Wednesday, April 27, 2016

18th Century Feathered Hats

Here is a little research project I've been working on lately. Although I don't get to attend 18th century events as much as I would like to, the time period is never from from my mind. I like keep up to date as best I can on what's happening in the reenacting world, the trending research, new sources etc. There is always something new to learn.

Lately I've been looking at 18th century hats, in particular those covered with feathers. Why I'm drawn to these I'm not entirely sure. Whether something like these would be appropriate for my typical living history portrayal remains to be seen and more research is certainly needed. My guess is that for a British camp follower in the years covering the 1750s to 1770s a fine feathered hat would be very unlikely. As an up middle class resident of say, Boston, they are a possibility. But as I said more research is needed. I have been researching in the historic newspapers without much luck as of yet. However, in the world of historic costuming and fancy dress events, pretty much anything goes. :)

Here are a few examples of feathered hats in period art.

Oil painting, 'Head of a Girl Wearing a White Hat', ca. 1760-70, by William Hoare RA (1707-1792) V&A 833-1873
It looks like this young lady is also wearing a feather covered hat. Yes?

Philip Mercier (circa 1689-1760) - Source
Philip Mercier (circa 1689-1760) - Source

And here are some serving hats in museum collections. All are dated to about the same time as the artwork above, 1750-1770 and are very similar looking. They are all around the same size too, approximately 13" to 14".

A round hat with a shallow crown and wide brim decorated with cock and guineafowl feathers in natural colours and dyed blue, yellow, red and green. The feathers are stitched to a linen ground which is lined with blue taffeta. 1750-1770 (made) V&A T.90-2003
Woman's feather hat (bergère) English or French, 1750–75. Round disk-like hat with crown only slightly elevated, foundation of linen completely covered with polychrome feathers; lined with pale pink taffeta, one pale pink silk ribbon. MFA 43.1832
Here are two more images of the same hat from the MFA. I find it interesting that you can see the edge of the straw base as well as the stitching on the underside. Zoom in for a closer look.

MFA 43.1832
MFA 43.1832
Although this next hat is a little different, only the brim is covered in feathers, it gives me hope for wearing a feather covered hat for living history events. The description says it was made in France but it's place of use was Boston.

MFA, accession number 49.916
Making a similar hat I believe would be very doable, though time consuming. I have a plain straw hat with a very low crown that could be used as a base and colored feather can be purchased at several places like Joanns. I also have left over silk taffeta to line the underside of the hat. Would I glue the feathers or stitch them in place? I'm not sure yet, likely I'll stitch them, but if I do attempt a crazy project like this you can be sure to read about it here. :)

If anyone knows of other examples, in art or surviving originals, I would love to see them.


  1. Oh what fun these hats are!! They look like artist's palettes! I don't do any 18th century stuff, but I may have to make one of these hats just for fun!!
    I hope you make one...I think you would do a fantastic job on it!

    1. They are fun! The bright colors really make me happy. :)

  2. How neat! I really like the black one, and ironically it looks very 1940s to me. I suppose trends repeat, so that's not so surprising :)

    If you do make one, it would be a great excuse to have a "fancy ladies in 18th century Boston" outing...

    1. It does look 40s! And yes any excuse for a fancy dress up event!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...