It is not unusual for women to wear hats in masculine styles. During several different time periods such as the French Revolution and the U.S. Civil War some women not only took to wearing masculine shaped hats, but also styled them to mirror military styling. In the Regency, with the Napoleonic War as a backdrop, military styling in costume and hat design really stands out if you are looking for it.
Inspired by two drawings from “The Mode in Hats and Headdresses” by R. Turner Wilcox - one of a French hat (1806) in the style of a Polish Horse Calvary helmet with a tall narrow pompom and the other a riding hat (1808) with a fur pompom - I set out to see if it was possible to make the ornaments and pass on how they can be made.
The first hat has always been one I wanted to try. The idea of a square crown tip was intriguing, but making the tall pompom was something I would have to experiment with. I did search for the original portrait but could not find it - usually it is possible to figure out what portrait Ruth used as her source as she was such a good illustrator. It was much easier with the second hat, as that one is based on a famous portrait of Queen Louise of Prussia.
Even more than that, the hat and the Spencer survive and are on display at the Museum of German History in Berlin. The museum describes the pompom as ostrich, not fur, but in both the portrait and the photo of the hat it shows the pompom as being wavy, so I can see how it might be easy to misinterpret. The fact it's ostrich makes things easier. If you would like to see how I would make an ostrich pompom check out my article on Ostrich pompoms as part of my turban article. If one were trying to make a pompom as large and as full at this one, it would need to be about four times larger than my turban ornament, although you'd need to use barbs of about the same length - around 3” (75mm). Another difference would be that one would need to use a fine hair crimping iron on a low temperature setting on the ostrich barbs first.
I don’t have a fine hair crimping iron. I have a standard crimping iron and so I did not make up a sample.
However, I did make three different examples of a tall pompom. The major difference between a round pompom and a tall one is that the round ones use long sections of the ostrich barb from the tip down. With the tall pompom I used cut lengths of the barb only 2¼” (56mm) long, figuring a way to easily get consistent lengths of the barbs was the real trick. In this example I’m using the bottoms of some large wing ostrich feathers that were left over after I used the tip ends. If you want to make pompoms, I might suggest that you look online, as some feather sellers sell seconds.
|I pulled a strip with the barbs from one side of the stem at a time. Sometimes they come off in long strips, and sometimes in short strips with just a few barbs.|
|I stuck them onto the sticky side of a line of 1/4” (6mm) double sided tape which was taped to the matt, sticky side up, with a little of the end hanging over, and continued adding the strips of barbs until I had a line of about 14” on the tape. I did my best to lay them down with the backside of the barb facing up.|
|I doubled the tape back on the 14” of barbs so that there was tape on both sides, leaving the backing on the tape.|
|I used scissors to cut the small bits of cuticle away, up to the edge of the tape.|
|I flipped the strip over, lining it up with the grid on the mat, and kept it in place with tape.|
|I used a wide ruler and a comb to smooth and line up the barbs until the ruler was 2¼” (56mm) past the first tape.|
|I added another line of tape just in front of the ruler’s edge.|
|I moved the ruler down another 2” (50mm).|
|I used a rotary cutter with a pinking blade to cut the barbs along that line.|
|I tossed out the remaining lengths of barbs and used the cutter to cut the first and second sections apart just above the second length of tape.|
|I carefully lifted the second section off the mat and doubled the tape back on itself.|
I repeated the process again until I had four 14” sections.
|Starting with the section with the finest barbs, I attached the strip of barbs to the end of a twist of thread-covered stem wire about 5” long. This was done by pulling the paper backing from the double sided tape about 1” (25mm) at a time. For this pompom I wrapped the tape with the barbs around the wire twice, before angling it down about 1/8” (3mm) and wrapping it around two more times - and so on until the end of the 14” strip.|
|After I had wrapped the first length of barbs, I covered the base with white florist tape to help hold that section to the wire and created a gradual angle on which to attach the next length.|
|I repeated the above steps adding the strips and florist tape two more times.|
|Here is how it looked after the fourth strip and more tape.|
|I glued some matching 3/8” (10mm) grosgrain ribbon near the base of the barbs.|
I wrapped and glued the ribbon to cover the florist tape.
Because the pompom in the drawing is dark in color I wanted to make another but with black ostrich and not quite so dense.
|These are the feathers I used. Some of them are damaged, and some were seconds.|
|I followed the same steps with the barbs and strips.|
|This time, I only wrapped the tape once around and then clipped the tape to start again, 1/8” (3mm) lower.|
|I continued doing that until I reached the end of the wire, right down to the loop.|
|I covered the double-sided tape with florist tape.|
Here is what the pompom looks like on the hat. The loop slides behind the hatband, tack stitched in place, and tack stitched to the hat once more about an inch higher, to add stability.
There is an optional treatment of the pompom I wanted to try; making the shape with ribbon. It is not unheard of to have faux feathers or feathery decorations for hats made from fabric or ribbon. I have seen the instructions for making them in women’s magazines from later in the 19th century. The one that immediately comes to mind is from the July-Dec 1862 issue of Godey’s Lady’s Book, page 289.
|For this I used about 4½ yards of 3/8” (10mm) wide velvet ribbon, one length of thread-covered stem wire and some Beacon’s 3-in-1 glue.|
|As with the other tall pompoms, I folded the wire in half and twisted it around a pencil for about 4½" (11.3cm), and then cut away the untwisted ends.|
|I cut the ribbon into 3” (75mm) lengths.|
|I added glue to the wrong side of the ribbon near the end and folded it in half with the end of the wire in between.|
|I snipped the corners of the glued ends.|
|I added glue to the base of three more lengths of ribbon and glued them in half. These were glued to the first length 1/8” (3mm) lower down the wire. I used a length of thread to tighten bundle ends of the ribbon loops.|
|The next row takes four so I lined up four lengths and added the glue all at once.|
|These four loops are added with glue and adjusted so that no loop is directly below one from the previous row.|
|For the next few rows I cut four lengths of ribbon at once.|
|After adding the glue, folding the ribbon in half and placing the loops, I pinch the ends together around the wire until it sets. From this row until the last eight loops the rows are added in this manner.|
|For the last two rows, I glued the ribbon to the wire by first gluing the right sides of the four loops to the wire and then the other side, but a little lower down the wire.|
|The corners of the ribbons need to be overlapping the next ribbon as seen here. Then I repeat this with four more.|
|I covered the rest of the wire with florist tape.|
|I also covered the loop.|
|Here is the finished loop.|
Here is another hat with a ribbon pompom. This ribbon was a little stiffer and was just a little easier to make.
A ribbon decoration like this could also be used on hats later in the 19th Century, along with other elements. If the ribbon is soft and easily gathered it need not be cut into lengths, just marked off. Then each loop is gathered between twists of very fine wire.