Sunday 6 July 2014

1840's Cap II

Almost four years ago I made an attempt to make an 1840’s cap. I was tolerably pleased with the result, but now I wanted to have another go at it. When I found some nice scraps (which from the burn test I think are cotton) amongst the fabrics I was given a while back, I knew at once that they would become different kinds of 19th century caps.

Quickly and not very neatly trimmed with silk ribbons - it can be made much prettier.

I have looked at many more pictures of 1840’s caps since 2010, so I had a somewhat clearer idea of what I should try to achieve. There are several examples on this Pinterest board. I used the same basic pattern as I used last time, and added lots of frills.

 Left untrimmed you see the basic shape better.

All the pieces were hemmed with narrow hems, and then whip stitched together. The frills were gathered by pulling the thread of the rolled hems tight, if that made sense. They were then sewn to the cap with one stitch in every tiny gather.

The frill stitched to the cap - inside.
And outside.
The frill over the top of the head at first looked too, well, frilly. It resembled the earlier styles of the 1820’s and 1830’s more than the more elegant ones of the 1840’s. I didn’t want to undo all the work I had done, so I was considering ways to solve the problem by working with what I had. I then recalled a cap in Nancy Bradfield’s Costume in Detail, where the lace edging a cap had been folded back and stitched down over the top of the head. I tried that, and it worked brilliantly. The small frill left was just enough to add visual interest without being too dominant. For the 1840’s the frills one should really notice are the ones by the jaw bones, even if there might be others.

The ruffle over the forehead folded back and stitched down. 

In the hem at the nape of the neck, a drawstring made from thin cotton cords help with the fit.

I was inspired by this painting when making my cap – it’s a lovely picture and a pretty cap, though you can’t see the sides. I’d also like to make that dress sometime.

"A Peaceful Interlude" by Josephus Laurentius Dyckmans, 1849.

Fashion plates like this one, as well as pictures of extant caps helped as well.

World of Fashion, February 1843.

For the pictures I used ribbons I had in my stash, but as they are only pinned on, they can easily be changed to match the dress. For anything more active than just taking pictures I'd probably tack on the ribbons though, not pin them. Quite a few extant caps still have the ribbons attached – I wonder if they were always meant to be permanent, or if they could sometimes be exchangable the way mine will be? 

I like how this kind of cap looks on me – I have slightly long face, and adding width to the sides like this makes that less obvious. The cap is very light, I can hardly feel it – I could wear it all the time without being bothered by it.

The Challenge: #13 Under $10

Fabric: Cotton

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1840’s. 

Notions: Cotton thread, and cotton yarn for the cords. Silk ribbon.

How historically accurate is it? Reasonably - I haven’t had the opportunity to study real caps in person, but the overall look is similar to the ones you see in period art, photos and extant caps. The materials are period enough (I'm a bit unsure about the dots in the fabric), and the sewing is done by hand with period stitches.  

Hours to complete: Lots and lots. As the fabric was so fine and unravelled easily I had to be very careful while hemming. As I could only sew a little here and there, counting hours was difficult.

First worn: For the pictures.

Total cost: None at this time as everything was in my stash.


  1. oh how sweet! and beautifully made!

  2. Nice, do you have the pattern? :)

  3. Thank you! Yes, I do have a pattern, but only one I made myself.


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