Company or try your local florist

Length of beads or pearls
MacCulloch & Wallis - Beads, also try John Lewis and Ebay

Decorative pins/turban jewels/aigrettes
Some very suitable vintage style brooches can be found for a price at Butler and Wilson - brooches
Also try Treasure Box - brooches and Bejewelled Vintage, and the feather brooches at The Feather Factory

Try asking for a 'kalgi' or turban pin in an Indian or Sikh jewellery store. They're traditionally worn by bridegrooms but will be just the thing for your turban.

Finally, don't forget to try Ebay, car boot sales and antique shops!

Website recommendations are intended as a guide only; YWU cannot be held responsible for your experience with any of these suppliers!

The completed fixed band turbanIn Lynn McMaster's latest instalment in the Turban Masterclass she shows us how to make a more elaborate fixed turban of the Romantic era. Grab your ostrich plumes!

In my overview article I referred to two extant turbans from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston's collection. These two turbans, along with several of the Fashion Plates (1) (2) from the Romantic Era, lead me to the conclusion that many fixed turbans most likely started with simple caps with stiffened bands. I'm going to show how to make a base cap by adding millinery wire to buckram, covering that with fabric and adding a crown. Then I will show how to finish it by adding gathered fabric to the cap to create the Romantic Era style turban above. You could use a base cap to create a turban in many ways; this is just one method.

Wire Buckram Band

Cut a long strip of single weight buckram that is 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5-3.8 cm) wide by your head size plus 1 in (2.5 cm) and two lengths of medium millinery wire as long as your buckram plus a little.

Step One

Sew the wire to the edges of the buckram using a wide machine Zig-zag stitch.

Step Two

Cover the wired edges with 1 inch wide (2.5 cm) cotton bias binding, then trim the extra wire.

Step Three


Round Band

Determine the overlap by holding the band on your head at the proper level with the hairstyle you will be wearing and mark it with a pencil. You might want to do this in a mirror or have someone help you. Make sure that it fits with a little ease. By hand, with heavy thread close the band by sewing several crisscross stitches in the overlapped area.

Step 4

Measure the length around your band and use the length and width to cut fabric to cover the band. Additionally, cut an oval piece of fabric 14" X15”. This oval should be large enough no matter what head size you have, but if your fabric is limited you might want to start with muslin to create a pattern first. You can cut these pieces on the straight of grain if it works out best for the pattern in your fabric, but cutting on the bias usually works best.

Step Five

To cover the band first, with the right sides in fold the band fabric in half and sew ½ inch from the edge. Press this seam open and fold the tube around the buckram band and baste the seam edges near the band's top edge.

Step Six


Put the fabric on your head and slip the band over the top. Adjust the fullness so that most of the pleats are in the front and back. Mark at the bottom edge of the band. This will become the cut edge for the crown fabric (or if muslin, the pattern).

Step Seven

With the right sides out and the seam allowances on the outside of the cap, pin then sew the crown to the band.

Step Eight

Here is a picture of my first finished cap from the side and the back.

Finished Cap I did not realize until after the fact that if I had created with the instructions I just gave you that all the seam allowances would be covered in the later steps and the inside of the cap would not need to be lined. Which is why I'm telling you do it as above when it is apparent from the pictures that I did it another!

Also you can see that I added a contrasting piping to my band. It looks good but as you can see the upper piping is covered in the finished turban and so it was a waste of time.

If you want to add piping on the base of band you would have to have two strips of fabric to cover the band (width plus 1”) and sew them together with the piping between them along one long side. Press that flat and continue as for the single piece above.

Do make sure that when you cover the buckram with this you organize all the seam allowances to the outside of the band as they can take up a lot of the inside of the band and could make the band too small for your head.


Turban roll and tassel

The major part of the turban is made up of two rectangles of fabric 14” by the full width of the fabric from finished edge to finished edge. These are sewn together to give one piece 14”(35.6cm.) by about 108”(2.75m.). To create a turban in this manor does not necessarily take this exact amount of fabric. If the fabric is thin and soft it might take more, and if thick and stiff, less. The fabric I used was quite stiff and mediumweight.

Fold back the short ends of the fabric about 1”. Then sew two rows of gathering stitches along one long side and pull the stitches until they fit the cap band. The gathered fabric arranged on the cap
Pin the gathered fabric to the cap just above the band with the opening off center about 2”(5cm.). The gathered fabric from the front
By hand, sew this to the cap near the gathering stitches. Roll the fabric up starting on the side that you want to be the smallest. Pin it to the crown as you go. If you find you are having trouble keeping the folds of the gathers then you might want a row of hand gathering stitches on the other long edge of the fabric. Rolling the fabric
The fabric creates its own padding, at least at the start. You will need to use some fiberfill in the largest section near the front where there is no fold over, only a seam allowance. The thinner your fabric the more you will need to pad the turban. Rolled turban from the front
Before you sew the inside edge of the rolled fabric to the cap you will need to add a tassel if you choose. The pictured tassel was made from a tube of the fabric that was hemmed on one end with a length of beaded fringe added. The finished size of the tube was 6” (15cm) by 20” (0.5m). A loose knot was tied about 3” (7.5cm) from the unfinished edge of the tube. This knot was tack stitched to the cap near the roll and the raw end tucked inside the roll. Detail of roll, showing pins


When you are sewing the inside edge of the rolled fabric to the cap you will be sewing into the inside of the cap, so make your stitches fairly close together so that you do not end up with long threads inside your cap that will catch on things like the pins in your hairdo.

Decorating the turban

The turban is complete at this point except for decoration. Because of the difficulties in storage it's best not to sew plumes on that stick out and could get damaged in transit, so making removable decorations is often a must. The bead/tassel decoration on the front of the turban in this shot (left) was added to a commercially available hair decoration and slipped into the folds of the turban. The aigrette is held in place with a “U” pin at its base.

A spray of Ostrich feathers




Here, the turban is shown with a spray of burnt ostrich feathers that have been wrapped and glued together at their base with fabric that also covers the head of a 4” long hatpin.

There will be much more about decorations in the final article of this series, in two months' time.

Once again I would like to thank my model Laurie Hall who graciously took time from her Masters Thesis to sit for these photos.



US Suppliers


Judith m Hats and Millinery Supply, 104 S. Detroit St, LaGrange, IN. 46761 (260) 499-4407 Toll Free: 877-499-4407 (US & Canada)
Richard the Thread,Los Angeles, Ca, Fax (323) 852-1604, Phone (800) 473-4997
Lacis, Berkely, Ca, Fax (510) 843-5018, Phone (510) 843-7178
California Millnery Supply Co., Los Angeles, Ca, Phone (213) 662-8746
Hats By Leko, 1 800 817 HATS(4287)

US Feathers by mail order or on the web

Lamplight Feather P.O. Box 867 Fort Jones CA 96032 Call us toll free (within USA) (800) 806-5149
Hollywood Fancy Feathers Co., No. Hollywood, Ca, Fax (818) 982-2919, Phone (800) 828-6689
Eskay Novelty, New York, NY, Fax (212) 921-7926, Phone (800) 237-2202


US Online silk fabric source
Thai Silks in Los Altos, CA

Renaissance Fabrics


UK suppliers

Here are a few UK-specific sites and locations - but don't forget the power of Ebay.co.uk for that unique bargain!

Whaleys - Bradford Ltd; Also try John Lewis

Millinery wire
MacCulloch & Wallis - the transparent stuff is available per metre
CJ Millinery - download the price list and you'll find millinery wire at the bottom

Ostrich plumes
Ostriches Online - Ostrich, pheasant, peacock, marabou and many more available for surprisingly low prices.

Corsage pins
The Essentials Company or try your local florist

Turbans, part four

Making a fixed turban by covering a tube of batting can be very economical.

You can make something quite impressive with just a yard (meter) or less of fabric, a quarter yard (meter) of batting, a long strand of pearls and a feather decoration.

The turban to the left is such a turban. The padded roll was attached to a base cap, which also came from that yard.

Detail  of 1785 Queen Marie Antoinette of France with her children Princess  Marie Therese Charlotte of France and Dauphin Louis Joseph of France,  1785, Museo Nazionale, Stoccolma. A turban made in this manner can be a single tube, such as in this portrait of Marie Antoinette in 1785 (right), or using multiple tubes that are stacked, as in the 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée fashion plate below, or twisted as in the turban up above.

Detail from 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée

You can attach the tubes to a cap (see the previous page for instructions on how to make a base cap) or have nothing in the center (i.e. crownless as in this 1811 example) or you could use a red wool fez or red velvet covered buckram cap in the center and create a late 18c. headdress à la Turque.



Making one of these turbans starts with the tube. You could use cotton batting or large cotton piping, which comes up to 1" in (2.54cm) diameter in the US.Determining the tube size

To make my Chaperon hats I sometimes bundle three or four pieces of cotton piping together, but that can get quite heavy, so I recommending that you use lofty Polyester Quilt Batting for this application. Most fabric stores sell it by the yard. You will need enough to encircle your head plus extra depending on the diameter of the tube.

A consideration when trying to figure the size piece you will need is that you will want to add a little extra with more tubes and larger tubes so that they can meet on the outside circumference.

I have made a table of approximate lengths for different sized tubes based on head size plus the thickness (diameter) of turban so that you can figure out the long dimension of batting you need.

It starts with a modest 2” turban like the one pictured above and ends with a quite large 4” turban.

Tube diam.
Small Medium Large X-large
  inches cm inches cm inches cm inches cm
2"or 5cm 33.5 85 35 89 36 91 37.5 95
3" or 7.5 cm 40 102 41.5 105 42.25 107 43.75 111
4" or 10 cm 46 117 47.75 121 48.5 123 50 127


That is the easiest batting dimension to figure out, what takes a little trial and error is the other dimension. It might not be instantly apparent but as a rule the more tubes you use (if you twist or braid them) the smaller in diameter they should be unless you are creating an oversized "genie" turban.

Rolling the tube of batting

Roll the free end of the batting up until you get the size of tube you want.

Do not roll it tightly. Roll it just enough to holds its shape but still be compressible.

The amount of batting will depend on just how resistant to crushing the batting is and how thick a tube you want.

Next sew the tube Roll your batting into a tube and baste it so that it will stay in a roll.

Double-check the length of your tube(s) by holding them in place on your head.

Trim them if necessary but do not join the free ends.

Lay your tube out over your fabric to determine how much fabric it will take to cover them.

You have some options here. You could cut your fabric just wide enough to cover the tube plus seam allowance but in most cases it is better to leave a little ease in both the length and distance around the tube. This will give you the drape that looks so good in a finished turban.

Fabric Layout

You can cut your fabric on the straight of grain or bias.

Either one is fine but if there is a stripe or pattern it will affect the look of your turban.

The turban in the photograph above was cut on the bias.

Sewing the fabric tube With right sides together, sew the fabric in half longways.
Turning the fabric over the tube Turn this tube of fabric right sides out over the batting tube.
Joining the ends Curve the roll into a circle and with needle and thread join the batting tube end to end.


Note: A striped tube makes for confusing diagrams so it is shown here and in the remaining figures as solid blue! Also it might be best to have the stitching in the batting on the inside of the turban and not on the outside as I have illustrated - it might show through the fabric.

Joining the fabric tube Adjust your fabric so that the seam is on the inside of the circle and fold the raw edges of the fabric under.


With a matching thread, sew the fabric tube closed.

If you are twisting two tubes or braiding three or more tubes together they have to be twisted or braided first, then joined.

Rubber bands can be a great help to hold the tubes while you are braiding them together. They can be cut away once you have joined the tubes.

The roll doesn’t look much like a turban right now. You will need to spiral strands of pearls, metallic beads or trim around it.


This is where the compressibility of the tube comes in. With a needle and thread anchor the strand of beads near the seam on the inside of the turban.

Spiral the pearl strand around the turban six to eight times. Pull the strand tight enough to compress the batting, sew the other end off at the same place you started.

Wrapping the tube


Adjust the extra fabric between the sections formed by the spiraling of the pearls. You can now tack stitch the tubes to a base cap or sew an oval of fabric in the center at the level of the seam. You will need to finish the edge of the oval and gather it a little. Experiment with the size of oval you need but it should be around 14"x15" (35x38cm) before you hem it.

To create a turban like the Marie Antoinette turban, you would use ribbon for the spirals around the tube and not compress the tube as you wrapped it. Detail  of 1785 Queen Marie Antoinette of France with her children Princess  Marie Therese Charlotte of France and Dauphin Louis Joseph of France,  1785, Museo Nazionale, Stoccolma.
To create a turban like the 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée turban you would stack two covered tubes and use ribbons coming from a narrow edge band the hold to tubes together. Detail from 1818 Ballgown La Belle Assemblée


For the turban below, after I twisted two tubes together and joined them, I wrapped a strand of pearls and a rope of pearls around the turban. When you twist two tubes together it forms two troughs that just naturally create a place for two spirals of pearls.

Following the same concept of a tight strand of pearls creating the shape of a turban by compressing a center core I created this 1780’s headdress by spiraling a wired strand of pearls around a simple velvet bag hat. I attached the pearls to the hat where they touched it and pulled strips of net through the pearls. There where three or four strips of net and the ends of the net do not get tucked in, they hang over and are cut in a zig-zag manner to create visual interest.

A decoration with curled feathers is added and the turban is placed on a wig with a wire support to keep the turban from crushing the hairdo.

Twisting the tubes together Trying on the turban


On the next page I will describe the creation of many of the decorations that I have shown on the turbans in this series.

Looking in the mirror

One of the most delightful things about writing this series of articles, and making the turbans shown, has been figuring out how to make similar turban decorations to those seen in some of the period portraits and fashion plates.

Along the way I have discovered some new products and techniques, at least new to me. Let me introduce them to you, and perhaps you will find them useful not just in making decorations for turbans, but in millinery and costuming in general.

I'm going to cover three very different types of ornaments:

Ornaments made with beads and tassels

Finished Turban OrnamentThis ornament was used in the second turban Masterclass on the two color wrapped turban.

It is basically beads on a hatpin that are secured and then the hat pin bent so that the pin will stay in the turban.

Here is how it is done.



Basic Supplies Elements needed to make an ornament:
  • one large bead
  • one spacer bead
  • two tulip cap beads
  • one blue glass bead
  • a pierced earring clutch
  • and one hatpin (two shown).

Beads are added to the hatpin and are being held in place with a pierced earring clutch.

The remainder of the hatpin is bent much like a paper clip and the sharp point cut off.

Step Two: Slide the beads on the pin
Step Three: Bend the Wire


The bent part of the pin is slipped between the folds of the turban and the angle of the first bend can be adjusted so that the ornament stands up correctly.

If the wraps of your turban are tight enough and the beads you use are not overly heavy it will not flop over because of the paper clip shaped base.


Tassel Ornament

Peacock Hurl and Tassel Ornament There are two ornaments on this turban. The one in the front is made with a tassel that has three red beads and two small tassels. I purchased it as is, then strung it together with one small gold bead, one very large gold and silver bead and another small gold bead. This string ofHair pin from Fire Mountain Gem & Bead tassel and beads was added to a hairpin. I got the hairpin from Fire Mountain Beads and removed the chain.

The hairpin (shown right) was just perfect because it was the right length (4” or 10cm) and had a ring as an attachment for the beads.

The ends of the pin slips between the folds of the turban. Note you can see the end of the hairpin where the beads attach to the ring in the close-up below the hairpin picture.



Ornaments made with parts of feathers

In the photo above and in the close up here, you can see an ornament being pinned into place.

Inside the cone shape bead is a bundle of black burnt peacock hurl. It is made in the same manner as the ornament below.

Closeup of feather ornament base
Pinning in the ostrich plumes

In this picture of an ornament made with blue ostrich vanes, black burnt peacock hurl and a gold aglet you can see that the pin has two points.

See below for the steps to create one of these ornaments.

If you are using ostrich vanes, pull them from the shaft. Usually they come off in short strings of 4-10 vanes. Close up of Ostrich feathers
Here is what you will need:
  • 50 to 100 ostrich feather vanes. I save these from other feathers that were just too long.
  • Thin thread-covered wire (in floral section of craft stores)
  • Clover brand fork pins
  • Paper backed 1/4 inch double sided tape
  • A cone shaped bead (shown in package of 6)
Feather Supplies
First, line your vanes up into two groups. First make two piles
With the end of the tape anchored stick the vanes to the tape. Leave them hanging over just a little. When you have used up your first group, add a piece of the covered wire that has been folded in half and colored with a permanent marker to match the feathers. From the loose edge, roll the tape and vanes into a spiral. The wire should be inside the spiral with the fold about 1” above the tape. Trim the bits of the shaft below the tape. Putting Feathers onto the tape
Wrap the tape area with a length of covered wire and color it with marker (left). Tape the remaining vanes as above and roll them into a spiral around the wire of the first bundle, but an inch or two below. This gives the ornament extra height and makes it just the right diameter to fit the cone bead. Making the second bundle of feathers
The glue I recommend for getting all the parts together is Beacon's FABRI-TAC. It has the habit of bubbling out of the spout unless you keep it pointed down as you use it so I always wedge the tip (red) into a large spool of thread. But those drops that bubble out and partially harden are not wasted (white blob in the center of the picture to the left). I keep them to plug up the cone bead and keep the fork pin in place. Glueing the bundles
At this point the dried glue and some new glue and the fork pin are added to the cone bead, see picture on the left. Use the free ends of the wire to wrap the base of the vanes as on the left and color the wire with marker. Add glue to the base of the feathers and stick the vanes into the top half of the cone bead. Final step
Here is a finished ornament pinned to the wire spool. You would use the same method with peacock hurl. These ornaments stay in place very well and even better if you spread the pin points apart just a little as you slide it into the turban fabric. Finished ornament

If you can't find a cone bead, here are some other choices. Click to enlarge the photo and see what they are.

Other feather base options

Three Ornaments made with full feathers

Burnt Ostrich Plume Ornament

The burnt ostrich ornament, shown here on the Romantic Period turban, was made with six feathers.

Burning feathers is fairly simple. All you need is household strength bleach and a plastic tub; it's not necessary to purchase already burnt plumes.

Wear a mask and rubber gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. Avoid breathing in the fumes.


If the feathers have been dyed they might lose some color in the bleach or the color might change, so test a small piece first.

Cover your feathers with full strength household bleach and gently move them around until the small side hairs on the vanes fall out. It only takes a minute or so to burn the small hairs. If you leave the feathers in too long they will become brittle.

Rinse the bleach off the feathers and fluff them dry. Detail picture showing the fabric wrapping at base of feathers

I trimmed and shaped the feathers and arranged them small to large.

Then I used Beacon's FABRI-TAC to glue the last inch or two of the shafts together in a stack.

I wired two long pins to the base of the feathers and covered this all with a strip of matching fabric. The fabric strip can be seen here at the base of the feathers (right). The pins are stuck in the fabric of the turban, holding the feathers in place.


Ostrich Plume Pin

Blue Ostrich plumes being pinned into turban

The next full feather ornament was shown on the 18th C turban.


It is made something like the part-feather ornaments above except that five 12” ostrich feathers are glued into the cone bead.

Once the plumes are glued into the bead you can use the back of a table knife to shape the stems so that they fan out as in the picture to the left.

Just put the stem of the feather between your thumb and the knife and press down.

This will make a dent in the back of the shaft that will cause the feather to curl.

Do it up the shaft until it curls as much as you want.

Here you can see the ornament being pinned into the turban.

Close up of base of Blue Plumes
Detail of base of blue plume pin

From the back you can see two pearl bead decorations on either side of the cone bead.

They were made on corsage pins. Each one has a blue enamel flower bead and then a large pearl added to the pin.

The remainder of the pin was glued into the cone bead beside the feather shafts.


Ostrich Headress Late 18th Century Ostrich Plume Topknot.


Last but not least is the late 18th C two-foot high ostrich plume topknot.

This was a challenge, getting ostrich plumes to stand straight up is not the simplest thing.

Here's how to do it.



First and most important is creating a bandeau with wire supports for the feathers.

You will need to use millinery wire at least 21 gauge thick; thinner wire will not give you the support you need.

I used a piece about 16” (40cm) long, folded it in half, twisted it with pliers for about 4” (10cm), then twisted one of the wires to form the front twist. Then both wires were twisted together again for about one inch.

I spread the wires apart and sewed them to the bottom edge of the bandeau as shown.

Silk Bandau base

The bandeau is covered with a tube of silk fabric that was slipped over the buckram before the buckram was sewn into a ring.

This silk fabric tube is pulled closed in the center front to cover the sewing of the wire to the base.

Silk Bandau base

The bandeau is placed on the head and held down by the long curls of the wig.

It is important to get the wire twist in the center front.

Adjusting the silk bandau on the head

Each of the two plumes on the headdress is made up of two matching ostrich feathers that are sewn together along their shafts with a modified button-hole stitch.

For a tutorial on how to join the feathers, see steps 3 to 6 on my website.

And here's a quick reminder of buttonhole stitch.

A notch in the base of the plume

Before they can be sewn together, part of the base of the shaft needs to be cut away with a razor blade cutter. (Please use common sense when handling sharp implements! For example, no-one should be using razors when tired!)

The front of the back feather and the back of the front feather should be cut away.

This hole needs to be large enough to slip over the twisted wire on the bandeau.

Front and back feather notches

For extra strength, bind the cut areas with fine covered wire. Then color the wire to match the feather shaft with a marker.

Slip the feathers in place over the twist.

It is not a good idea to glue the plumes to the wire but if you are going to face any wind then I recommend using something like poster putty around the wires, enough to fill the channels.

Joining the two feathers together

It is also a good idea to add a swing tack, at about 12” up from the base of the feathers, to hold the two feathers at the same distance apart as at the base.

You can make a swing tack in two ways:

  • One way is to anchor your thread and wrap it around the two shafts three times. Make sure that the shafts are not drawn together by the thread. Bundle all the threads together by sewing a button-hole stitch.
  • Or you can check out this site for another type of swing tack.


Tacking the feathers together



Beacon Adhesives FABRI-TAC permanent adhesive If you're outside the US, it can be found on Ebay from US sellers.

For cone beads: Michaels (US); In Europe, try Beads Direct

For large hairpin and bendable hatpins: Fire Mountain Gems





Tags: GeorgianRegency ConstructionDecorationDesignBeginner - Free Articleshats headwearJul 2008Lynn McMasters
Turbans AND scarves
There is a site created for orthodox Jewish women who cover their hair when they marry. It isn't an historical site, but there are a lot of video instructions for how to wrap your hair, some of which are an excellent start in recreating more historical creations. I found the site because my hair has gotten terribly thin as I've aged and I didn't want to wear a wig. In looking at some of the Regency turbans, I think I can recreate that look with some the head wraps shown on Wrapunzel's website and even better than that, I can change the materials and do a pretty accurate imitation. The website is http://wrapunzel.com/ If you're interested in the Regency or any other time period turbans, this is a great place to peruse.

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